Sex-for-rent lawsuit settled between tenants, housing agency

Exterior of the City Of Hickory Public Housing Authority.
Exterior of the City Of Hickory Public Housing Authority. dduffey@charlotteobserver.com

Hickory’s public housing agency, where a former administrator was accused of trading rent money for sexual favors, has reached a lawsuit settlement with five tenants, according to court records.

The agreement comes nearly two years after a series of Observer reports detailed allegations of sexual harassment and misspending at the Hickory Public Housing Authority.

Multiple women claim that former property operations manager Montele Burton harassed them, made threats and offered help with their rent in exchange for sexual encounters. Three former employees filed a complaint with federal officials in 2015, saying that Executive Director Alanda Richardson was aware of the harassment but did not move to stop it.

Burton and the Housing Authority have emphatically denied the accusations. They made no admission of guilt as part of the settlement agreement.

But the deal prohibits Burton from working with tenants at any agency that receives money from the federal U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees public housing.

Burton worked for at least six different housing agencies in the Carolinas and Virginia, including the Charlotte Housing Authority.

Hickory’s lawsuit settlement calls for the Housing Authority to create a new sexual harassment policy and conduct training annually for at least five years.

Court records mention that the housing agency would make payments into a settlement fund, but do not provide details.

Clasen-Kelly: 704 219-2667; @FrederickClasen