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Harford Co. delegates appeal ruling on immunity in bias suit

Del. Richard "Rick" Impallaria, R-Baltimore and Harford counties. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

Del. Richard “Rick” K. Impallaria, R-Baltimore and Harford counties. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

Two defendants in an ongoing lawsuit over the treatment of a Muslim retirement community project in Harford County are appealing a federal judge’s ruling last month that kept them in the litigation.

Del. Richard K. Impallaria and former Del. Patrick L. McDonough are named in the lawsuit, which alleges county officials began manufacturing roadblocks after officials heard complaints about a “Muslim-only” community that would have a mosque on site.

U.S. District Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher denied the delegates’ motion last month, finding the plaintiffs had sufficiently shown that the two may have violated multiple federal rights and therefore were not immune from suit.

Impallaria and McDonough are accused of conspiring with the county to hold up permits with discriminatory intent based on remarks made to county leaders and at community meetings organized by Impallaria. A judge denied their motion to dismiss last year.

“Plaintiffs have adduced evidence that the Delegates conspired with the County to impede a housing project because of the religious identity of prospective occupants, in violation of … the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, the Fair Housing Act, and (the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act),” Gallagher determined.

On Monday, Impallaria and McDonough noted an appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A federal judge also largely denied the other county defendants’ motions for summary judgment, meaning the case will go to trial. It is unclear what impact the delegate defendants’ appeal will have on the litigation.

A federal judge issued an injunction last year ordering the county to issue permits for 14 completed homes, finding the county’s refusal to do so was motivated in part by the “active and vile racist animus” expressed by some county residents.

The case is OT LLC et al. v. Harford County, Maryland et al., 1:17-cv-02812.

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