Justice Sues Swim Club

Annie Tasker, The Intelligencer (Philadelphia), January 14, 2010

The Lower Moreland club, which is seeking bankruptcy, was accused of ousting a group of day campers because of their race.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit Wednesday against a Lower Moreland swim club accused of ousting black and Hispanic day campers this summer because of their race.

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The lawsuit seeks to bar the club from doing anything similar in the future, said Department of Justice spokesman Alejandro Miyar. The filing asks that the club’s discriminatory policies and practices be declared a violation of Title II of the Civil Rights Act and that the club and its associates be kept from denying those rights in the future.

But the pool complex, now in the midst of Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings, doesn’t appear to have much future left.

The Valley Club has closed its doors for good, said the club’s bankruptcy attorney, Michael Cibik.

“We have no intentions of opening,” he said. “The Valley Club is closed from now until eternity.”

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The Valley Club still exists as a legal entity but is likely to dissolve once the bankruptcy proceedings wrap up, he said.

Miyar said the Department of Justice is suing the club as an entity. He declined to comment on how the proceedings might play out.

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Brian Mildenberg, an attorney representing Creative Steps families suing the club, said the bankruptcy proceedings have put a temporary hold on his clients’ suit–though they may ask the courts for permission to move forward.

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Word came in late September that the Department of Justice was investigating the swim club, a probe requested by Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa. The news came just days after the release of a report from the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission that disclosed damning and previously unknown details about how largely white club members reacted to the group of black and Hispanic day campers.

The report concluded that race was a motivating factor in the Valley Club’s decision to ask the campers not to return.

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Pool officials have maintained that the issue was never skin color, but safety. This summer was the first time day camps were admitted to the private swim club. The idea looked fine on paper, officials have said, but in reality created a safety issue because there weren’t enough lifeguards on duty to properly supervise dozens of extra children.

[Editor’s Note: Stories about the Valley Club incident and what followed are listed here.]

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