Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss and the City of Evanston have been dropped as defendants in a multi-million dollar lawsuit by several tenants against a local landord, but new tenants have now been added to the case.
In addition, a second lawsuit has now been filed against the same landlord, alleging sexual harrassment against a tenant in an effort to get that tenant to stop complaining about code violations, and to not fight an eviction notice.
The first suit was filed in February against property owner Sargon Isaac, his son, attorney Peter Isaac, and four realty companies the suit claims are connected to Sargon.
The lawsuit says the properties were “unsafe, unsanitary, and uninhabitable,” and needed repairs were never made.
Three former tenants filed that suit. Two current tenants were added this week to an amended complaint. The goal continues to make it a class action lawsuit, covering all of Isaac’s tenants in relevant properties since 2019.
That suit asks for at least $10 million in damages.
Mayor Daniel Biss, in his capacity as mayor, had been named as a defendant in the original litigation. The suit claimed the city failed to adequately enforce its building code.
However, Biss and therefore the City have now been dropped from the amended complaint.
City Attorney Nicholas Cummings tells Evanston Now “there was no cause of action against the city,” which could not be sued anyway under the the state’s tort immunity statute.
Cummings did say the law department is becoming more involved in housing code violation cases.
Rather than sending those alleged violations through an administrative hearing process, Cummings says repeat offenders will be taken directly to circuit court. A court order, Cummings says, has more clout to get housing deficiencies corrected.
Cummings said Sargon Isaac is “not the only landlord” the city may pursue this way.
But the lawsuit alleges that both Isaacs are “slumlords with an empire of crumbling properties” across Chicago and Evanston, and claims that Black tenants are treated far worse than white tenants are.
The second lawsuit, filed this week by former Sargon Isaac tenant Aisha Barton, repeats many of the same complaints about unsafe and unsanitary conditions made in the first suit.
However, it also alleges that when Barton tried to get something fixed, Sargon Isaac sent a maintenance man (called “Lenny” in the lawsuit), to sexually harass Barton in an effort to get her to stop asking for repairs to her living unit.
The suit alleges efforts to kiss the plaintiff in 2017, and says that “Lenny” stated if she was nice to him she would be able to keep living there.
The claim also alleges that Sargon Isaac said Barton was told she should comply with “Lenny’s” requests in order to remain as a tenant.
The suit also says there were other sexual harrassment incidents, and states that Barton failed to show up in court for her eviction hearing because “she was scared of Sargon sending ‘Lenny’ to rape her.”
This litigation asks for at least $100,000, plus other damages to be determined at trial. The suit claims Barton suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder due to the treatment. Neither the city nor the mayor were named in the Barton suit.
Both suits were filed by attorney Sheryl Ring, and state that Sargon Isaac is the landlord for “over a hundred residential dwelling units in Evanston.”
Evanston Now tried to obtain comments from both Sargon and Peter Isaac and an attorney representing them but has not received a response.
Earlier this year Sargon Isaac filed a response to a previous version of the first suit saying he had made repairs at the apartment of plaintiff Carlene Clarke and providing affidavits from three men who said they’d done the repair work.