Now We Must Stop the Retaliation: An Open Letter to Legislators, the Governor, and the People

Pamela Goodwin
Ms. Pamela Goodwin

An Open Letter to Beacon Hill, Governor Baker, and the People

No one deserves to endure hostility in their home, to be driven out by malice, or to be pursued by retaliation.

Ms. Pamela Goodwin is one of the most unfailingly honest, compassionate people I have ever known, diligent in her pursuit of fairness and justice for all those that come into her view.

We present here a well-documented history of alleged bullying, mobbing, and retaliation against Ms. Goodwin.

Our purpose is not to seek justice or revenge, but to bring these issues to the attention of Beacon Hill, Governor Baker, and to the public.

We insist that legislative and administrative action be taken to prevent bullying and mobbing of tenants including unjustly evicting them or forcing them to flee their home; and we urge that landlords be prevented from retaliating against tenants. All of these goals could be addressed by establishing an ombuds office for the protection of elderly and differently abled tenants in public and subsidized housing.

Pamela Goodwin seeks to address the need for action to prevent a housing authority from using retaliation, including to prevent a citizen from ever finding a home.

After being forced to flee her home in the Upton Housing Authority, Ms. Goodwin was homeless for 13 months. Despite the negative references from the Upton manager, which prevented several housing authorities from considering her application, she has finally found a home.

She alleges that she was the victim of injustice in public housing that made her homeless, and I have no reason to doubt her claims. Her experience demonstrates the failure of current systems of administration and justice affecting tenants of public and subsidized housing.

  • Goodwin alleges that she was bullied, harassed, and mobbed in Upton Public Housing. But she was unable to find help or successfully implement any law, regulation, or procedure for continuing protection.
  • Goodwin alleges that she lived in a public housing setting where the manager and the housing authority participated in and enabled hostile environment harassment, and despite Goodwin’s efforts, no agency, court, regulation, or procedure held the landlord accountable.
  • Finally, after Goodwin chose to live as a homeless person, she alleges that her efforts to secure an apartment in several public housing authorities were blocked by prejudicial allegations that appear to be a continuing form of retaliation.

Ms. Goodwin seeks action to remedy such unjust retaliation for all tenants in future.

The History

The alleged bullying and mobbing against Pamela Goodwin began in 2016 when she ran and came close to winning election as a commissioner of the Upton Housing Authority.

By standing for election as a commissioner of the Upton Housing Authority, going against the 28-year commissioner, a member of the Upton establishment, Goodwin challenged the ruling elite of Upton.

Outrageous accusations were published in local newspapers. The resulting animus against Ms. Goodwin is likely a cause of the retaliation against and mobbing of Goodwin. See press articles:

Galeone seeking re-election on Upton Housing Authority

Newcomer Goodwin running for Housing Authority

Bullying and mobbing in Upton

In reviewing documentation presented by Goodwin which alleges continuing harassment and illegal acts by the housing authority, their attorney, and certain questionable actions by courts, it appears as if the lack of professional legal representation might have prejudiced the outcome against Goodwin.

Ms Goodwin did gain some relief from the courts, including orders of protection from tenants and a member of the housing authority. She went to court to seek protection from continued harassment, and instead was met by new allegations by the housing authority.

Goodwin alleges and reports that:

In January, 2017, Chief Justice Diana Horan ruled against me and allowed a permanent injunction banning me from the Community Room.

A HUD investigator, Solomon Chiquiar Rabinowich, found that preventing a resident from access to the community room constitutes “denial of a reasonable accommodation & discriminatory terms, conditions, privileges, or service & facilities” because of “handicap & retaliation.”

Therefore, the Court order by Justice Horan was a violation of 804 (f) (2) as defined by 804f (3)(B), of Title VIII of the Civil Right Act of 1968 as amended by the Fair Housing Act of 1988.

However, Ms. Goodwin was unable to have that order to exclude her from the community room investigated or overturned by an appeal.

Goodwin was accused of transgressions that she claims are demonstrably false . She sought support and intervention from DHCD, MCAD, the Office of the Attorney General, and other agencies, the courts, her legislators, and the Mass Union of Public Housing Tenants, while legal remedies proved too costly and uncertain. Legal aid organizations did not have the resources to help. She was able to get some relief from a court, but she claims to have encountered retaliation—the manager got a court order banning Goodwin from the common room in retaliation for Goodwin’s effort to get an order of protection against the manager.

Homeless

She chose to become homeless in August of 2018 rather than endure the toxic and hostile environment enabled and created by the manager and the Upton Housing Authority as well as some residents. She left her home in Upton Public Housing, where she had lived for 5 years—at Coach Road Apartments, State Chapter 667 Housing; 40 one-bedroom units located at 4 Hartford Avenue North, Upton, MA 01568.

Homeless at 71 years old, with serious medical problems, Pamela slept in a tent, in her car, and for brief respites, in the homes of friends and family. She continued to meet her family and community obligations, including to attend religious services, to babysit her grandchildren, and to help others in their time of need. As time went on, the strain on Pamela’s health and outlook took a toll. She was able to find a bed in a shelter where she gave rides to residents in need of medical care.

The search for housing is fruitless

Pamela diligently sought to find public or subsidized housing. Managers of public or subsidized housing are required to check the housing history of applicants. However, the manager at Upton made what Goodwin alleges to be false and malicious claims in her reference letter. Based on that negative reference, several public housing authorities rejected Goodwin’s housing application, and she had no success in her appeals from those rejections.

These allegations are in stark contrast with the glowing and heartfelt recommendations from public figures as well as friends and neighbors, all attesting to the good character and the decency, caring, and love that Ms. Goodwin demonstrated to friends and neighbors.

Thankfully, after over 13 months as a homeless person, she finally has an apartment in the area where she taught in public and private school for 25 years.

Goodwin's experiences are systemic

Although Goodwin’s reported experiences were indeed terrible, the problems she encountered are systemic. As Coordinator of the Stop Bullying Coalition and in my research on bullying in public and subsidized housing, including my service as Commissioner on the Commission on Bullying, I have documented comparable examples. I am currently observing a year-long campaign of mobbing of targets by a tenant group seeking to “get rid of them” which has harmed the health and well-being of one victim who is living with serious medical disability.

In a hearing before the Joint Committee on Housing on April 30, 2019, legislators, advocates, and tenants presented testimony on the urgent need for remedy and relief from bullying and mobbing. Pamela Goodwin, although homeless, came to testify.

Systemic remedies are needed

In my experience, too often, no one—not the landlord, the social service agencies, the legal aid and pro bono legal services, the police, or the courts—has the training or resources to respond in a professional and just manner to the challenges of bullying, mobbing, or retaliation.

Pamela Goodwin did not have an ombuds office to protect her from bullying and mobbing, and the landlord, Upton Housing Authority, was not held accountable for their allegedly egregious management practices that enabled and caused a toxic, hostile environment.

The Stop Bullying Coalition strongly supports passage of bills proposed by Senator Joan Lovely (S984) and by Representative Kevin Honan (H1443) that are intended to improve the administration of public and subsidized housing with respect to bullying.

We also need the functions of an independent ombuds office to provide relief to tenants who are targets of bullying and mobbing. We need a way to hold accountable those landlords who are unwilling or unmotivated to provide a safe environment for their tenants.

Therefore, we continue to press for the passage of a strong, revised S985 of Senator Lovely to create an independent ombuds office for the protection of tenants in public and subsidized housing and to hold landlords accountable. Of comparable importance is the creation of a right to counsel for a broad range of issues in housing as well as for eviction proceedings.

Why was Goodwin disqualified from housing?

The charges & contrary evidence

Reviewing the notices of ineligibility or disqualification Pamela received from June through August, 2019—each of the reasons, which are based on the reference from Upton, are a continuation of allegedly false accusations made while Goodwin still resided at Coach Road.

Alleged that Goodwin failed to pay rent.

Goodwin asserts that the amounts due have repeatedly changed and increased dramatically even after she moved out. The calculations by the manager are challenged by Goodwin and have been submitted for review by competent authorities, including the state auditor. One person who carefully calculated the rent believes that Goodwin may have been overcharged.

Was the motivation for demanding a higher rent, which Pamela could not afford, to force Pamela to quit?

Indeed, Pamela alleges (and has a tape recording of the offer and a confirming witness statement) that the manager and their attorney offered to write off any arrears and provide a glowing recommendation, if Pamela would only leave.

That Goodwin engaged in illegal activities.

The charges that she harassed people and made threats of violence follow.

Harassing a neighbor or staff, and seeking harassment prevention orders against them.

Pamela alleges, and others confirm, that she was the target and victim of bullying, mobbing, and harassing. This charge blames Pamela as if she were a perpetrator, whereas several observers have stated that she was a victim. Pamela was a critic of the manager and housing authority for their alleged failure to follow rules and regulations.

Threatening to blow up the community room.

Another tenant, in a fit of frustration, had made such a threat in a moment of frustration and anger but it was not meant seriously, and the tenant did come forward so that Pamela would not be unjustly accused.

Burning pot holders to summon the fire department.

The fire alarm sensor is close to the stove and was triggered by normal cooking, as confirmed by records of the fire department.

Methods of Verification

In seeking to assess what took place, I rely on the several reference letters by present and former tenants of Coach Road Apartments in Upton, and on information received from citizens of Upton and from experienced professionals who observed the situation at Coach Roads and deemed the situation to be badly managed and a toxic, hostile environment that was unfair to Ms. Goodwin. Note that the staff of most agencies and organizations who work closely to support tenants and are best able to evaluate situations of conflict are prohibited from testifying or advocating on behalf of clients.

I also have two statements by Ms. Goodwin detailing her frustrations in seeking a fair hearing in the courts mainly without the assistance of counsel, and a narrative of her life and activities while living in Upton.

I also rely on my personal experience of working with Ms. Goodwin, especially as she provided invaluable information and advice that helped me as Commissioner appointed by Governor Baker to advance the work and deliberations of the Commission on Bullying. Even while homeless, Goodwin continued to provide first-hand information on the plight of the homeless, and to document the failure of our safety net, as well as to testify before legislative committees on Beacon Hill, including the Joint Committee on Housing.

I believe that Pamela Goodwin is a responsible, law-abiding citizen who knows and observes and expects others to follow the laws, rules, and regulations affecting our public actions and our rights and responsibilities in public housing. As her experience demonstrates, for the poor person living in public housing, their rights are often but a dream. The defense of the bully and the wrong-doer is to defame their victim.

Goodwin's perspective:

Thirteen months of homelessness has been quite a trip for a 71 year old grandmother of six. My health has greatly deteriorated. The experience has turned me into a lobbyist and activist and I have to work hard at not being a cynic. I am thankful that we can laugh at the unbelievable, but sad, truth.

I am grateful that a record has been made of people’s testimonies [about bullying, including in a hearing on Beacon Hill.] I pray that it will be widely distributed and will call people into action. I am grateful that I can still serve on a CHAPA committee and the Public Housing Development committee under Mass Law Reform and Mass Union of Public Housing Tenants (MUPHT).

What will we do to provide a secure home for elderly and the differently abled? And when will we do it?