New York City Agrees to Pay Housing Works $4.8 Million to Settle Lawsuit Over Alleged Retaliation by Giuliani for Criticism by Group

New York City has agreed to pay the New York-based AIDS advocacy group Housing Works $4.8 million to settle a lawsuit in which Housing Works alleged that the city government withdrew contracts from the group because it criticized the policies of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R), the New York Times reports. The payment is "by far the largest" of several settlements between the city and groups and people who have sued over alleged illegal retaliation by the city for criticism of Giuliani's administration, according to the Times. Housing Works lost city funding in October 1997 after an "unflattering audit" and an inquiry by the city Department of Investigation, according to the Times. The group claimed it lost funding because Housing Works was "among the earliest and loudest" critics of Giuliani's HIV/AIDS policies, according to the Times. Charles King, executive director of Housing Works, said the settlement is a "vindication of the group's advocacy work" and a "repudiation" of Giuliani, according to the Times (Dwyer, New York Times, 5/27). "The record is clear -- they wanted to punish us for sticking up for the rights of New Yorkers living with AIDS and HIV," King said, adding, "This settlement marks another victory for free speech and another expensive payment by the city over Mayor Giuliani's vicious and illegal attacks on those who disagreed with him" (Housing Works release, 5/26). However, Lawrence Kahn, senior litigator for the city, said the government had withdrawn funds from Housing Works because the group "mismanaged funds," adding that the city agreed to pay the $4.8 million settlement because of the "unpredictability of litigation" and because the group had performed services for which it was not paid, according to the Times. Giuliani declined to comment on the settlement, according to spokesperson Sunny Mindel, the Times reports (New York Times, 5/27).

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