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Lawsuit alleges Oswego landlord tried to trade discounted rent for sexual favors

Payne R Horning
WRVO News File Photo
This rental property in Oswego is owned by Doug Waterbury, who is accused of sexually harassing some of his tenants.

An Oswego landlord is accused of asking his tenants for sexual favors in exchange for reduced rent. The sexual harassment allegations against Doug Waterbury are part of a lawsuit filed by a Syracuse fair housing organization. 

In a 35-page lawsuit, lawyers for six women between the ages of 24 and 32 say Waterbury aggressively pursued sexual favors from them, offering to discount rent or fees as trades. It includes claims that he relentlessly made sexual advances on the women, such as blocking the exit to one of his rental properties until one complied.

"These women have suffered harm," said Sally Santangelo, executive director of CNY Fair Housing, which is representing the plaintiffs. "Some of them have suffered not only the emotional damages from harassment and in some cases unwanted sexual contact, but they've suffered economic harm. They’ve gone homeless."

The lawsuit alleges that Waterbury was retaliatory when the women would not acquiesce, charging additional fees if they rejected his requests. 

"Paying higher rent amounts, higher security deposits ,which is obviously challenging," Santangelo said. "Oswego is a difficult place to find affordable housing as it is and he does own a large number of the properties in the area."

CNY Fair Housing is suing Waterbury for sexual discrimination under the Federal Housing Act.

Waterbury had no comment. He owns dozens of rental properties in Oswego county and the Sterling Renaissance Festival, Sylvan Beach Amusement Park and Santa's Workshop in North Pole. Waterbury's rental properties are frequently cited for violations by the city of Oswego and in a few cases have been condemned.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.