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Justice Department lawsuit accuses Oswego landlord of sexual harassment

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.

The federal government is filing a lawsuit against an Oswego landlord accusing him of severe, pervasive and unwanted sexual harassment against female tenants and potential tenants. It's the second such suit that the property owner is facing.

The justice department lawsuit alleges a longstanding pattern and practice of sexual harassment from landlord Doug Waterbury, who owns about 50 rental properties in Oswego County and the Sterling Renaissance Festival, Sylvan Beach Amusement Park and Santa's Workshop in North Pole.

According to the lawsuit, Waterbury demanded or pressured women to engage in sex or sexual favors in exchange for housing or discounted rent as far back as 1990. The justice department also accuses Waterbury of taking retaliatory actions against the women who refused his advances, including not providing needed maintenance services and menacing the women by intrusive, unwelcome visits to the properties.

The accusations mirror those made in a lawsuit filed last year by CNY Fair Housing on behalf of six women who are said to have suffered the same harassment. Sally Santangelo, CNY Fair Housing's executive director, thinks their lawsuit last August may have alerted the justice department. 

"We are encouraged by the justice department’s filing because I think it highlights the seriousness of the allegations that are in our complaint as well," Santangelo said. "It is encouraging to see additional actions being taken that will help bring justice to the women that were affected."

Both are civil lawsuits claiming Waterbury violated the Fair Housing Act. Santangelo says she does not know of any criminal charges that have been filed against Waterbury.

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.