The Department of Justice announced that it has settled its lawsuit against the owner of the Sterling Renaissance Festival for sexual harassment of female tenants at his Oswego rental properties.
Doug Waterbury and his co-defendants — his wife, Carol, and their companies E&A Management and Ontario Realty — will pay $400,000 in monetary damages to former and potential tenants affected by his alleged harassment, as well as a $50,000 civil penalty, the department said in a news release Wednesday. Waterbury is also barred from renting or managing residential properties.
The consent decree must still be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, the release said.
Waterbury's harassment spanned three decades, the department alleged. According its lawsuit, he also subjected tenants to unwanted sexual intercourse, sexual advances, groping and other nonconsensual touching, and offers to reduce security deposits and rent in exchange for sexual contact. If tenants refused or objected to his advances, the lawsuit said, Waterbury took or threatened action against them. The department brought the lawsuit under the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination against renters based on sex, race and other protected classes.
An adult ticket to the Sterling Renaissance Festival costs $28.95.
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“The sexual harassment of the vulnerable female applicants and tenants in this case by their landlord is an egregious and intolerable violation of federal civil rights law,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said in the release. “The Department of Justice will continue to pursue any depraved landlords and others who prey upon vulnerable women.”
“No woman should have to endure harassment and discrimination to obtain housing,” added Grant C. Jaquith, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York.
The $450,000 settlement comes a month after the $400,000 settlement of a similar lawsuit against Waterbury by CNY Fair Housing and six women who either rented or tried to rent his properties. That settlement also included a condition that Waterbury hire an independent company to manage his properties.
Waterbury, who also owns Sylvan Beach Amusement Park on Oneida Lake and Santa's Village in Lake Placid in addition to the Fair Haven festival, has not been charged with any crimes. He has been the subject of criminal investigations in Oswego County, according to The Palladium-Times and The Syracuse Post-Standard, but not in Cayuga County, according to previous reporting by The Citizen.
Shannon O'Connor, Waterbury's legal representation at Goldberg Segalla, was not immediately available for comment.