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Ping Zhang v. Julip Properties and Observer Plaza Condominium Association


January 20, 2012


On appeal from the Division on Civil Rights, Docket No. HJO5WT-60326.

Per curiam.


Submitted January 10, 2012

Before Judges Yannotti and Espinosa.

Plaintiff Ping Zhang appeals from a final decision by the Division on Civil Rights (DCR), finding no probable cause for her complaint against defendants, Julip Properties and Observer Plaza Condominium Association, the property management company and condominium association, respectively, of Observer Plaza, the seventy-nine unit residential condominium at which plaintiff resides. We affirm.

Plaintiff filed a complaint in which she alleged she was subjected to disparate treatment as a condominium owner because of her gender and national origin in violation of N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(g) of the Law Against Discrimination. Plaintiff's underlying complaint against defendants is that she, a female of Asian descent, was treated differently from similarly situated residents. She alleged that she was fined for storing cardboard boxes in her parking space, charged for viewing garage surveillance tapes while other residents were not, and that defendant placed a lien on her property for making a late payment for a special assessment.

With her husband, David Hughes, a white male, plaintiff owns a unit and parking space at Observer Plaza. She had a long-standing contentious relationship with the persons using an adjacent parking space. After they complained, she was fined $25 for storing items in her parking space. The DCR reviewed defendant's records and found that 205 notices had been issued to forty-six unit owners including complainant, for various offenses during the last five years, and all were fined $25.

Plaintiff also alleged that she was subjected to disparate treatment because she was charged for viewing surveillance footage. The DCR found that she made numerous requests for thirty days of footage between October 4, 2005 and when she filed the complaint on December 5, 2008. Defendant asked her repeatedly to narrow her request. Defendant also explained that, because of the cost associated with satisfying numerous requests from various owners to view surveillance footage, the condominium association adopted a resolution in December 2006 that it would charge unit owners $185 per hour of video playback time. Prior to the adoption of this resolution, defendant provided copies of video footage to plaintiff free of charge. After the resolution was adopted, the DCR found no evidence to support plaintiff's allegation of sex and national origin discrimination regarding this complaint.

Plaintiff also contended disparate treatment in the placement of a lien on her property for making a late payment for a special assessment. The DCR noted that defendants produced documentation showing they had filed liens against twenty-four unit owners with "American" surnames in the preceding two years.

The DCR therefore determined there was "no probable cause to credit the allegations of the complaint" and closed the file. Although she makes numerous arguments, the thrust of plaintiff's appeal is that the investigation and findings of the DCR were biased and inadequate to support its conclusion. We have reviewed the record and briefs in light of the applicable law and are satisfied that these arguments lack sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion, R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(D) and

(E), beyond the following comments.

The scope of our review in an appeal from a final decision

of an administrative agency is limited. Circus Liquors, Inc. v. Governing Body of Middletown Twp., 199 N.J. 1, 9 (2009). We may not substitute our judgment for the fact-finding of an administrative agency. Campbell v. N.J. Racing Comm'n, 169 N.J. 579, 587 (2001). We must sustain the agency's action in the absence of a "'clear showing' that it is arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable, or that it lacks fair support in the record[.]" Circus Liquors, Inc., supra, 199 N.J. at 9 (quoting In re Herrmann, 192 N.J. 19, 27-28 (2007)). If we are satisfied "'that the evidence and the inferences to be drawn therefrom support the agency head's decision, then [we] must affirm even if the court feels that it would have reached a different result itself.'" Campbell, supra, 169 N.J. at 587 (quoting Clowes v. Terminix Int'l, Inc., 109 N.J. 575, 588 (1988)).

Because plaintiff contended there was bias in the investigation and findings, we have carefully reviewed the record for evidence of same. We have found none. To the contrary, the record presents ample evidence to support the DCR's factual findings and conclusion.



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