A federal appeals court Friday upheld contempt of court fines against the city of Yonkers and four City Council members who defied a federal judge's order to vote for an integrated housing plan.
The second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, modified the fines against the city, placing a $1-million-a-day cap.In a 39-page opinion, the appeals court also delayed reimposition of the fines for seven days to permit the city to seek an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Previously, U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Sand imposed fines on the city of $100 that would double daily, quickly going into the millions and breaking the city's annual budget in less than a month.
Sand also imposed $500-a-day fines against the four councilmen and ordered their eventual jailing if they continued to balk at complying with his ruling.
Those sanctions were suspended Aug. 9 when the city and the four councilmen appealed to the 2nd Circuit. If the sanctions had not been suspended, the council members were scheduled to go to jail Aug. 11.
By Aug. 9, the city had paid $12,700 in fines and each councilman had paid $3,500.
In upholding the fines against the four councilmen, the three-judge appeals panel said the threat of jail would resume in nine days.
The four councilmen had indicated Thursday they would again vote once again to defy the courts at a special City Council meeting Friday.
The defiant council members said they hadn't changed their minds about the desegregation plan, which would create 800 units of affordable housing throughout the city.
Sand, who in 1985 found Yonkers liable for 40 years of segregated housing and schooling, imposed the fines Aug. 2 after the council refused by a 4-3 vote to endorse the housing plan.
The city argued that Sand's contempt finding and fines were unfairly punishing Yonkers for the defiance of "renegade" council members who wouldn't change their votes because of the political consequences.