WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) — There are more claims of racial discrimination against a local real estate developer.

Former employees of the Clover Group say the company discriminates against African Americans — refusing to build senior living apartments in diverse areas. These new claims of racial discrimination are being made against the Clover Group, which is based in Williamsville.

According to a federal lawsuit, a former developer for the company says the firm had a systemic approach in denying African Americans equal access to housing.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a separate claim, alleging that the Clover Group discriminates against African Americans by refusing to build new senior living apartments near Black neighborhoods.

“Clover wanted to develop as quickly as possible, they said they wanted to be the leading senior living company in the entire country, but we’re alleging that they did not want to develop with people of color,” said local attorney Nate McMurray.

McMurray represents Shane Forrest, who says he worked for the Clover Group in North Carolina.
Forrest claims over a 15-month period, ending late last year, he could not get one development project off the ground because of racial bias in the selection of development sites.

“He is an outsider who is developing in different parts of the country, so it shows the systematic approach they used across the country to deny equal access to housing for African American residents of different communities,” McMurray said.

The lawsuit goes on to say that the word “Canadians” was used as a code word in describing African Americans. Emily Brady, Clover’s Executive Vice President of Operations is named in the lawsuit as saying the Black community has “a lot of trouble paying their rent.”

“They were not shy about sharing this idea of the ‘Canadian factor’ and using ‘Canadian’ as a euphemism for African American or Black, they were very open about it, and when he became aware of that he was very troubled and he raised concerns to various people within the company,” McMurray said.

Forrest claims he was fired. The lawsuit names Clover’s president Michael Joseph as a defendant.
On Wednesday, Joseph resigned from Roswell Park’s Board of Directors. Joseph still serves on the Buffalo AKG Art Museum’s Board of Directors.

The Clover Group provided News 4 with the following statement on Wednesday in response to the lawsuit and allegations:

“Clover does not condone unlawful discrimination of any kind. The organization has a longstanding commitment to civil rights, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Clover does not use unlawful criteria when making business decisions and did not violate the law in any way as has been falsely alleged. This lawsuit by Mr. Forrest is based on the same meritless and false allegations as the suit filed by Mr. Rizzo. The company intends to defend itself vigorously against these completely groundless claims. Because this matter is a pending litigation, prudence requires us to not make any further statement at this time.”

The Clover Group

Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.