Point: Nan Heald, executive director for Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Inc. writes:

Dear Mr. Brower:

Yesterday, I received your lengthy letter objecting to our involvement in a fair housing complaint filed against Courier Publications. Today, I read the article you wrote and published on the same subject. Here’s my perspective, which I hope you will also share with your readers.

Housing advertisements that say “no children” violate federal and state laws protecting against housing discrimination. It doesn’t matter who places the ad. It doesn’t matter why the ad was placed. The act of placing or running an advertisement with those words in it is illegal.

Pine Tree Legal Assistance is funded by HUD [Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development] to enforce those laws for the people of Maine. That’s what we did in this case. Over the past 10 years, that work has benefited thousands of Maine residents, including the elderly, victims of religious and racial discrimination, women subjected to sexual harassment, and people with disabilities.

You suggest that good intentions should forgive a technical infraction — citing the example of speeding while getting a heart attack victim to the hospital. But if that speeding car hits another vehicle on the way to the hospital, good intentions don’t matter. The innocent passengers of the other car have still been harmed by reckless driving.

I think that’s exactly what happened here. Publishing “no children” ads allows readers and other advertisers to assume that this form of discrimination is OK. It hurts the 41 percent of Maine children living in low-income families today, for whom finding and retaining safe and affordable housing is a top priority. They are the innocent victims in this case.

Counterpoint: Reade Brower, owner and publisher of Courier Publications writes:

Dear Nan;

Thank you for your timely response…

We are all in agreement that the state statute prohibits the “no children” reference and that stopping discrimination is in everyone’s best interest.

That’s where you and I divide: the enforcement of all laws must include some discretion. If you are traveling and the speed limit changes from 45 to 35 and you hit the speed limit sign at 37, no officer of the law (in their right mind) would give you a ticket. Even if you’re speeding at 44 miles per hour, usually they’ll let you keep going. And, I’ve been pulled over numerous times where officers have given me verbal warnings and asked me to be more careful in the future without writing me a ticket or even a written warning when I am over the legal speed limit.

This is what we call reasonable.

My point to you was not that I was investigated, but rather that when my attorney brought to your attention, and you discovered that the 87-year-old who this ad was placed for, was indeed an owner-occupied and four units or less situation, your offices still threatened us with a lawsuit — offering a settlement as the alternative. …Even though the law is clear that they do have the right to discriminate against children because it is owner-occupied and four units or less.

This is the time in the investigation you should have used discretion; you should have dropped this right then or asked us to take the class that HUD gives you funding to teach. I would also have gladly run the PSA for you as well, you only had to ask.

Who did you protect in this case Nan? Who directly benefited from you going after Courier Publications and this other family?

We are the “good guys." Your agency is supposed to protect and go after and prosecute the “bad guys.” Don’t you see that point?

And how do you know “who is who”; you do an investigation that is thorough enough to figure that out. When an officer pulls someone over for speeding the first thing he does is check you for priors as that will enter into his decision whether to warn you or ticket you. He looks you in the eye and determines whether you’ve been drinking or whether there is anything suspicious he should be concerned about. Then he decides whether to enforce, warn or teach.

Quite frankly, from what I’ve learned, your investigation in this matter was an F. It encompassed a phone call to the number in the ad, followed by some questioning. When asked about the “no children," my understanding is your investigator was told by the daughter-in-law who placed the ad that the person on the first floor was an 87-year-old woman who did not want children running over her head. From my understanding, the investigator made a terse comment to the effect of “that’s discrimination” and abruptly hung up.

Are you trying to teach us or punish us? What is your mission? I know what I think it should be.

And why? Is there a quota system? Do you have to justify your existence by bringing in money or are you committed to justice?

In summary, your interpretation that I thought you “should forgive a technical infraction” is not accurate. I am asking for the same discretion you would ask for every time you “technically break the speed limit” by going 1 mile per hour over it.

Under a quota system, I’m sure I could find you and most others under some “technical infraction” of a law almost daily.

Instead of setting up what amounts to “speed traps” and prosecuting “technical infractions," I challenge you to create a mission that focuses and clearly puts the weight of your foot on making our state a better place to live by spending the time you’re spending on this, on the 48,000 people that contact you annually that your website tells us you don’t have time to help.

Editor's note: Brower's response was edited for space.