LAKE PLACID — Randy Reinhardt, a greater Lake Placid area resident, stood at the podium in town chambers and accused the town staff and council of corruption.
Reinhardt told the Town Council he had notified the Department of Justice about the town’s continued non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act [of 1990]. He informed the council he had not yet filed a federal lawsuit on the town. That was Monday night during the regular monthly meeting.
As of Wednesday morning, Reinhardt said he will be filing a federal lawsuit within two weeks. He said he received no satisfaction at the Monday council meeting.
“I accused them of corruption and they didn’t say a word,” Reinhardt said. “They didn’t say a word; they didn’t deny it. They didn’t object to that statement. There was just dead silence. It was almost as if they didn’t care; which is probably the case.”
The former ADA lawyer is a handicap resident of Lake Placid who has been asking the Town Council for equal access for all since January.
Previously, Reinhardt threatened a lawsuit but gave time for compliance. Reinhardt offered to be an ADA consultant for free to any business that wanted his help in becoming ADA compliant. He did go to Lake Placid Code Enforcement and filed complaints with several of the downtown area businesses. Most of them have voluntarily complied. One business has not and Reinhardt filed a complaint against that company with the DOJ last week.
Reinhardt said he would decide on Wednesday who to name in the suit. He said it would be easier to name the strip mall on North Main Avenue, which contains Cow Pies II and Nu-Hope’s Diamond Cafe. He would name the strip mall’s tenants in the suit also.
With the entire plaza being owned by the same person, it would be easier and quicker to file the suit if he doesn’t have to name each building owner and tenant separately, as there are several businesses in town that are not ADA compliant, according to Reinhardt.
Nu-Hope’s Diamond Cafe and Cow Pies II are the only ADA compliant businesses in that strip mall, according to Reinhardt. Cowpies II and Nu-Hope Diamond cafe will not be named in the lawsuit.
The town will be sued for a violation of 42 United States Code section 1983.
“That says that anyone who feels their rights have been denied by a government official or government can sue them,” Reinhardt said. “There is also a pendant jurisdiction to go after the town for violating Florida Statute Chapter 553 part 2.” The business owners and tenants will be named in the suit for violating Florida Statute Chapter 553 part 2.
Reinhardt said at the Monday meeting he has received threats but is only trying to shop in his hometown.
“The point I want to make is that I tried to keep it local. I tried to keep it where the maximum fine would be $20-$50,” he said. “Now, because I got stonewalled on the local [level], I have no choice but to go through the state or federal.
“The federal fines were actually lower than the state,” he said. “The federal fine per violation is $50,000 and state is $75,000. I tried to take this slowly, hoping that someone would see the light.”
Some businesses did heed the warnings and either fixed things they were not aware of or asked Reinhardt’s advice and fixed their accessibility issues. Recently, the Town of Lake Placid has made several repairs or replacements to make the town accessible. Sidewalks and the renovation of Stuart Park were scrutinized for its ADA compliance.
“It is the town’s responsibility to pro-actively recognize and improve areas that are prohibitive to handicap access,” Town Administrator Phil Williams said. “I feel the town has considerably improved handicap access to areas in the past two years. Those improvements were initiated on our own and continue to be evaluated and implemented on our own.
“When Mr. Reinhardt has made suggestions, the town has listened, researched, and implemented action where we felt we had a legal obligation or even a moral obligation to do so to make life better,” Williams said.
Williams cited recent improvements to the plaza where Nu-Hope is, as the step from the parking lot to the sidewalk was decreased to assist the elderly. Additional parking was added also. While Williams acknowledged those new parking spaces were not specifically handicap, they did assist the elderly with an easier transition from the parking space to the sidewalk.
“Such was not required by ADA but in the interest of making access better for the many elderly residents there we made improvements,” Williams said.
An email was sent to Town Attorney Bert J. Harris III for comment but there was no response by press time.
“Things are getting serious now,” Reinhardt said.