Guests file human rights complaint against Camden Harbour Inn
Camden — A discrimination complaint made by guests of Camden Harbour Inn, based on a physical disability, has merit, according to a Maine Human Rights Commission investigator's report.
The Jan. 24 report states that Susan and Ernest Patnode of Beloit, Wis., made an allegation of discrimination after staying at the inn in May 2013.
"The claim of unlawful public accommodation discrimination is founded based on respondent's failure to provide complainants with an accurate description of the place of lodging's accessible features and respondent's failure to maintain an accessible feature (the accessible parking space)," the investigator's report concludes.
The complaint was filed with the Maine Human Rights Commission June 14, 2013. Ernest Patnode died Aug. 28, 2013, before the investigation was complete. Susan Patnode claimed staff of the inn provided an inaccurate description of the accessible features, despite emphasizing her husband's disability repeatedly.
The report states the couple's original reservation was made for a second floor room but later changed to a first floor location upon further explanation of Ernest Patnode's limitations. The couple traveled to Maine to celebrate Ernest Patnode's 86th birthday.
"At the time, Mr. Patnode was capable of walking short distances but his physical disabilities prevented him from climbing stairs," the report states.
The couple was booked in The New Amsterdam Suite, which staff said is Americans with Disabilities Act compliant, with a private entrance and adjacent parking. In reality, according to the report, there are four steps leading to the suite. In addition, construction materials were blocking the private entrance, the Patnodes said in the complaint. The couple also said the accessible parking space is located on the opposite side of the inn from the suite, and blocked by a construction trailer and a staff member's vehicle.
Susan Patnode said in her complaint the couple informed staff of their unhappiness "with the Inn's deception" regarding accessibility of the suite that evening and one of the owners responded by offering to book another hotel. The couple was too "exhausted and were not capable of relocating to another hotel that evening," the report states.
The inn owner later sent a gift of wine and cheese to the couple in the suite apologizing for the misunderstanding, the report states. Upon contacting a travel agency in an attempt to book another room, Susan Patnode was told there were no vacancies in town and the couple remained at the inn for the duration of their stay in Camden, departing a day earlier than originally planned.
Camden Harbour Inn is represented by Steven W. Hanscom. Responding to the complaint, Camden Harbour Inn stated staff "went above and beyond to assist Mr. and Ms. Patnode, even after Ms. Patnode was verbally aggressive toward staff and highly condescending, starting at check-in." The ADA compliance of the The New Amsterdam Suite includes its first floor location, wide doorways, carpeting over the wood flooring in the living room and bathroom accommodations for wheelchair users, according to the response. From the accessible entrance of the inn to the suite is about 100-feet. The response states "'one would assume' that a person who was unable to walk 100 feet would use a wheelchair. Respondent also stated that if respondent had known about Mr. Patnode's limited mobility, respondent would likely have advised Ms. Patnode that Camden was 'perhaps not the best destination to consider' due to its 'hilly landscape and [being] known for outdoor activities,' and having many restaurants and shops that are not accessible."
The response claims it is not feasible to build a ramp due to the elevation of the property and any ramp installation would be a similar distance walking as the existing route. Construction materials were in the area but not blocking any entrance to the suite, the response states, and a construction trailer was moved within an hour of receiving a complaint from Susan Patnode. Staff stated an offer was made to rebook the couple at another property on two occasions but the couple declined both times.
The investigator's report found the difference between the description of the accommodations and the actual accommodations to be significant, according to the report.
The report also found the inn did not act unlawfully by failing to install a ramp at the private entrance to the suite.
The report recommends conciliation attempts between the two parties.
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Stephanie is editor of The Republican Journal in Belfast. She previously served as editor of Camden Herald following its return in April 2012.
Stephanie also was editor of VillageSoup's Capital Weekly in Augusta and has nearly a decade of experience in the newspaper business ranging from southern and central Maine to Waldo County.
Outside the office, she enjoys reading, cooking and gardening.
Stephanie lives in Washington with her husband Jeff, four children, a dog named Chewbacca, a rabbit and chickens.