Guests file human rights complaint against Camden Harbour Inn

By Stephanie Grinnell | Jan 30, 2014

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.

Comments (4)
Posted by: Raymond Brunyanszki | Feb 04, 2014 23:40

Please be ensured that the New Amsterdam Suite is ADA accessible without stairs, that the entrance was never blocked and the room is ADA approved by the state. Also the private decks were accessible.

Stephanie Grinnell has provided partly incorrect information in this article and we regret that Mrs. Grinnell never took the oppertunity to contact us directly. We will inform Village Soup separately and ask for a rectification.

Our innkeepers were never informed about the extreme limited mobility of Mr. Patnode. When Mrs. Patnode booked a room on the second floor, she never informed the innkeepers that Mr. Patnode was limited mobile. The next day when Mrs. Patnode called the innkeepers again, she asked if we had an elevator and after she learned we do not have an elevator, she rebooked the reservation to the first floor room. Never did Mrs. Patnode inform our innkeepers that her husband was ADA physically challenged to a degree that Mr. Patnode was unable to walk 100ft or the inability to climb stairs.

Mrs. Patnode did however inform the innkeepers about dietary restrictions and a very early arrival both were noted in the guest's reservation.

Mr. and Mrs. Patnode did not pay the full amount for the New Amsterdam Suite. The rate was based on a less expensive room they had booked initially. When Mr. Patnode arrived it was the first time we were aware of the extreme limited mobility of Mr. Patnode and concluded that according to ADA law we had to provide him with ADA complied accommodations against the initial booked room rates. In other words Mr. and Mrs. Patnode received a first floor luxurious suite with a ADA complied bathroom with walk in steam shower, two private decks, a living room with gas fireplace and master bedroom with kingsize bed, all ADA accessible for the rate of a normal guest room.

It is correct that, after we learned that the less than 100ft from the inn's ADA parking to the entrance of the suite was too much of a walk for Mr. Patnode, we offered to rebook them to a different hotel. We have proof that several 4-diamond properties in the area had availability and this is also not denied by the Maine Human Right association. It was in May, so still off-season and hotels and inn's are usually not at full capacity at this time of the year.

However it is incorrect that the Mr. Patnode was more than usual exposed to other inn or restaurant guests (resulting in Mr. Patnode self consciousness of his limited mobility). The restaurant is only in service during the evening and for breakfast (limited to our inn guests). Mr. Patnode had also the possibility to avoid the biggest part of the restaurant by using a separate hallway leading to the ADA guest room (covering approximately the same distance).

In a reply to the Maine Human Right association we have asked the question how the limited confrontation with our inn guests could have been an issue for Mr. Patnode as we were in off-season and with 6 rooms (out of 20) not available because of construction, we had less than 20 guests staying with us. More so when you consider that Mr. and Mrs. Patnode flew into Portland, Maine, likely using a larger airport to transfer flights and therefore were exposed to far more people.

Mr. and Mrs. Patnode arrived at the inn in a rental car.

We feel sorry for Mr. Patnode's awareness of his limited mobility. But we have a hard time understanding how we, a property catering to the public, can avoid Mr. Patnode being among people.

We have done the utmost to accommodate and inform Mr. and Mrs. Patnode about our facilities and alternative possibilities. We comped room nights, food services and wine. We had multiple conversations with Mrs. Patnode and our chefs created special meals which sometimes were served outside operation hours of the restaurant.

On the last day of Mr. and Mrs. Patnode stay (day of check out) the innkeepers were informed that a construction container was obstructing the ADA parking. We had it immediately removed (within an hour). A day earlier the container was emptied and by accident placed in the wrong position. After Mrs. Patnode had complained to our innkeepers, Mrs. Patnode was able to maneuver out of the parking lot, all by herself without assistance (which we had offered) and before the container was repositioned. The car has always been fully accessible for Mr. Patnode.

We regret that the construction company did position the container somewhat close to the ADA parking lot and we responded immediately when we found out. We understand ADA parking lot(s) always need to be fully accessible. However by leaving the parking lot without assistance also shows it was not fully obstructed and more an understandable annoyance to our guests.

Besides this complain we received a substantial list of complaints by Mrs. Patnode ranging from cleanliness of the room, noisiness of other guests and the kitchen (which is located at the other end of the building), to the incompetence of our staff members including the owners.

We do like to mention that our hardworking innkeepers had the challenge of dealing with the verbally aggressive approach of Mrs. Patnode, sometimes resulting in tears behind the scene. In the beginning we hoped it was because of the long flight and being tired, however this behavior continued until check-out. We have deep respect for the professionalism of our staff and management. Although they had every reason to avoid Mrs. Patnode, instead they worked harder and discussed what else they could do in the hope to give Mr. and Mrs. Patnode an unforgettable stay.

We will continue to provide evidence that Camden Harbour Inn has always done the best to their abilities to accommodate Mr. and Mrs. Patnode and provide luxurious lodging including an accessible suite.

We have invited the Maine Human Right Association on several occasions to visit our facility to familiarize with the situation and to see what the reality is. The Maine Human Right Association, so far has not accepted our invitation.

We are sorry and saddened that we were unable to satisfy the wishes of Mr. and Mrs. Patnode, however we do feel it is important the correct story is told.


Raymond Brunyanszki and Oscar Verest
Owners Relais & Chateaux Camden Harbour Inn

Posted by: pat putnam | Feb 01, 2014 07:18

4steps into a room that is supposed to be accessible. That is unacceptable.

Posted by: Susan Sinclair | Feb 01, 2014 06:01

They were paying good money to a business for services, and did not receive the services agreed upon. There should be much more specific standards and disclosure rules for hotels and inns, patrons shouldn't have to "fish" and ask just the right questions to get an accurate answer.

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Jan 31, 2014 17:11

It does seem that the Inn was trying to accommodate this couple but that nothing, regardless of what the Inn did, was going to be right.  Some people really need to stop in their lives and remember what really matters, friends, love, happiness and above all, KINDNESS!


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