ACLU Sues City of Greenacres on Behalf of Disabled Resident

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
April 30, 2008 12:00 am

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ACLU of Florida
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Police and City Repeatedly Denied Services and Mistreated 19-year Resident Due to Disability, Says ACLU

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Alexandra Bassil, Assistant Communications Director, (786) 363-2723 or media@aclufl.org

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida filed a lawsuit today against the City of Greenacres in the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, State Court. Filed on behalf of Peter W. Ballance, 63, the lawsuit alleges that the City denied him reasonable accommodation services and treated him differently due to communication issues associated with Asperger’s Syndrome, from which Ballance suffers.

Three of the counts in the lawsuit relate to Title II of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and describe intentional discrimination on the basis of disability, failing to grant requested reasonable accommodation and failing to ensure effective communications. In addition, the Complaint alleges false arrest and malicious prosecution of Ballance by the City’s police department.

“I believe the police do not understand my disability and thus the protection guaranteed by the ADA,” said Ballance. “I have lived in Greenacres for 19 years, and I have the same right as everyone else to obtain services from my city government.”

The Complaint describes how Greenacres police repeatedly refused to honor his requests for city services such as police protection and emergency medical assistance. In one incident an officer went so far as to tackle him to the ground without warning, causing Ballance to seek hospital treatment for injuries. Greenacres also caused Ballance to be arrested, incarcerated and prosecuted for exercising his right to a reasonable accommodation.

“In my 31 years of practicing law, I have never seen a person treated more shabbily by police than Mr. Ballance was based on his disability,” said James K. Green, ACLU Cooperating Attorney. “City officials need to wake up and follow their sworn duty to follow federal law protecting people with disabilities. The City didn’t even have a reasonable accommodation procedure for its citizens, which has been clearly required by federal law for nearly 20 years. The City needs to end its own lawlessness.”

To accommodate his disability on a daily basis Ballance uses assistive technology devices to carry out his daily living including an audio recording device and a speaker phone. He makes recordings of conversations so that he can play them back for himself, assisting his memory and understanding of the conversations. When interacting and dealing with police and code enforcement he is completely transparent about his use of the assistive devices by wearing a notice alerting people to this fact; he also posts a notice at his home.

Ballance serves on the board of directors of the Autism Society of the Palm Beaches, the Palm Beach County School District Inclusion committee and is an advisory board member for Special Needs Students.

The case, Peter Ballance vs. City of Greenacres was filed today in State Court. ACLU Cooperating Attorneys are James K. Green, Meredith Trim and Aaron Clemens.

To read a copy of the lawsuit filed today, visit: http://www.aclufl.org/pdfs/Ballance.pdf

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