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Woman involved in suspicious lawsuits expresses regret

Chris Ramirez
April 18, 2017 06:50 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Regret.

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That's the feeling for a woman in a wheelchair about suing 100 small businesses in Albuquerque and about being connected to a controversial group.

Alyssa Carton sat down with 4 Investigates to explain herself and why she got involved with a group that many believe is hurting the disabled community. At nearly 40 and a lifetime suffering from spina bifida, Carton is frustrated with the world she navigates through in a wheelchair.

"I've endured a lot of challenges with accessibility and struggling with everyday life," she said.

Looking for a way to make a difference -- to be a champion for other people in wheelchairs -- she responded to a posting she saw online. The controversial group Advocates for Individual Rights, or AID, needed people with disabilities to do some work for them.

For the original 4 Investigates report on the lawsuits, click here.

Alyssa Carton: "It was like, ok, make a change for ADA. There's money involved little bit if things work out.  Yeah, I'm making some money, but it was a cause I was interested in."

Chris Ramirez: "Did you visit every location that you sued?"

AC: "Yes."

CR: "And talk to me about that strategy, how did you do it? You mentioned you had a driver. Was Sharon with you?"

AC: "Yes. I did go into every single business. Umm ... I was supposed to just go in and check the bathrooms and make sure I experienced the barrier. That's what I did."

CR: "And who was doing the measuring of everything, was that you?"

AC: "It was both of us. I can't obviously measure the signs. That's ridiculous. I can't do that. The driver was doing that and that's how that started."

CR: "But you were looking for things that could intentionally be ADA issues?"

AC: "Yeah, I was intentionally looking for things that were intentionally ADA-noncompliant."

Carton said from the beginning, the strategy felt sketchy. But she went along with it. In her eyes, she thought this is what advocacy looked like.

CR: "Do you feel that you've been used as a pawn for AID or by Sharon Pomeranz?"

AC: "I wouldn't say pawn. I think it's bad business."

CR: "On AID's part?"

AC: "On AID's part, yeah."

Carton said she was new to advocacy and relied on attorney Sharon Pomeranz to call the shots.

AC: "In hindsight, I could do things a little differently and go and talk to them and be more stern and say, 'Hey, I am coming in here and I'm giving you a week or whatever or give them a time frame.' I wasn't able to give them that opportunity. I had people around me who were influencing my choices."

CR: "Such as? Who were those people?"

AC: "Well, the driver who was hired. I can't mention her name because she's not part of the situation anymore. The lawyer and just different people … I went along with what they said and I was just trying to be a part of something to get something done and unfortunately I got buried."

CR: "It sounds to me like your intention was to be a champion for ADA, but the strategy you were taken down didn't leave you as a champion. It left you as a person who got used."

AC: "Yeah, that's definitely how it comes across and I'm still processing that."

That group, AID, is in trouble in Arizona. The attorney general is taking action against the group.

A judge in Phoenix has already tossed out more than a thousand drive-by lawsuits aid filed there. The Arizona state legislature is working on a bill that would stop these drive-by lawsuits that seriously hurt small businesses.

Credits

Chris Ramirez

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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