Ray Steigelman plays with his service dog Spank after a Community Relations Commission meeting at the Farmington Civic Center on Monday.
Ray Steigelman plays with his service dog Spank after a Community Relations Commission meeting at the Farmington Civic Center on Monday. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)
FARMINGTON — Farmington's Community Relations Commission referred a discrimination case to the city's legal department Monday evening after legal action was threatened in a public meeting.

Ray Steigelman submitted complaints to the commission alleging that three Farmington businesses discriminated against him because of his service dog, Spank.

Two disabled Farmington residents who also use service dogs, and another resident who is training a service dog, attended the commission's monthly meeting. Their accounts of how they and their dogs are treated were positive. Steigelman stuck by his story.

"I have a brain injury," Steigelman said, as he showed commission members a card documenting his condition. "I can become confused and angry for no reason. I get disoriented and I'm being yelled at because they say I can't take my dog."

Steigelman said he also suffers from epilepsy.

Commissioners Elizabeth Volkerding and Neil Johnson checked into Steigelman's complaints against Tequila's Restaurant and Bar, the Region Inn and the Dollar General Store in early March.

Their reports found conflicting stories. In each report, the business owners allege that Steigelman was unruly with employees.

Steigelman said that any issues with Tequila's Restaurant have been resolved, but that Region Inn and Dollar General employees continue to harass him.

"This has been going on for two-and-a-half years," he said. "I don't want to be harassed."

Kelly Everett, one of the service dog users in attendance, disagreed with Steigelman's allegations that Farmington businesses discriminate against disabled people and their service dogs.

She suffers from multiple sclerosis.

"No one in this town has ever given me problems because of my dog," Everett said. "I do not have trouble. I actually have far less trouble in this town than I do in Durango, and people think that Durango is so dog friendly.
At left, Linda Ford, an advocate for Ray Steigelman speaks to members of the Community Relations Commission regarding  alleged discrimination against
At left, Linda Ford, an advocate for Ray Steigelman speaks to members of the Community Relations Commission regarding alleged discrimination against Steigelman and his service dog Spank on Monday. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)
People need to know that Farmington is extraordinarily dog friendly."

Although Steigelman remained calm and composed during Monday's meeting, Linda Ford, his advocate, became increasingly agitated as the evening progressed.

"The businesses of Farmington need to be educated," Ford said. "I'm ready on behalf of my client to take it to the (Department of Justice). We've had issues with Bloomfield, Aztec, Walmart, Best Buy ..."

Everett disagreed.

"Farmington's businesses go above and beyond," she said in response. "They could not be more willing to work with you. I beg to differ."

Ford, however, started to yell.

"No," she said. "I beg to differ. You people are all fools. I'm done. I'm filing a complaint with (the U.S. Justice Department)."

Ford was asked to leave the premises and the Farmington Police Department was called.

"Right now, this is out of our hands," said David John, commission chairman. "With a legal threat, we don't do anything further."

Greg Yee can be reached at gyee@daily-times.com; 505-564-4606. Follow him on Twitter @GYeeDT.

At left, Kelly Everett, holding her dog Otis and Ashley Kieth with her dog Jake speak on behalf of service dogs during a Community Relations Commission
At left, Kelly Everett, holding her dog Otis and Ashley Kieth with her dog Jake speak on behalf of service dogs during a Community Relations Commission meeting at the Farmington Civic Center on Monday. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)