ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) - If you have to go to the Erie County Auto Bureau, you might want to "go" before you go there.
A customer tells News 4 that employees would not allow her to use the restroom, so she Called 4 Action. The senior citizen was at the auto bureau on ECC's campus in Orchard Park. Despite having multiple sclerosis and mobility issues, employees refused to allow her to use the restroom and instead forced her to walk to another building, crossing a busy parking lot and access road to get there.
Maria Kozak is a grandmother and tries not to let her MS slow her down too much. She went to the auto bureau to renew her driver's license, and that trip put her mobility to the test. She visited the southtowns branch during the winter, with snow on the ground.
"I had to use the bathroom. And when I asked if I could use a restroom, they told me that I had to leave the building, go out of the door," she said.
Kozak said the person she asked at the bureau told her they don't have a public restroom.
"They have one for themselves, for the employees," she said. "It's not open 'because the public gets the bathrooms dirty.'"
To get to a public restroom, Kozak had to leave the auto bureau, cross the parking lot and access road, go up a wheel chair ramp next to a dumpster, and then find the bathrooms next to a cafeteria. Fortunately, Kozak made it, but she says it was close.
A spokesman for Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs told News 4 that of all the auto bureaus in Erie County, only one has public restrooms. But the others have access to restrooms that are usually just steps away.
Henry Kozak, Marie's husband, had a more recent experience renewing his license. When he asked about restrooms for the public, the answer was about the same.
"She told me, 'No, we don't let the public use it because they're dirty.' I said, 'What?! What about a janitor?' She said, 'We don't care. We don't want the public using our restrooms,'" he said.
But we found out there are public restrooms at Building 7, where the auto bureau is located. In fact, ECC workers told News 4 the restrooms used by county staff are for the public.
The bathrooms for men and women are located at the end of a long hallway and are the same ones used by auto bureau staff. ECC is in charge of keeping the restrooms clean.
County Clerk Chris Jacobs released this statement:
"Although not all Erie County Auto Bureaus have direct access to a public restroom within the office, the majority of Auto Bureaus have public restrooms in close proximity.
"At our ECC South Campus location, there is no public restroom in that particular building. However, if there is an emergency and assistance needs to be given to aid a child or a person with disabilities, the staff at any one of the auto bureaus has always made accommodations to escort them to the employee restroom.
"In speaking with the staff at our ECC South Auto Bureau, the staff was unaware of the situation you described."
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