LOCKPORT – A man who says he is illiterate and was hoodwinked into buying an inactive hazardous waste site filed suit in State Supreme Court last week, seeking to cancel the June 7 deal.
Eddie Person, 46, of Lockport, paid $1 for the former Peters Dry Cleaning, 316 Willow St., listed as a Class 2 inactive hazardous waste site that is a danger to public health.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation placed it on that list because of dumping of dry cleaning chemicals on the ground decades ago, before the seller, Patrick S. McFall, of Newfane, owned the business.
McFall, 45, has pleaded guilty to building code violations for not cleaning up the debris after a wing of the brick building collapsed Dec. 15. That problem remains unaddressed.
McFall is due for sentencing Nov. 15 in Lockport City Court. He was sentenced earlier this year to seven months in jail. He served five days before his attorneys belatedly argued that he should have had a jury trial, which he wasn’t offered.
As part of the plea deal approved last month, McFall must pay the city at least $5,000 by Nov. 15 toward the nearly $43,000 in unpaid taxes and water bills on the closed store.
Person’s lawsuit, filed by Lockport attorney Brian J. Hutchison, asserts that McFall took advantage of his illiteracy by not telling him about the tax and environmental problems with the property.
Hutchison did not return a call seeking comment Friday, but McFall said, “I didn’t know [Person] was illiterate, because I went to school with him, and he made it up to the 12th grade.”
He noted that Person has two Facebook pages and often used a laptop in Cafe Karma, a McFall-owned restaurant in Lockport. That’s where the real estate deal was worked out.
According to the lawsuit, Person, a recovering drug addict, shared his dream of having a place for drug addicts to stay and obtain help, but bemoaned his lack of funds. That’s when McFall told Person he could have his vacant former store.
The suit contends that McFall knew Person was functionally illiterate and read the sale documents aloud, but McFall left out some parts, such as the deed transferring ownership. He also allegedly told Person that a clause allowing him to the back out of the deal was included, but it wasn’t.
Person’s affidavit said McFall read him the contract and escorted him across the street to a bank to have it notarized.
One of the documents Person signed was a sheet that stated McFall had disclosed all the issues related to the building, including the code violations, delinquent taxes and environmental problems.
Lockport Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said it doesn’t matter to the city who owns the site because, either way, the city is planning a tax foreclosure with state assistance in the cleanup.
He said he hopes to use the same process the city used to take over the orphaned Dussault Foundry in 2010.