Blind vendor fights with state government over$5 bill pulled from bra
State says vendor was rude
Last Updated: 270 days ago
INDIANAPOLIS - A dispute that began over whether to accept a $5 bill pulled from a customer's bra almost cost a blind vendor his store at the state government complex.
Russell Fry, who has been legally blind since he was 9 months old, has operated a vending area in the Government Center for 26 years under a law delegating such shops to the blind.
But he almost lost it over an incident during this summer's heat wave.
"It was hot out. A lady came in, purchased a few items. Right in front of me, plain as day, pulled her money out of her bra. It was damp. I was disgusted," said Fry's clerk, Lindsey Wilson. "Instead of saying anything to her, you know, I let her leave. I put a sign up. 'Hey, if you're going to take your money out of your bra, please do it out in the hall before you come in.'"
State officials didn't like the sign and ordered it taken down. Fry's clerk did, but replaced it with another one they didn't like either.
So Administration Commissioner Robert Wynkoop came down himself for what turned into a confrontation with Fry's son, Kevin.
Witnesses said Wynkoop, before identifying himself, told Kevin Fry to take down the sign, which prompted Kevin to yell, "Who the (expletive) are you?"
Kevin Fry defended his reaction.
"Should I have said what I said? You know, no. But, at the same time, especially in a government building, I think free speech should be looked at," he said.
The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, which administers the blind vending contracts, gave Russell Fry a choice -- fire his son or lose his contract, effective at 2 p.m. Friday.
At first, Fry said he resisted and took what he called a "let them throw me out" attitude.
"I don't believe that they should have the right, unless there's some state or federal law being broken, to interfere with who I hire and don't hire," he said.
But just before the deadline, Fry gave in, agreeing to transfer his son to a second stand at the airport and bring another employee to the Government Center.
After initially refusing to discuss the issue on the record, a state spokeswoman late Friday afternoon told RTV6 the dispute is over more than one confrontation.
She said Kevin Fry has been consistently rude and offensive to female customers and the fight with Wynkoop was just the final straw.
She said the state has the right to demand Russell Fry fire his son or any other employee they believe is a problem.
Fry said he is still angry. He said the possibility for legal action still exists.
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