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Orchard Park gym owner sues NYS, questions legality of executive orders


Athletes Unleashed Inc., the Orchard Park gym that was recently fined $15,000 for violating COVID-19 restrictions, has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health.

Just over a week ago, a group of around 70 business owners gathered at Athletes Unleashed to discuss their struggles during the pandemic. Erie County fined gym owner Robby Dinero $15,000, a ticket which he ripped up live on Fox News last week.

Monday, Dinero’s business is suing New York State. Attorney Paul Cambria will represent Dinero. He said they are challenging the legality of executive orders Cuomo has issued that have impacted business operations.

“In March, the legislature delegated authority to the governor, to basically take steps to attempt to deal with the COVID situation,” Cambria said. “That authority, the way I read it, limits the governor to 30 days for any of his enactments, which basically are just like a law.”

Cambria said Cuomo should have to renew his limited power.

“I don't doubt for a minute that the governor is attempting to do the right thing and has done a number of things that are very good,” he said. “However, I do believe that his authority is limited. And it's limited to 30 days without more input by the legislature.”

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi responded on Twitter to the lawsuit Monday morning saying, "We get sued virtually every day for virtually every action taken during this pandemic and based on what you laid out this entire argument is based on crackpot logic. We routinely extend executive orders as needed. That’s not unique to the pandemic."

Cambria said PR spins like that won’t matter in court.

“There's no crackpot involved here. The crackpot might be him to make such an irresponsible comment like that,” Cambria said. “There's a legal issue here that the courts will look at and the courts will take seriously, and they'll make a ruling.”

Dinero expressed confidence in the lawsuit in a video posted by blogger Tim Walton on Sunday.

“We are being heard. We demonstrated. We did some civil disobedience. We’ve attracted the attention of this team,” Dinero said. “This team has taken this to the people that it needs to be taken to. And the process is going to work.”

Dinero was recently accused of sending a racist email that referred to a women as “filthy, foreign, Third-World country piece of (expletive).”

Last Friday, CrossFit LLC cut its ties with Dinero’s gym after learning about the email.

In response to this as a guest on WBEN radio Monday morning, Dinero said he thought he was replying to a fake email or "scammer."

Dinero had originally planned to reopen his gym Monday as an “act of civil disobedience,” but decided against it as the lawsuit moves forward.

Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw started a GoFundMe for Dinero and his business on Nov. 25. It currently has raised over $48,000 towards its $100,000 goal.

Mychajliw sent WBFO this statement:

“I will never back down from supporting all business owners that might lose their livelihood because Mark Poloncarz makes up arbitrary COVID rules as he goes along. Our GoFundMe continues. I encourage people to support it. Resources will be used by a multitude of suffering business owners. My fight is about helping businesses, schools, churches and families being destroyed by lockdowns that clearly do not work. I’m not backing down one bit. Quite the opposite. Speaking generally here, and not about a specific person or business, any remark believed to be racist is repugnant and abhorrent in any setting from anyone, anywhere at any time.”

The lawsuit has been filed in State Supreme Court. It accuses Cuomo of violating state executive law and state constitutional limits.

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.