Hours after the owners of a popular Mount Vernon bakery formally announced plans to file a $1.5 million lawsuit against the city, Mayor Richard Thomas released a statement calling the action “meritless.”
On Thursday, lawyers from Lauren P. Raysor, who will be representing Miesha Stokely and Montika Jones, the co-owners of Cupcake Cutie Boutique, announced that they will be issuing a notice of claim, stating that the summer shutdown caused “harm to reputation, emotional distress and the loss of business.”
The lawyers were in Mount Vernon to officially announce the lawsuit at Cupcake Cutie Boutique.
In response to the lawsuit, Thomas released a statement from Corporation Counsel Lawrence Pocari.
“The lawsuit is meritless and without factual basis. It has been referred to outside counsel which will defend the city’s position vigorously. Some of the city’s concerns were previously outlined in an Aug. 17 letter to the Westchester County Department of Health and to the establishment in question.”
The cupcake shop was ordered by the city to close its doors in August, with officials citing alleged building violations, but the business owners have maintained that the move was politically motivated, because the family has been publicly and openly critical of Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas and his administration.
“The Notice of Claim states that Richard Thomas engaged in a pattern of harassment by using city employees to harass and intimidate Ms. Stokely and Ms. Jones because of their relationship to Damon Jones, publisher (and) owner of ‘Black Westchester’ newspaper and vocal critic of the mayor and his administration,” the lawyers wrote in a statement. “Ms. Jones, who is also a detective with the City of Mount Vernon Police Department, has been the subject of alleged harassment under Mayor Thomas’ administration and recently settled claims of civil rights violations.”
According to the lawyers, the co-owners signed a leasing agreement in August 2015, and two months later applied for a Certificate of Tenancy with the city. The city granted a temporary Certificate of Tenancy and continued to operate without interruption.
In July this year, the landlord of Cupcake Cutie Boutique submitted a report of Test and maintenance of the Backflow Prevention Device to the city’s Water Department, the lawyers claim. Once the report was received, the Building Department refused to issue a permanent Certificate of Tenancy, leading to Thomas ordering the shop closed on Aug. 3, “without notice, without a violation and without due process.”
A statement released by Thomas's office at the time of the forced closure claimed that the surprise inspection was part of a city sweep.
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