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Brikho v. City of Inkster

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

August 30, 2019

CITY OF INKSTER, et al., Defendants.

          Honorable Laurie J. Michelson



         Suite B, Inc. operated a medical-marijuana facility in Inkster, Michigan. Initially, the corporation had only one owner. But a few years into the operation, Suite B added new shareholders, including George Brikho. Soon after Brikho came on board, the City of Inkster denied Suite B a license to continue operating. Now Brikho sues Inkster, raising a host of state and federal claims. Inkster moves for judgment on the pleadings, arguing, essentially, that Brikho lacks standing to sue over Suite B, Inc.'s injuries. For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.


         In 2016, Suite B obtained a license to operate a medical-marijuana dispensary in Inkster, Michigan. (ECF No. 1, PageID.6.)[1] Soon after, Suite B opened its doors. (Id.) At the time, Suite B was wholly owned by Patrick Wimberly, a former member of Inkster's city council. (Id.) To help with the licensing process, Wimberly and Suite B retained the services of Byron Nolen, then an attorney, but soon to be Inkster's mayor. (Id.)

         Suite B's license to operate was renewed in 2017. (ECF No. 1, PageId.6.)

         Then in early 2018, Suite B, Inc. added three new shareholders: Farida Holdings, LLC, George Brikho, and Frank Cimeot. (Id. at PageID.7.) Of the three, Brikho invested a substantial sum into Suite B and its real property (i.e., the dispensary). (Id.)

         In April 2018, Suite B applied for the yearly renewal of its license. (ECF No. 1, PageID.7.) But a month later, Inkster denied Suite B's renewal application. (Id.) In denying the application, Inkster officials noted that Wimberly had at least one prior conviction (dating from the 1990s). (Id. at PageID.7.) Shortly after, Suite B closed its doors and laid off 20 employees. (Id.)

         In the interim, Suite B appealed. Suite B directed its appeal to its former lawyer, Byron Nolen, by this time Inkster's mayor. (ECF No. 1, PageID.8.) And just days after Inkster denied Suite B's application, Mayor Nolen conducted an appeal hearing. (Id.) Mayor Nolen presided, and in attendance were Charles Nolen, a relative of and special advisor to Mayor Nolen (id. at PageID.4), Felicia Rutledge (Inkster's city clerk), and all of Suite B's shareholders. (Id.)

         According to the complaint, three notable things happened at the hearing. For one, Charles Nolen falsely alleged that Brikho had a criminal history. (ECF No. 1, PageID.8.) And Charles Nolen alleged that one of Suite B's partners had previously sued Inkster. (Id.) Finally, Mayor Nolen told Suite B's shareholders that Inkster had an unofficial policy of excluding non-residents from owning medical-marijuana dispensaries. (Id.)

         Brikho alleges Mayor Nolen's comment about non-residents was significant. At the time, Brikho, a Chaldean Arab, lived in Oakland County. (ECF No. 1, PageID.4.) But Inkster is in Wayne County. (Id.) Brikho further alleges that around the time of Suite B's renewal application and appeal, Mayor Nolen was making it known he did not want Arabs in his city and did not want Arabs profiting off sales of marijuana to Inkster residents. (Id. at PageID.8-9.)

         Mayor Nolen took the appeal under advisement. (ECF No. 1, PageID.8.)

         Around the same time, Charles Nolen reached out to Wimberly and Cimeot. (ECF No. 1, PageID.9.) Charles Nolen said Suite B could reopen if Brikho's shares were transferred to an African-American woman connected to Mayor Nolen. (Id.) And Charles Nolen made clear that unless and until Brikho was removed as a shareholder, Suite B would not reopen. (Id.) Even more, Mayor Nolen told Wimberly that Brikho was a member of the Chaldean mafia, a group not welcome in Inkster. (Id. at PageID.9.)

         Brikho would not sell his shares. (ECF No. 1, PageID.9.) So, says Brikho, Mayor Nolen denied Suite B's appeal, and about a week later Suite B appealed to Inkster's city council. (Id.) In July 2018, the City Council, with Mayor Nolen presiding, heard the appeal and denied it. (Id. at PageID.10.)

         Suite B's dispensary closed down shortly after.

         Brikho alleges two distinct motivations drove Mayor Nolen to refuse to renew Suite B's license. The first was prejudice. Brikho alleges Mayor Nolen dislikes Arabs, especially Chaldean Arabs. (ECF No. 1, PageID.9.) And the second motivation was financial. Charles Nolen communicated that Suite B could stay open so long as an individual connected to Mayor Nolen was given a slice of Suite B. (Id. at PageID.8.) And Suite B's closure left only two medical marijuana dispensaries in Inkster, each with a financial connection to Mayor Nolen. (Id. at PageID.10.) So for those ...

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