JD Howlette Law Sues Prince George's County For Violating Local Business Owner's Constitutional Rights

By JD Howlette Law

PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Maryland, March 1, 2022 - Today, on behalf of local businessman Randy Richardson, we filed a federal civil rights complaint against Prince George’s County and two County officials seeking $3 million for egregious violations of Richardson's constitutional rights. According to the complaint, Richardson leased 27,768 square feet of commercial space at the Shops at Iverson in Temple Hills, MD in January 2020 (also known as "Iverson Mall"). Richardson planned to open Town Hall Live—a high-end lounge—at the location, and he expended significant amounts of time and resources preparing to do so. However, representatives from Prince George's County Department of Permitting, Inspection and Enforcement (DPIE) intentionally misguided Richardson and took ill-motivated enforcement actions against him in a calculated effort to prevent him from opening Town Hall Live.

DPIE based its decision on the fact that the owners of Iverson Mall did not have a valid Use & Occupancy permit, yet the Agency allowed other large business tenants to open at the mall despite the code deficiency. When Richardson questioned DPIE about the disparate treatment, DPIE officials simply replied with, “it’s above our paygrade.” The complaint alleges that DPIE’s arbitrary and discriminatory actions caused Richardson to sustain substantial financial losses, and forced him to abandon his Town Hall Live effort altogether.

This is shameful and should have never happened,” said Richardson. “As a hardworking entrepreneur, I simply expected to be treated the same under the law by County officials regardless of my political connections. The lawsuit is the last resort. I did everything in my power to resolve this matter, but it fell on deaf ears. Now the courts will decide.

According to the complaint, County officials allowed the owners of Iverson Mall to operate for years without the proper permits and deliberately chose not to notify the public about the deficiencies. The complaint charges DPIE with engaging in “a consistent, widespread pattern of discriminatory permit, inspection, and enforcement practices that has impermissibly treated certain businesses operating or seeking to operate at the [Shops at Iverson] differently than other similarly situated businesses operating at the same location.” In doing so, DPIE deprived Richardson of his rights to equal protection under the law, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 24 of the Declaration of Rights to the Maryland Constitution.

DPIE allowed the owners of Iverson Mall to operate at the location with impunity for more years without the proper permits, yet chose to single-out my client with ill-motivated enforcement actions that prevented him from lawfully conducting business at the mall,” said Attorney Jordan D. Howlette, who represents Richardson in the lawsuit. “DPIE needs to answer for its arbitrary and discriminatory actions that have disparaged small business owners like Mr. Richardson while at the same time favoring those businesses that wield political power and influence within the County.