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Billingsley v. City of Minneapolis

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

June 17, 2013

Ruby Billingsley, Appellant,
v.
City of Minneapolis, Respondent. Rubylicious Cafe, et al., Plantiffs,

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CV-11-14147.

Ruby Billingsley, Minneapolis, Minnesota (pro se appellant)

Susan L. Segal, Minneapolis City Attorney, Gregory P. Sautter, Assistant City Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Worke, Judge; and Larkin, Judge.

HALBROOKS, Judge

Appellant Ruby Billingsley challenges the district court's summary-judgment dismissal of her discrimination and retaliation claims against respondent City of Minneapolis. She argues that the city discriminated against her on the basis of race when it repeatedly inspected and fined one of her businesses for selling tobacco to minors and that those inspections and fines, and the eventual revocation of her business licenses for failing to pay the fines, were in retaliation for her discrimination complaints related to another business she owned. We affirm.

FACTS

Billingsley is the former owner of the Arcade Convenience store and Rubylicious Cafe and the former president and executive director of WE CAN DO IT, a nonprofit corporation that placed disabled individuals in supportive working environments. Billingsley is African American, as were most of her clients. Beginning in 2006, WE CAN DO IT operated a hot-dog cart on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis.

Billingsley's cart initially did not have access to electricity. But after Billingsley was told that she could not use a gas-powered unit on Nicollet Mall, the city arranged for her to have access to electricity. In 2007 and again in 2008, Billingsley complained that the cart was unable to access electricity. In both instances, the city worked with Billingsley to resolve the issue.

Police escorted the employees and hot-dog cart off Nicollet Mall on two occasions in 2006. These incidents were prompted by complaints that the cart did not display the required license and was not allowed on Nicollet Mall during the Minneapolis Municipal Farmers' Market, which operates on Thursdays during the summer. These issues were resolved, and the cart operation resumed on Thursdays.

In June 2007, a farmers' market vendor set up in the space normally used for the hot-dog cart. Billingsley complained to the police, who declined to intervene. Leanne Selander, a license inspector with the city who had interacted with Billingsley with regard to the 2006 licensing issue and the 2007 electricity issue, became involved in the dispute. Billingsley alleges that Selander was "upset" that Billingsley called the police and "accused [Billingsley] of wasting police time."

On June 27, 2007, Selander conducted a tobacco compliance check at Arcade Convenience. The cashier sold tobacco to an underage individual working with the police. Billingsley was fined $200, but she did not pay the fine or appeal the citation.

In a letter dated July 2, 2007, Billingsley complained about the cart-location incident to the city. She alleged that the city's treatment of her and her staff was discriminatory and stated that if the treatment did not stop, she would file a charge with the City of Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights (DCR). Several days after Billingsley sent the letter, Selander required Billingsley to remove the cart from Nicollet Mall because it did not have proper ...


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