MONROE, Mich. (WXYZ) - It's The Dog Pound vs. the City of Monroe, and it's been tied up in a legal battle for nearly two years.
All over a hot dog cart stand.
And it could cost the taxpayers of Monroe tens of thousands of dollars.
This is the inside story of one of the wackiest lawsuits in metro Detroit, and the would-be hot dog vendor is talking about the case for the very first time.
Cheryl Sicuso says all she wanted to do was open up a hot dog cart stand to sell quick lunches to busy workers in downtown Monroe.
She never dreamed it would turn into a legal nightmare.
The idea for the small business she called The Dog Pound came to her as a way to make some cash and survive the downturn in the economy.
She bought a nearly $5000 hot dog cart, received the necessary permits from the county and state, and got some experience at small events around metro Detroit.
But she couldn't get past the Monroe City Council, which turned her down in a unanimous vote in July 2009. The Hawker and Peddler Ordinance in the city gives council members the final say in what's permitted in a restricted zone that includes most of downtown Monroe.
Cheryl Sicuso's lawyer Erik Chappell says the ordinance is unconstitutional, and sued the city. The case ended up in federal court.
Both sides have racked up about $20,000 in legal fees each.
The city manager and mayor declined to comment about the case, and several council members said they couldn't comment either.
Detroit attorney John Gillooly, who was hired to represent the city, says a number of reasons went into council's decision not to allow the hot dog cart in downtown Monroe, including protecting existing restaurants from competition and preserving a certain way of life.
A mediator was assigned to the case, but that got nowhere, except to add another $3,500 to the legal tab.
Gillooly says the lawsuit is a money grab by Sicuso, and in a city that just made about $500,000 in budget cuts in just the last month, every dollar needs to go to city services.
Both sides accuse the other of dragging the case on month after month.
Sicuso wants the city to pay her legal fees, and for her lost profits.
The judge assigned to the case is expected to rule in the next month whether the ordinance is constitutional. Meantime, city officials are in the process of amending the ordinance to make it easier to open up a business in the restricted area. City officials admit the hot dog cart lawsuit has played a part in the ordinance review.
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