RIPLEY - The owner of a Mason County-based Mexican food restaurant is suing officials in neighboring Jackson County alleging information they published about one of its locations had a devastating effect on business.
The Jackson County Health Department, eight of its board members, administrator Susan Hosaflook and inspector Jonathan Graziani are named as co-defendants in a civil rights lawsuit by Pancho’s LLC.
In its complaint filed Aug. 23 in Jackson Circuit Court, Pancho’s, whose corporate office is located in Point Pleasant and operates under the trade name Pancho’s Southwest Mexican Grill, alleges publication of a health inspection report on its Ravenswood location led to its closure.
According to the suit, JCHD on Aug. 30, 2011, “published to the public a large list of alleged infractions of health code violations.” Though the complaint does not specify the infractions or where they were published, their disclosure was done “without prior notice and the opportunity for a meaningful hearing on the matters."
Aside from “no provisions whatsoever in [state Code] for publication of alleged violations of health codes,” Pancho’s claims that JCHD, by custom, allowed “restaurants with alleged violations" to correct "alleged infractions prior to publication” with “[a]ny remaining violations after reinspection... then published.”
According the suit, despite making corrections following an inspection, the original violations were published. This, Pancho’s says, “greatly enhanced the appearance of alleged unsanitary conditions on [its] business premises as compared to other restaurants similarly situated who were permitted corrections prior to publication.”
In the complaint, Pancho’s maintains it was “sanctioned and penalized by the publication without prior notice and an opportunity for a hearing as guaranteed by the United States and West Virginia constitutions.” Because of that, it seeks damages of at least $536,000, interest, court costs and attorneys fees.
It is represented by Forrest A. Bowen with the Fairmont law firm of Higinbotham and Higinbotham. The case is assigned to Judge Thomas C. Evans III.
Currently, Pancho’s has locations in Point Pleasant, and Barboursville.
Jackson Circuit Court, case number 13-C-98