Town of Parksley sued by outside Public Advocacy Group in food truck controversy

January 24, 2024

An outside special interest group has filed a civil lawsuit against the Town of Parksley and a town councilman alleging the Town retaliated against the owners of a food truck for speaking out against a town policy that resulted in the closing of the truck.

Thesset Benoir and Cleme Bastein allege that Town Councilmember Henry Nicholson harassed them repeatedly and advocated a town ordinance that was passed in October banning permanent food trucks in the Parksley Town limits. The ordinance was later repealed.

The Institute for Justice, a group that, according to its news release, defends innocent people against retaliation from local officials claiming civil rights violations, filed the suit on behalf of the couple.

Mayor Frank Russell stated that he had no comment and hasn’t had the opportunity to review the allegations because the town hasn’t been given official notification of the lawsuit. However, Russell said the town will vigorously pursue any legal options available to defend itself against the charges. 

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He did say that as a result of the regional media coverage, Parksley’s Town Clerk was flooded with vitriolic and profanity laced phone calls and emails Tuesday.

Councilman Nicholson also had no comment. The suit claims that Nicholson’s advocacy of the ordinance banning permanent food trucks in the Town is a violation of Benoir’s and Bastein’s constitutional rights.

The news release by the Institute for Justice also includes a link seeking donations from the public. It calls the group a public interest law firm that represents clients free of charge in cutting-edge litigation defending vital constitutional rights.  It also asks for support and includes a link for that purpose.

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