The Awful Truth About Alison Biddle

How the Lewisboro Town Council candidate took down our small business

(New posts from 9/12, 9/13, 9/28, 10/1 and 10/25 in the Updates From Alison section)

Jeffrey White and Kelly Rheel

The Mr White Story

In 2016, after 20 years of working in the service industry, Jeffrey White, Kelly Rheel, and chef Andrew Dunleavy embarked on the daunting but exciting process of opening their first restaurant: Mr. White. Inspired by a signature dish of New Orleans, the buttery, garlicky delicacy that is the char-grilled oyster, Mr. White was to serve Southern food on St. Marks Place in New York City's East Village. But, unfortunately, it lasted but a year due to the deceitful legal actions brought against us by Lewisboro town council candidate Alison Biddle's company Pink Shirt Construction.

Mr. White's char-grilled oysters

Mr White's Char-Grilled Oysters

The Build Out

What the restaurant looked like when we signed the lease

Destroyed restaurant interior

Finding the right team...

We knew the construction for this project was going to be significant. Such a lofty endeavor required a contractor we could trust. This is why we decided to hire Alison Biddle and Marc Biddle of Pink Shirt Construction. Their long-term friendship with our chef, Andrew Dunleavy, made us sure that we handed the job over to a team of professionals we could have confidence in. We were wrong.

Where the trouble started...

On March 1st, an initial deposit of $50,000 was given to Alison and her husband/business partner, Marc Biddle, to construct our restaurant. Work began, and on April 30th, we received a progress invoice with an amount due of $83,137 to continue the job. We promptly paid the $83,137 invoice, however noticing that none of our initial $50,000 deposit had been applied to it, Mr. White LLC asked for a breakdown of how that money was spent. "Transparency candidate" Alison Biddle assured us that she would provide one a few days later but never did.

The conflict...

In the weeks that followed, we pressed harder for Pink Shirt Construction to explain how our $50,000 was spent. Still, Alison Biddle reversed her position, saying that she shouldn't have to give a breakdown of our deposit and that doing so would take too long anyway. On May 20th, another bill was issued, totaling $37,180 for costs in the future. Naturally, we were hesitant to turn over more money to Pink Shirt Construction without a clear understanding of what happened to the first $50,000 we gave them, so we asked one last time for an accounting of that payment. Once again, Alison Biddle said she was not required to do so. By this point, Alison's lack of transparency was becoming concerning.

The fallout...

Tensions grew. Heated arguments followed. Alison Biddle was not going to tell us where our $50,000 went. Finally, we became so troubled by Pink Shirt Construction's unwillingness to provide us simple answers about a large sum of money we had trusted them with that we decided to halt the project for a week (at a great expense to us) and bring in outside experts to assess the amount of work that had been done to see if it lined up with the amount of money already paid and the additional funds that were being requested. These experts concluded that the construction completed thus far was not consistent with the amount of money paid to Pink Shirt Construction. At this point, we reached out to Alison and Marc Biddle and scheduled a meeting for May 30th, 2017, to discuss whether or not our two teams could move forward with building Mr. White.

The Meeting

Below is a complete recording (which starts at minute 2:15) of the meeting on May 30, 2017, between Alison Biddle and Marc Biddle of Pink Shirt Construction and Jeffrey White, Kelly Rheel, and Andrew Dunleavy, Mr. White LLC. Key points of the conversation illustrating Alison Biddle's reluctance to explain how our money was spent, as well as indicators of what may have been done with it, are highlighted below.

The Breakdown

Later that day, on May 30th, 2017, Alison Biddle finally provided a breakdown of our $50,000 in her words to "assuage your fears about how your deposit was spent and move forward together on this project." The diminutive itemized list below is the document Alison repeatedly said would take too much time and effort to produce. We found this accounting of our funds to be problematic for several reasons:

Alison Biddle and Pink Shirt Construction stealing from clients

The Break Up

Concerned about the "transparency" candidate's earlier refusal to provide a breakdown and unsatisfied with her final explanation of how our deposit was used, Mr. White LLC felt we could no longer trust her company, Pink Shirt Construction, with additional funds. After much thought, we made the complex and costly decision to terminate the partnership and attempt to find builders who could finish the project on short notice. Below is a complete recording (starting at minute 1:19) of Jeff White's conversation with Alison Biddle to attempt to unravel the relationship respectfully. Key points of the discussion illustrating Alison's promise to aim for civility and allow Mr. White LLC to retrieve our belongings from her property are highlighted underneath.

Alison Biddle and Pink Shirt Construction fraud

While we still don't know for sure where our $50,000 deposit went, Alison Biddle's various "hypothetical" suggestions that Pink Shirt Construction would have been well within their rights to covertly take their profits ahead of time from it, all the while denying that they did, lead us to believe that this may have been what happened. In addition, various public records show that Alison and Marc Biddle had outstanding debts leading up to their cashing our checks. Did Pink Shirt Construction have reason to siphon funds from our deposit for personal use? While these documents do not confirm our theory, they arguably support it.

Pink Shirt Construction legal problems

Pink Shirt Perjury

Pink Shirt Construction prejury

The Lawsuits

Directly following the breakup, Pink Shirt Construction filed two lawsuits against Mr White LLC spearheaded by Alison Biddle's sister, Attorney Nicole Sullivan of the law firm White and Williams LLP. One lawsuit, filed on June 20th, 2017, was a mechanics lien where Marc Biddle swore, and his Attorney Nicole Sullivan affirmed, under penalty of perjury, that Marc and Alison Biddle's construction company completed the full buildout of the Mr White restaurant and as such were owed the full $241,506 balance of the contract.
Additionally, in a separate but concurrent lawsuit filed on June 19th, 2017, Pink Shirt claimed that they hadn't finished the full buildout of the restaurant and as such were owed for breach of contract, loss of work sustained and unjust enrichment.
This put the members of Mr White LLC in the calamitous position of having to defend ourselves against two costly legal actions, with opposing sets of "facts", all while attempting to finish and open our restaurant. These legal actions proved to be devastating, with off shoots of them continuing to this day, however, in the interest of continuity, let's first look at the false mechanics lien:

The False Mechanics Lien

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In the above document which was filed with the New York County Court in lower Manhattan, Pink Shirt Construction, as well as Alison Biddle's sister Attorney Nicole Sullivan, say that on May 31st, 2017 all labor and materials necessary to complete the buildout of the Mr White restaurant were supplied and demand that we pay them $241,506 to satisfy it. The truth is that the project was no where near completion at the time of Pink Shirt's departure as evidenced by the photos in the slider below which were taken on 6/3/2017 and confirmed to be accurate by Marc Biddle himself in later sworn testimony.

Photos of what Mr White looked like at the time of Pink Shirt's departure: 

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In contrast, this is what Mr White looked like when we finished it:

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Pink Shirt's fraudulent lien was disastrous. Because of it, Mr White LLC was disqualified for a pending $160,000 SBA approved loan. The landlord for the restaurant site demanded a $240,000 bond, which meant a $24,000 non-refundable fee that Mr. White LLC could not meet. Mr. White LLC incurred attorneys’ fees of several thousand dollars to seek cancellation of the lien and was also required to pay the landlord’s attorneys’ fees for this effort. Our landlord withheld $59,000 in concessions, delaying the completion of the buildout/opening of the restaurant by four months, a time during which we were still paying rent but denied the luxury of bringing in any revenue. Finally, the enormous financial burden heaved upon us by this lie left us ill prepared to defend ourselves from Pink Shirt's simultaneously filed, yet completely contradictory, second lawsuit: The Westchester Case.

The Westchester Case

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Within a day of filing a lawsuit against us falsely saying that Pink Shirt Construction had finished the buildout of the Mr White restaurant, and as such were owed for work that had been completed, Alison Biddle's company, with the help of her sister, Attorney Nicole Sullivan, filed a second lawsuit in Westchester County saying they didn't complete the buildout, and as such were owed for breach of contract, work lost and unjust enrichment. This second case quadrupled our legal bills. Jeffrey White and Kelly Rheel of Mr White LLC began to borrow enormous sums of money from family members to pay for a defense.

In the end, Mr White LLC lost this case to the tune of $287,420 due to what we believe are three main factors:

The Pink Shirt team refused to put Alison Biddle on the stand and downplayed her role within the company

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Alison Biddle had all the answers about the money paid to Pink Shirt. When asked repeatedly to clear up the $50,000 deposit and multiple invoices, Marc Biddle says time after time that Alison handles the billing and "You probably should ask my wife those questions" however Attorney Sullivan refused to call her as a witness. Information from bookkeeper Alison Biddle would have been crucial to understanding how the disputed funds were spent, but for some reason, Alison was kept from being questioned. Even the judge instructed the jury to take her absence from examination as a negative inference. Why did the plaintiff want the only person who could accurately inform the court about the $50,000 deposit to be kept off the stand and then demoted from owner of the company to "not technically" an employee?

Marc Biddle tells the jury that Mr White LLC never responded to his multiple attempts at resolution

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Marc Biddle asserts that despite his many efforts to contact us and resolve the conflict between the two parties, Mr White LLC refused to speak to anyone from Pink Shirt after our initial questioning of the deposit, essentially leaving them in the lurch. This is simply not true. The recorded conversations featured earlier on this site, which take place on May 30th, 2017 and June 2nd, 2017 show that the members of Mr White LLC not only responded to him, but set up and attended a meeting to discuss possible solutions and failing that, a respectful split.
In the first conversation the members of Mr White LLC show willingness to move forward if an acceptable explanation of what happened to our deposit is provided, however "transparency candidate" Alison Biddle makes it clear that she does not feel she is obligated to tell us where our money went, nor does she want to expend the effort it would take to do so.
In the second conversation, it is obvious that Jeffrey White leaves the meeting believing that he and Alison Biddle will speak several more times in an effort to part ways. Instead of honoring this agreement, Pink Shirt Construction files multiple contradictory lawsuits and keeps $4,508 of materials they promised to give back, leaving us to purchase them all over again.
Marc Biddle's recollection to the jury about how the business relationship ended is faulty at best and sinister at worst but whatever the case, it inaccurately depicted us as evasive adversaries who treated them unfairly.

Mr White LLC could not afford to bring in our own expert witness to testify as to the amount of work that was done by Alison Biddle's company

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At the tail end of the trial, Pink Shirt Construction brings in Marc's friend of 25 years, Peter Melagrano, as their expert witness. Despite Marc Biddle himself testifying that less than $130,000 worth of work had been put into the restaurant (approximately the number Mr White LLC paid Pink Shirt Construction) Peter Melagrano, based on pictures as well as information provided to him by Marc Biddle, testifies that he believes the actual amount of work done to be worth $250,000. This is $120,000 MORE than what Pink Shirt estimated it to be. Mr White LLC wanted to bring in our own expert witness who estimated the amount of work done to be around $100,000. However with attorney's fees during a trial coming in at $4000/day, we simply could not afford it. In the end, the jury awarded Pink Shirt Construction $195,000 from Jeffrey White for breach of contract and based on the number Peter Melagrano provided as an expert witness, an additional $97,000 from Kelly Rheel and Andrew Dunleavy for unjustly profiting from work that Marc Biddle himself said he didn't do. Following this, the judge awarded Pink Shirt Construction interest as well as attorney's fees for both the Westchester case AND the fraudulent mechanics lien which was dismissed. The total damage to Mr White LLC (at that stage) from Alison Biddle's respectful dissolution was $363,717. To summarize, Alison Biddle's construction company refused to be transparent about what happened to our $50,000 deposit until faced with dismissal from the project, at which point she provided a flimsy accounting conveniently totaling exactly the number in question. At the time of the dismissal they promised to provide a final invoice detailing the costs of the project to date. They never did. Instead, Pink Shirt Construction filed two concurrent, but contradictory lawsuits, one saying they completed the job and one saying they didn't, both asking Mr White to pay them approximately a quarter of a million dollars MORE than what Biddle himself testified was the amount of work actually done. The jury and judge awards Pink Shirt construction $363,717 despite Biddle affirming that he lied on the mechanics lien and testifying that Pink Shirt Construction had done less work than what Mr White had paid him for.

The Devastation

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It's difficult to put into words the degree to which our lives were destroyed by the actions of Alison Biddle, her husband Marc Biddle and her sister Attorney Nicole Sullivan. In a nutshell, weathering four years of their non-stop legal pursuits has been nothing short of devastating.
The families of Jeffrey White and Kelly Rheel were leaned on heavily for financial support, in some cases creating rifts which are now impossible to repair.
At the time of the buildout, Kelly had to leave her skincare clinic to work an around the clock construction job so that the restaurant could open as soon as possible. Unable to deal with the strain of the lawsuits and out of fear that Pink Shirt might come after her as well, Kelly Rheel's former friend and business partner at the Medspa demanded to be bought out. Kelly Rheel had to borrow even more money from her family to make this payment so that she wouldn't lose her only remaining source of income. In all fairness, her former partner's fears were warranted. Pink Shirt Construction later sued her as well.
Due to mounting legal bills, Mr White ultimately closed. Despite increasing neighborhood support, rave reviews and a recently issued (and extremely rare) first year liquor license approval, the restaurant ran out of money and shut its doors on Christmas Eve 2018 without ever getting to serve a spirit. More than a dozen staff members lost their jobs (many sent to us by the Harlem based Upper Manhattan Workforce, a city program designed to train and help New Yorkers find jobs, specializing in securing employment for veterans).
Jeffrey White and Kelly Rheel had to file for bankruptcy. Pink Shirt then sued Kelly to block her bankruptcy despite Kelly providing them with overwhelming evidence that the counts in their latest complaint were also untrue (see evidence slider). When the merchant services for Kelly's skincare business discovered this lawsuit, they dropped her as a client, periodically leaving her with no way to process payments. When the pandemic hit, Kelly begged Pink Shirt construction to be released from the bankruptcy lawsuit so that her clinic could receive the coveted Paycheck Protection Program loan made available to all of her competition. Pink Shirt would not stop, with Attorney Sullivan citing that SHE felt "personally attacked" by Rheel in a previous deposition and also did not like the way Kelly's father looked at her in court as two of the reasons why. Kelly was twice denied a $30,000 PPP loan due to the active bankruptcy. Her business had to survive a shut down and a near eviction with virtually no government assistance, all while paying new legal fees to fight Pink Shirt's most recent actions against her. This lawsuit remains active today, keeping Kelly in a perpetual state of financial debilitation.
To date, Alison Biddle's construction company has filed suit against us five separate times. The transparency candidate most recently threatened a sixth legal action if Jeffrey White did not remove a Build Zoom review he wrote detailing our experience with her company. Her attorney/sister claimed that everything written in it was "false and libelous" despite indisputable evidence to the contrary (see evidence slider). Pink Shirt managed to get the review taken down after changing their profile information.
The fallout from Pink Shirt's behavior has been life altering. We've lost time, money, our reputation, a cherished restaurant, relationships with friends and family members, business partners, the trust of professional associates and to a large degree, our future. The extreme emotional duress of this resulted in one of the LLC members becoming suicidal while the other remains on anti depressants and anxiety medication to this day.
We've had four years to speak openly about these events but have remained silent out of fear that bringing them to light may expose us to additional litigation (which it has), however upon discovery that Alison Biddle was running for office on "transparency, honesty and compassion" and may be elected to a position whereby she would be responsible for the town's budget, we felt we had no choice but to relay this story to the public and allow the residents of Lewisboro to cast their votes knowing the other side of this candidate.
All told, we find it ironic that Alison Biddle is also running for town council on nurturing small business development. As small business owners who had the unfortunate experience of having to deal with her for so many years we offer only one piece of advice to Lewisboro voters and tax payers...if she ultimately does become in charge of your town's money...don't ever ask her about her billing.

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Reach Out

If Alison Biddle or her supporters take issue with anything that has been published on this website, I (Jeffrey White) welcome their inquiries, insights or objections. I am happy to publicly answer questions and provide transparency on any of the statements put forth here.
For general information or additional details/public records regarding these events, please email Jeffrey White at moc.hturtelddibnosila%40ffej Additionally, I encourage any professionals in the construction industry to offer their insights on the bills issued to us by Pink Shirt Construction as we were never provided the promised final invoice and still have no clear idea about what happened to our $50k deposit.

Evidence Slider

Click through for over a dozen supporting documents related to our claims. More available upon request.

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