DeVito addresses alleged attempt to remove him from CAPC
By Samantha Jones
James DeVito, who holds Position 1 on the Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission, is determined to stay on the commission despite not having a business license for much of 2020.
At the commission's regular meeting Wednesday, July 29, DeVito addressed unnamed individuals who he alleged tried to remove him from the commission after he closed his business last year. A former city council member, DeVito said he's been around Eureka Springs long enough to know what goes on, saying he was elected to office five times and knows "what kind of agendas are present in this community."
"I thought I made it perfectly clear to everybody that I was in the process of opening a new restaurant," DeVito said. "There's this little item of COVID that has slowed the process down somewhat.
DeVito said he "has as much experience with tourism as anybody in this town."
The CAPC website describes the requirements to serve on the commission, saying two commissioners are appointed from the Eureka Springs City Council, four commissioners "shall be owners or managers of hotels, motels or restaurants" and the at-large commissioner must be a qualified voter and resident of Carroll County.
Chairwoman Carol Wright holds the at-large position and commissioners Susan Harman and Terry McClung hold the council positions, leaving Jeff Carter, Greg Moon, Bobbie Foster and DeVito to serve in positions for those who own or manage a hotel, motel or restaurant.
DeVito closed his restaurant, DeVito's of Eureka Springs, at the end of 2019. At the time, DeVito stated that he planned to open Take 5 Bistro in 2020. DeVito said at the July 29 meeting that it took "lots of inspections and thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars to bring this new concept up to grade."
"I'm sorry I delayed it in not such an expeditious manner that some people found it so necessary to have an agenda item tonight on the agenda to question my authority to sit on this commission," DeVito said.
CAPC finance director Rick Bright confirmed Wednesday that an item addressing DeVito's position on the commission was placed on the agenda and removed before the July 29 meeting took place. At the meeting, DeVito showed everyone a business license for Take 5 Bistro and said he found it "offensive " for "people to question whether or not I can sit on this council because I don't happen to have a business license at the moment."
"By law, I sit on this commission until I am replaced. That is at the discretion of this body, which I have not heard any motion from this body to have me removed from this commission," DeVito said.
City clerk Ann Armstrong confirmed Wednesday that DeVito acquired a business license for Take 5 Bistro the week of the July 29 meeting. Armstrong said DeVito paid for the license on March 5 but "hadn't passed muster with the fire marshal and the building inspector" at the time.
"I just held the paperwork. Then he got cleared by both those entities and we were able to go forward," Armstrong said. "It was actually printed and handed off to him last week, but he paid for it on March 5, 2020. He had really done what he could to get through the gate."
Also at the meeting, the commission agreed to discuss contract and employee positions at its next workshop. Bright said a contract employee that works at The Auditorium applied for unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic which led to an investigation into her employment situation.
"They … decided she should have been a regular employee," Bright said. "The state has really cut back on what should be a contract employee. We had to pay the back unemployment and back payroll taxes."
Bright added, "Luckily, she didn't have a lot of hours this year. It's something we're going to have to look at going forward, how we do it — either contract or employee."
The commission then voted to place items on the agenda with a motion and a second. Bright said the chair is responsible for putting the agenda together, a stark difference from the way city council does it.
"I would prefer the commission vote to put it on that day," Wright said. "That way, two people can't control it."
"It's a motion and a second," Harman said. "That's what we do at council."
The commission voted to approve the motion, with everyone voting yes except Carter.
The commission's next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 26, at The Auditorium.