Emergency hearing scheduled for April 23 in CAPC lawsuit

Thursday, April 8, 2021

An emergency hearing has been scheduled for April 23 in a lawsuit involving the Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission.

The hearing scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday, April 23, at the Carroll County Western District Courthouse in Eureka Springs will focus on questions regarding the removal of Greg Moon from the CAPC. Then-CAPC chair Carol Wright declared Moon’s seat vacant after a vote at the commission’s Jan. 27 meeting, but the lawsuit argues that the commission didn’t have the authority to remove Moon and also lacked the required number of votes to do so.

Eureka Springs attorney Tim Parker filed the suit on March 10 in Carroll County Circuit Court on behalf of Moon, CAPC finance director Rick Bright, group sales coordinator Karen Pryor, former interim executive director Gina Rambo and former special events coordinator Tracy Johnson.

Defendants in the lawsuit are Eureka Springs mayor Butch Berry; his assistant Kim Stryker; CAPC commissioners Patrick Burnett, Jeff Carter, James DeVito, Melissa Greene, Harry Meyer and Wright; and two insurance companies that provide policies to the city.

One commissioner, Bobbie Foster, is not a defendant in the lawsuit.

In a March 20 letter to Carroll County Circuit Judge Scott Jackson, Parker argues that Moon’s removal from the commission on Jan. 27 was illegal for two reasons.

“As per multiple opinions of the Arkansas Attorney General, CAPC Commissioners lack authority to remove a fellow member of the Commission;” Parker writes. “… Even if the other CAPC members had legal authority to remove a fellow Commission member, they failed to obtain the four (4) votes required to remove Moon from the Commission.”

Parker also argues that the appointment of Burnett to the seat that had been held by Moon was illegal.

“Burnett ostensibly was appointed to replace Moon,” Parker writes. “If Moon was not legally removed, then he has been denied his place at the table on CAPC meetings. Moreover, Burnett’s appointment in such scenario is illegal since the CAPC may only have seven (7) members. Burnett would be the eighth (8th) member.”

At the Jan. 27 meeting, the commission voted on a motion to vacate Moon’s seat because he was no longer employed in the tourism industry after being placed on furlough from his job as a manager at a local restaurant.

Wright, who at the time was the commission chair, declared Moon’s seat vacant after a roll-call vote that saw three commissioners vote to vacate the seat, with two commissioners — Foster and Moon — voting no and one abstaining. Wright did not vote, leaving the motion one vote short of the four needed for approval, but declared the seat vacant.

The Eureka Springs City Council appointed Burnett to the commission on Feb. 22 to fill the seat that had been held by Moon.

At the CAPC’s Feb. 24 meeting, the commission voted to amend the minutes from the Jan. 27 meeting to say the vote on the motion to remove Moon was 4-2-1.

The CAPC regularly meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month. The commission held its regular meeting on March 10 and a special meeting on March 18, but canceled its regular meeting and a workshop scheduled for March 24, citing lack of a quorum.

The commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 14, at the Auditorium.

In his letter to Jackson, Parker asks the judge to intervene.

“The Defendants have opted to continue to schedule future CAPC meetings despite the questions concerning the legality of their current composition,” Parker writes. “Accordingly, we need an Emergency Hearing to address the legality of Moon’s removal on January 27, 2021. In the alternative we need an order staying all future CAPC meetings, votes, etc. until this question is resolved.”

Carter, now the CAPC chair, did not respond to an email inquiry about whether the commission will continue to meet as the lawsuit progresses.

Information for this report was contributed by associate editor Samantha Jones.

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