Hearing centers on disputed CAPC vote

Thursday, April 29, 2021

A disputed vote to remove Greg Moon from the Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission was the center of discussion at a two-hour hearing Tuesday morning in a lawsuit challenging Moon’s removal.

Carroll County Circuit Judge Scott Jackson presided over the emergency hearing at the Carroll County Western District Courthouse in Eureka Springs. Moon’s removal is just one of several issues raised in the lawsuit, which local attorney Tim Parker originally filed March 10.

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

Parker filed a supplemental complaint on March 18, adding Patrick Burnett — who was appointed by the Eureka Springs City Council to fill Moon’s seat on the commission — as a defendant.

The commission voted Jan. 27 on a motion to remove Moon from his seat because he wasn’t currently employed in a tourism-related business. Moon had served as a manager at a local restaurant but acknowledged that he was on a leave of absence — which he attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic — at the time of the vote.

Three commissioners — Carter, DeVito and Meyer — voted in favor of Moon’s removal. Moon and commissioner Bobbie Foster voted no, and commissioner Melissa Greene abstained.

Wright, who was then chair of the commission, then declared Moon’s seat vacant although she never stated or otherwise indicated that she was voting in favor of the motion. Four votes from the seven-member commission are required to approve a motion.

Parker argued that the commission lacks the authority to remove one of its own members and that even if it did possess that authority, the motion to remove Moon didn’t receive the four votes necessary for approval.

Bright testified that Wright did not vote and that his handwritten notes from the meeting and the official minutes he presented to the commission for approval reflected that. The commission voted at a Feb. 24 meeting to amend the minutes from the Jan. 27 meeting — prepared by Bright — to show that Wright did vote in favor of Moon’s removal.

On cross-examination, defense attorney Amanda LaFever asked Bright if he would be surprised to learn that Wright had signed a sworn affidavit stating that she voted for Moon’s removal.

“Ms. Wright would certainly be the best person to say whether or not she voted, wouldn’t she?” LaFever asked.

Wright did not testify and did not appear to be present for the hearing.

During Bright’s testimony, Parker asked him to play a video recording of the Jan. 27 meeting on a television set in the courtroom. Jackson left the bench to get a closer look at the screen and Bright played several minutes of the recording related to the motion to remove Moon.

Later, Carter testified for the defense that he was sitting next to Wright at the meeting and that he heard her say: “I vote to vacate the seat.”

“It was muffled,” Carter said, adding that he thought Wright was “a little confused” that the vote was 3-2-1 in favor of removing Moon.

Parker then asked Carter to watch the video and point out when Wright actually voted. Carter was unable to do so.

In his closing argument, Parker pointed to several attorney general’s opinions indicating that the CAPC lacks the authority to remove one of its own members and continued to press his assertion that even if Jackson rejects that argument, the motion to remove Moon wasn’t properly approved.

“As the court saw for itself, the vote was 3-2,” Parker said. “Carol Wright never cast the fourth vote.”

Tuesday’s hearing originally was scheduled to be held the afternoon of Friday, April 23, but was rescheduled at the request of LaFever, who had a scheduling conflict. LaFever filed a motion Monday seeking to reschedule the hearing again after Parker filed a memorandum brief for the hearing Friday afternoon.

Parker objected to LaFever’s motion for a continuance, and Jackson said at the conclusion of the hearing that LaFever would have 15 days to file a response to Parker’s brief. Parker will then have 10 days to reply before Jackson issues a ruling.

The CAPC was scheduled to hold its second April meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Auditorium.

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