CAPC shuns Moon despite judge’s order

Thursday, June 3, 2021

The Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission refused to allow Greg Moon to participate in its regular meeting on Wednesday, May 26 — despite a judge’s ruling hours before that the CAPC lacked the legal authority to remove Moon from his seat on the commission.

Carroll County Circuit Judge Scott Jackson’s order was time-stamped at 3:45 p.m. The CAPC held a regular meeting at 6 p.m. Before the beginning of the meeting, Eureka Springs attorney Tim Parker — who represents Moon and four other plaintiffs in an ongoing lawsuit centered around the commission and its activities — gave copies of the ruling to commission chairman Jeff Carter and commissioners Melissa Greene, Harry Meyer and Carol Wright, according to a motion for contempt that Parker filed the following day.

Before the meeting began, Moon approached the stage where the commissioners were seated to take his position as a commissioner.

“The judge ruled I get to take my seat,” Moon said.

“We haven’t been notified by the court,” Meyer replied.

In response to an email inquiry, Parker said Eureka Springs police officer Michael Boseman was present at the meeting and was given a copy of Jackson’s order as well. Boseman then called police chief Bryan Young, Parker said. After speaking with Young, Parker said, Boseman told Parker that Young had said the issue was a civil matter but not to let Moon on the stage to participate as a commissioner.

“That I can tell you was a real disappointment,” Parker said by email, adding that his disappointment was “with respect to the police department not enforcing the order as being a ‘civil matter’ but then paradoxically telling Greg he cannot get on the stage as a commissioner.”

Young said Friday that Boseman called him from the meeting for assistance.

“He said, ‘He’s got this piece of paper signed by a judge,’ ” Young said. “I said, ‘I know they have a lawsuit, but I’m not aware of anything where the judge actually made a ruling on it.’ ”

Young said the chairman of a commission is the one who decides how the meeting goes, not police officers providing security. Off-duty police officers are present at the CAPC meetings to ensure everyone behaves with decorum, Young said.

“We stay out of their lawsuit,” Young said. “The only thing we’re there for is to help with security.”

Young said the defendants in the lawsuit weren’t informed by their attorney of Jackson’s decision.

“To my understanding, their attorney didn’t know about it,” Young said. “You have to go through the proper channels to be notified.”

At the CAPC’s Jan. 27 meeting, Wright — the commission chair at the time — opened a discussion of vacating Moon’s seat because he was not 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.

After Wright asked for “any kind of motion about vacating the seat,” Meyer moved to remove Moon from the commission.

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

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

Moon’s removal is one of several issues related to the CAPC that are addressed in a lawsuit that Parker filed in Carroll County Circuit Court in March. Plaintiffs in the suit are Moon, CAPC finance director Rick Bright, group sales coordinator Karen Pryor, former interim 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 Carol 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.

In court filings, Parker had argued that the CAPC does not have the legal authority to remove Moon from his seat and that even if the commission did have that power, the motion to oust Moon did not receive the four votes needed for approval. Parker further contends that all of the commission’s actions since Moon’s removal should be declared null and void.

Jackson heard arguments from both sides regarding Moon’s removal at an emergency hearing on April 27. His ruling last week came the day after Parker sent a letter to Jackson asking the judge to order the commission not to meet until the dispute over Moon’s removal was resolved.

Although much of the testimony at the April 27 hearing centered on whether or not Wright voted on the motion to remove Moon, Jackson writes that the removal of appointed officials falls under the purview of the city council — if a city ordinance grants that authority to the council. No such ordinance exists in Eureka Springs, Jackson notes in his ruling.

“The vote by the CAPC members, taken on January 27, 2021, to remove a fellow CAPC member, is not authorized by Arkansas law,” Jackson writes. “This vote is an ultra vires act and a nullity. The vote tally is irrelevant.”

Jackson’s order says a hearing is scheduled at 1 p.m. Tuesday, July 13, in Carroll County Circuit Court in Eureka Springs, “to hear argument concerning the implementation of this order.”

In his motion for contempt, Parker writes that Carter, Greene, Meyer and Wright “are each willfully in contempt of this court’s order of May 26, 2021, and should accordingly be severely punished with incarceration, by imposition of civil penalty or other appropriate sanction.”

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