Hardy Mayor Nina Thornton again challenged changes on the city’s Advertising and Promotions Commission at the June 3 Hardy City Council meeting. Thornton and two other commission members have been removed by the new city council, and Thornton continued to challenge the legality of the council’s actions. The A and P decides how special tax money should be used for events and advertisements to attract tourists to the city.
“As the mayor of the city, I’ve had many people come to me asking why I wasn’t doing my job on this. The A and P Commission is dysfunctional. As mayor of the city, I now declare the A and P Commission defunct, until such time that we have legal counsel from the Municipal League or that it can be reconstructed by case law,” Mayor Thornton said.
Alderman Dale Maddox responded by acknowledging that, because of the two people who had been removed from the commission and a resignation, the commission did not have a legal quorum at its last meeting. He said David Schoen, the attorney for the Arkansas Municipal League, had responded in writing to his inquiry on how to proceed. “The common law rule is that…action may be taken by a majority of the (A and P) members present, so long as that number is sufficient to constitute a quorum of the body. The problem here would be that the Commission would not have a quorum once it drops below four members. However, council approval is required anyway, so it would be a no-harm situation if they did vote to express a preference, as long as the council approves the recommendation. The statute is silent however, as to what might happen if the council wanted to appoint its own candidate when the commission lacks a quorum to make a recommendation. It may be that the authority would be implied by the provision giving the council the initial appointment power,” Schoen wrote.
Because Schoen’s opinion stated that the council may have the power to appoint new members without a valid A and P recommendation, Maddox made the motion for the council to approve four new members: Philip Ashcroft, Jeff Klein, Dennis Horton and Freda Gamblin. The motion was seconded by Alderwoman Vicki Rice, who along with Maddox are the council’s A and P representatives.
After Maddox made the motion, Mayor Thornton said it was out of order, because she already declared the A and P Commission defunct. “You do not have the authority to declare this Commission non-functional,” Maddox told Mayor Thornton.
“I do have the authority, show me I don’t,” she replied. Mayor Thornton plans to leave the Commission non-functional until she seek Municipal League counsel of her own.
Thornton’s action to block new members from being appointed sparked disapproving comments and reactions from the crowd. One of Mayor Thornton’s arguments was that, if the council was going to vote on positions for the A and P Commission, those options should be brought forth to the council before a recommendation was made. “What gives you the right to pick those people?” questioned Mayor Thornton. Maddox read the e-mail reply from Schoen again to explain that, even though the Commission did not have a quorum, it could still make recommendations for the open positions. Mayor Thornton abruptly ended the discussion and said she would contact legal counsel of her own choosing.
Next on the agenda was the issue of business permits, licenses and ordinances. At the last council meeting, Alderwoman Liane Maddox made a motion to place a moratorium on sexually oriented businesses, as defined by Arkansas state laws, in the historic district from May 21 to July 17. While the motion passed unanimously, Maddox said she had learned from further research that the council will also need a planning and zoning meeting to discuss the issue of limiting sexually oriented businesses.
A related issue discussed was the potential problem of people coming in to sell objectionable merchandise out of a vehicle or a trailer without city approval. Deciding that there was a lot more to be discussed, the council voted to have a working meeting on Wednesday, June 13.
Under new business, Dale Maddox proposed that the council see a copy of the city budget on a regular basis. “I would like to start seeing financial reports, at the minimum, quarterly. By financial reports, I mean expenditures taken from each (budget) category,” Maddox said. Maddox noted the council is responsible for approving new expenditures, but that is hard to do when it doesn’t know what is going on with the budget. Maddox suggested the council receive regular budget information at least three days before a meeting, so members can research and review the information. Maddox also indicated he would make a motion, in the future, to approve procedural rules.
Several members from the audience voiced concerns and opinions on the actions taken during the meeting. Nimmi Desai, one of the three A and P Commission members, said, “The three commissioners on the A and P Commission have been approved by the council. There were members on the commission for three years that had not been approved by the council that made decisions; does that make all they did illegal?”
Desai suggested that is another topic that will probably have to be explored as the city tries to resolve A and P controversies and get it operating again.