ES lawsuit alleges city acted in error on parking meters

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

EUREKA SPRINGS -- A civil lawsuit against Eureka Springs Mayor Dani Joy, city council members Robert "Butch" Berry, Beverly Blankenship, Patrick Brammer, James DeVito and Joyce Zeller, former council member Rob Wagner and City Clerk Mary Jean Sell, was filed in Carroll County Circuit Court on Nov. 12.

The suit, brought by Pat Matsukis, Karen Lindblad, Rae Hahn, Lany Balance and Charley Wurmnest, asks for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief caused by Ordinance 2106, passed on July 1 of this year, which waived competitive bidding on coin-operated parking meters and included an emergency clause allowing their purchase.

The suit asks that the defendants be ordered to reimburse the city $40,000 for the purchase and installation of the parking meters and also claims the defendants refused to certify and place the matter for a referendum vote.

The suit states that the ordinance was approved by the council, and signed by the mayor and city clerk, without proper notice and publication as required by law.

A petition for referendum to refer the ordinance to voters was attached to the filing, calling for a special election no later that 60 days after signatures are certified by the clerk. More than 100 persons signed the petition. The signatures total more than 15 percent of the votes cast in the last mayoral election.

The suit states that the parking meters were installed immediately or shortly after the passage of the ordinance around the Western District Courthouse and at a parking lot at 1 N. Main Street. The suit calls for the court to find the installation of the meters violated Historic District Commission (HDC) guidelines because they constitute new construction without requisite HDC approval and a Level Three hearing.

It also violated state law, the complaint says. Arkansas Code Annotated 14-57-502 states that "Any municipal ordinance authorizing the installation of parking meters shall not be subject to an emergency clause" nor limit the rights of the people under the referendum amendment to the state's constitution.

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