With the November 8 general election approaching, a group of 13 Monticello business and community leaders filed a lawsuit to try to keep 15 proposed city ordinances off of the Monticello ballot or to prevent the tallying and certification of any votes on those measures.

The petitions, seen below, did not meet filing requirements, according to a group known as Citizens for Monticello’s Future.

The group includes Bennie Ryburn, III, Glen Dabney, Chuck Dearman, Ron Echols, George Harris, Chris Lampkin, Bob Lee, Sr., John McClendon, Steve Morrison, Wayne Owen, Kristi Prince, Sylvia Simon and Tom Wingard. They are represented by Wright Lindsey Jennings, a Little Rock law firm.

Defendants in the lawsuit are Andrea Chambers, in her official capacity as Monticello City Clerk, Lyna Gulledge, in her capacity as Drew County Clerk, and Sonya Ryburn, Terry Maloney and Delbert Farrar, in their official capacities as Drew County election commissioners.

A hearing on the matter will be held before Circuit Judge Don Glover on Monday at 8:30 a.m.

In September, 15 petitions were filed with the Monticello City Clerk seeking to change sections of the Monticello City Code. Patricia Mays, a Drew County resident, is believed to be the primary proponent of the measures.

The group believes that Mays failed to meet filing requirements. Specifically, the group claims the ballot title of each petition is insufficient and the substance of each of the petitions is contrary to the Arkansas Constitution and Arkansas law.

Although each of the 15 petitions is called an “Initiative Petition,” at least five of the 15 are actually referendums since their primary purpose is repeal existing sections of the Monticello City Code. Referendum petitions must be filed no more than 30 days after the measure is adopted by the Monticello City Council, according to the lawsuit.

None of the referendum petitions were timely filed and the referendum petitions did not include a full and correct copy of the ordinance on which the referendum is to be ordered. Also, the ballot titles, according to the lawsuit, are insufficient.

According to the Arkansas Supreme Court, ballot titles must include an impartial summary of the proposed amendment that will give voters a fair understanding of the issues presented and of the scope and significance of the proposed changes in the law. The ultimate issue, the Supreme Court said, is whether the voter, while inside the voting booth, is able to reach an intelligent and informed decision for or against the proposal and understands the consequences of his or her vote based on the ballot title.

None of the ballot titles submitted with the petitions meet that requirement, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, which covers 57 pages (plus exhibits) includes an analysis of each petition and outlines the consequences of each:

Petition 112 – Monticello City Council Meeting Decorum and Public Comment Ordinance

The ballot title states:

A proposed amendment to the code of ordinances of the City of Monticello, Arkansas, adding Chapter 2, Article VI concerning City Council meetings, adding Section 2-156 concerning meeting decorum; adding section 2-157 concerning public comment on each topic before the council votes and whenever a violation is observed; reserving sections 2-151 — 2-155 and 2-158 — 2-160; and declaring that if any provision of this ordinance should be held invalid, the remainder shall stand.

The ballot title does not explain what the measure would do other than allow the public to comment on each agenda item before the city council votes and whenever a violation is observed. It does not inform the voter of the significance and consequences of a vote for the measure. Among other things, the measure would require the mayor to recognize all persons who wish to speak before a vote is taken and the right to speak is not limited to Monticello residents.

The change could open the door to a filibuster situation, potentially preventing a vote on the topic and any subsequent agenda item. This proposal is contrary to state law in that it would remove the City Council’s authority to make rules for the orderly conduct of its meetings. Additionally, the proposed ordinance sets rules for decorum that could result in an expulsion from the meetings. State law requires city council meetings to be open at all times to the public.

Petition 137 – Monticello Government Performance Improvement and Accountability Ordinance

The ballot title states:

A proposed amendment to the Code of Ordinances of the City of Monticello, Arkansas, adding Chapter 2, Article VII requiring performance improvement and accountability systems for the city government; and declaring that if any declaring that if any portion of this ordinance should be held invalid, the remainder shall stand.

The ballot title of this petition is not impartial. Instead, it uses partisan coloring that gives no indication of what the proposed measure actually requires. The ballot title does not disclose the complex and onerous requirements of the proposal such as compliance with International Organization for Standards, Baldridge Criteria for Performance Excellence and other standards. The ballot title also does not disclose that the city would be required to store related records on a website, quarterly management reviews, a website with city financial records, and a strategic planning system compliant with Baldridge Criteria for Performance Excellence. It further requires adoption of key performance indicators with internet access to the information. The ballot title also does not disclose that volunteers and city employees must implement and maintain the systems without the use of paid consultants.

The voter in the voting booth would have no idea of the likely problems this ordinance could create, such as there may be no free software applications that would meet the requirements of the proposed ordinance, there may be an insufficient number of volunteers, city employees and unpaid government consultants who are qualified and willing to implement and maintain the systems, in lieu of paid consultants (which are prohibited by the proposed ordinance) the city might be required to expend substantial sums of money to identify and hire qualified employees for the project, and man-hours required of existing city employees to work on the project could city governance to its knees.

The proposed ordinance is also contrary to state law in that the Arkansas Legislature has not expressly authorized cities to mandate the tremendous undertaking in the proposed measure, according to the lawsuit.

Petition 174 – Monticello Term Limits Ordinance

The ballot title states:

A proposed amendment to the Code of Ordinances of the City of Monticello, Arkansas, adding Section 2-54.1 concerning term limits for elected officials of the City of Monticello, Arkansas; providing that service shall not exceed three (3) terms in any office with a two-year term, two (2) terms in any office with a four-year term, and ten (10) years of combined service as alderman and/or mayor; providing that a person is ineligible for election if the term would cause the person to exceed the ten-year limit; providing that this ordinance will not cut short or invalidate a term to which a person was elected prior to January 1, 2017; and declaring that if any provision of this ordinance should be held invalid, the remainder shall stand.

Neither the ballot title nor the proposed measure lists which positions would be affected by which term limits, according to the lawsuit. The Arkansas Constitution and Arkansas law sets the qualifications for eligibility of public officials. An initiative cannot add a new qualification that the candidate may not have served more than a certain number of years or terms. Moreover, the proposed measure exceeds the powers granted to a municipality under Arkansas law. There is no express grant of authority for a municipality to enact term limits of its elected officials.

Petition 256 – Monticello Ethical Hiring Practices Part 1 Ordinance

The ballot title states:

A proposed Amendment to the Code of Ordinances of the City of Monticello, Arkansas, adding to Chapter 2, Article III, a new Division 6 concerning ethical hiring practices for the City of Monticello; declaring the public interest in preventing favoritism, nepotism, cronyism, and patronage in city employment decisions; providing relevant definitions; reserving Sections 2-97.3 — 2-97.10; and declaring that if any provision in this ordinance should be held invalid, the remainder shall stand.

Part 1 of a two-part proposed ordinance defines associate, cronyism, favoritism, friend, nepotism, patronage, public official and relative. It also declares the city’s interest in avoiding hiring such persons.

The ballot title is loaded with partisan coloring such as “ethical” and “declaring public interest in preventing favoritism, nepotism, cronyism and patronage.” The ballot title does not give voters a fair understanding of the scope and significance of the the proposed change in the law. It is not at all clear from the ballot title what the ordinance itself would do or that it is consistent with what the ballot title promises.

The ballot title omits material information that would give the voter serious ground for reflection. Among other things, the ballot title does not reveal the expansive definitions of the terms “associate,” “friend,” and “associate” included in the proposed ordinance, which would potentially render a huge group of persons subject to an anti-favoritism, nepotism, cronyism, and patronage policy. The voter is unaware that violation of the unknown rules can constitute a crime and that an employee who is a “friend” or an “associate” or even a fourth-cousin could be terminated under a corresponding proposed measure.

The ballot title is confusing in that it does not explain that it is only one part of a two-part measure, and failure to pass either part would effectively render the other useless. The ballot title does not explain that the definitions in and policy declarations of the proposed measure are applied in a separate measure.

The proposed ordinance is contrary to state law in that it exceeds the power granted to a municipality under Arkansas law. Further, pursuant to Arkansas law, the mayor has the authority to appoint and remove all department heads subject to an override of 2/3 vote by the city council. As this measure applies to department heads it is clearly in conflict with the statutory authority of the mayor and city council.

Petition 257 Monticello Ethical Hiring Practices Part 2 Ordinance

Part 2 of a two-part proposed measure that states that a public official cannot hire, or advocate for hire a relative; cannot hire an associate or friend unless the job is listed for 30 days and there is a fair and impartial evaluation by a team of three city employees. The friend or associate can then be hired only if his qualifications exceed the qualifications of all other applicants. A violation of the ordinance is a crime and any employee hired in violation of it is to be terminated.

The ballot title states:

A proposed amendment to the Code of Ordinances of the City of Monticello, Arkansas, adding to Chapter 2, Article III, Division 6, concerning ethical hiring practices for the City of Monticello, Arkansas; amending section 2-97.3, providing that favoritism, nepotism, cronyism, and patronage are prohibited in city employment decision; amending Section 2-97.4, declaring penalties; and declaring that if any provision in this ordinance should be held invalid, the remainder shall stand.

The ballot title is insufficient in that it the voter, inside the voting booth, could not reach and intelligent and informed decision on the proposal and understand the consequences of his or her vote based on the ballot title.

The ballot title is not impartial and is loaded with partisan coloring such as “ethical,” and “declaring public interest in preventing favoritism, nepotism, cronyism, and patronage.”

The ballot title does not give voters a fair understanding of the scope and significance of the proposed change in the law. It is not at all clear from the ballot title what the ordinance would do or that it is consistent with what the ballot title promises.

The ballot title omits material information that would give the voter serious ground for reflection. Among other things, the ballot title does not reveal the expansive definitions of the terms “associate,” “friend,” and “relative” included in a separate proposed measure, which would apply to this proposed measure and potentially render a huge group of persons subject to an anti-favoritism, nepotism, cronyism, and patronage policy. The voter is likewise unaware that a violation of the unknown rules can constitute a crime and that an employee who is a “friend” or an “associate” or even a fourth cousin could be terminated.

The ballot title is confusing in that it does not explain that it is only one of a two-part proposed measure, and that failure to pass either part would effectively render the other useless. The ballot title does not explain that definitions in a separate proposed measure are applied to this proposed measure.

The proposed measure exceeds the powers granted to a municipality granted to a municipality.

Petition 289 Monticello Property Rights Restoration Ordinance

This proposed measure repeals all sections of the Monticello City Code setting the power of and methods by which the city may deal with nuisance properties and other public health hazards. It also adds a new code section that effectively reverses any actions taken by the city under the former code sections and penalizes the city for having exercised its power under those code sections.

This petition is a Referendum Petition in that it seeks to put the following ordinances to a referendum:

Ordinance 539, enacted May 13, 1976
Ordinance 636, enacted August 24, 1989
Ordinance 705, enacted August 19, 2000
Ordinance 630, enacted August 18, 1988
Ordinance 756, enacted August 21, 2010

The deadline to put each of these ordinances to a referendum was 30 days after the ordinances were adopted by the city (see the dates above). The petition was filed on September 9, 2016 which was long after the time had passed to put the ordinances to a referendum.

Moreover, while this referendum petition seeks to repeal Monticello City Code Section 14-6 it does not state that it will repeal Ordinance 772, enacted on July 19, 2012, which enacted all or part of that City Code Section (14-6).

Additionally, state law requires the petitioner to attach to the referendum petition a correct and complete copy of all ordinances to be put to a referendum.

The ballot title is insufficient. The voter inside the voting booth, could not reach an intelligent and informed decision for or against the proposal and understand the consequences of his or her vote based on the ballot title.

The ballot title states:

A proposed amendment to the Code of Ordinances of the City of Monticello, Arkansas, concerning nuisance property ordinances; repealing Sections 7-50 through 7-60 and 14-1 through 14-6; repealing Monticello Ordinance No. 589 with its amendments Ordinance No. 636 and Ordinance No. 705, Monticello Ordinance No. 630, and Monticello Ordinance No. 756; adding Section 14-7, providing for restitution to aggrieved property owners; declaring that if any provision of this ordinance should be held invalid, the remainder shall stand; and declaring an emergency.

The ballot title is not impartial. Although the ballot title does not say so, the “aggrieved property owners” referenced in the ballot title are those to whom the existing nuisance property ordinances have been applied. Use of the term “aggrieved” puts a partisan spin on the ballot title.

The ballot title omits material information that would give a voter serious ground for reflection. Namely, there is no information whatsoever regarding the ordinances being put to a referendum. The ballot title gives the voter no idea what they are voting on and no idea of the consequences of their vote. Repeal of the Code Sections and Ordinances would effectively strip the City of all power to deal with nuisance properties and unsightly, unsanitary, or hazardous conditions on private property. The voter would not know, for example, that should his neighbor allow her or her yard to become overrun with weeds over 12 inches in height, the city would be powerless to remedy the situation.

The ballot title does not inform the voter that existing property rights of the city and private citizens would be disturbed y the proposed measure. Specifically, the proposed new Sec. 1407 providing for “restitution to aggrieved property owners” would release all city liens filed under the existing ordinances.

The proposed measure provides for the return to the former owners of all property taken after a lien filing under the section, free of encumbrances on or after the date of the lien filing, except lawfully owed property taxes. This means the city would be divested of properties it now owns as a result of lien enforcement. More troubling, this means that third parties who purchased property that was, at any time prior, transferred at a lien sale under this chapter would be divested of their interests without compensation. There is no time limitation on the transfers that would be rescinded by the proposed measure. Thus, property transfers that occurred decades ago and all transfers subsequent would be subject to nullification under the proposed measure. The voter, himself, might be divested of property for which he paid full value, without compensation. None of this is suggested by the ballot title.

Further clouding the impact of the proposed measure, repeal of Sec. 14-1 through 14-6 would also necessarily repeal all or part of Ordinance 772 and neither the ballot title nor the proposed measure state that Ordinance 772 is being put to a referendum. The voter simply cannot make an informed decision based on the ballot title.

The proposed measure is also contrary to state law which authorizes the city to exercise exactly the types of powers set forth in the ordinances the petition seeks to repeal. The Arkansas Supreme Court has held that municipalities have the power and duty to make reasonable provisions for the safety of persons and property, and municipal authorities have wide discretion in those matters.

The voters are powerless to strip the city of this obligation and duty and the referendum petition runs directly contrary to state law.

Petition 301 Monticello High-Dollar Purchase Requirements Ordinance

This petition amends Monticello City Code to require documented benefit/cost analysis for city purchases and contracts in excess of $10,000 and documented contract review for city contracts in excess of $10,000.

The ballot title is insufficient and the proposed local legislation is contrary to state law. A voter inside a voting booth, could not reach an intelligent and informed decision for or against the petition and understand the consequences of his or her vote based on the ballot title.

The ballot title states:

A proposed amendment to the Code of Ordinances of the City of Monticello, Arkansas, adding to Chapter 2, Article IV, Division 2 Sections 2-105.1 — 2-105.10 concerning high-dollar purchases; providing that purchases and contracts in excess of $10,000 require documented benefit/cost analyses; providing that contracts in excess of $10,000 require documented contract review; reserving Sections 2-105.5 — 2.105.10; declaring that if any provision in this ordinance should e held invalid, the remainder shall stand; and declaring an emergency.

The ballot title is not impartial. “High-dollar” is partisan coloring and unnecessary to understanding the proposed measure. Further, the ballot title suggests that benefit/cost analysis or contract review is currently conducted by the city with regard to purchases, which is also partisan coloring.

The ballot title does not give voters a fair understanding of the issues presented and of the scope and significance of the proposed change in the law. It merely advises the voter that contracts and purchases in excess of $10,000 require benefit/cost analyses and documented contract review. The ballot title does not advise the voter of the following:

That in order for a contract to be approved, there must be a positive benefit/cost ratio, and the ration must be greater than one;

That a contract review must consider specifications, pricing reasonableness, delivery terms, project timing, performance requirements, monitoring, and evaluation, among other things;

That a contract cannot be awarded if there are “unresolved negative features in the contract that pose an unacceptable risk of loss or damages” to the city, or what the phrases “unresolved negative features” and “unacceptable risk of loss or damages” mean;

That this process cannot be conducted by paid consultants, but only by volunteers, city employees, municipal officers, or government consultants; and

That the process requires at least seven (7) qualified reviewers with varied professional backgrounds and skill sets and, for technical contracts, one reviewer with experience in the subject matter.

The proposed measure is clearly contrary to state law which vests exclusive authority with the mayor or his designee. It undermines the discretion provided to the mayor in making decisions by adding extra criteria neither included in nor authorized by state law. Moreover, the municipality has no authority to implement such analyses and review procedure. Finally, the Arkansas Code contains extensive measures regulating procurement by municipalities such that it has preempted any substantive criteria for bid awards that the city may attempt to establish. The city may only establish procedures.

Petition 305 Monticello Contractor Disqualification Ordinance

This proposed measure would disqualify a prospective bidder from bidding on a contract if in debt to the city or delinquent on a payment to the city. The prospective bidder can submit a bid if it cures the delinquency. The proposed measure would also disqualify any prospective bidder which has failed to comply with the terms of a current or previous contract. The latter may submit a bid only after two years has passed since the end date of the contract in question.

This proposed ordinance is contrary to state law. Arkansas Code 14-58-303 and 22-9-203, which govern procurement for a city of the first class, place complete discretion for procurement with the mayor or his designee. The proposed measure removes some of that discretion in terms of qualifications. While the city can implement procedures regarding procurement, it may not establish qualifications for bidders. The Arkansas Legislature has placed that discretion with the mayor, who will evaluate whether a bidder is responsible and whether to accept a bid at all. This may or may not include a consideration of whether a prospective bidder is indebted to the city or failed to adequately perform under a previous contract.

Moreover, state law requires that city officials comply with all fiscal management and responsibility laws in the state. It adopts a process for ensuring compliance and enforcing those laws. The General Assembly has thoroughly legislated this field, and the city is powerless to legislate in this area.

Petition 322 Monticello Independent Candidates Petition Filing Ordinance

This proposed measure would put to a referendum Ordinance No. 632 and Monticello Code Section 9.7-4(b), which provides that an independent candidate shall have seven days to file petitions, with said filing period opening no earlier than the 20th day before the preferential primary and no later than the seventh day afterward.

This measure would amend the section to establish new independent candidate filing deadlines of not more than 102 days nor less than 81 days before the general election, by petition of at least 30 electors of the ward or city. It also sets additional requirements for eligibility for office, including residency and the filing of a political practices pledge and an affidavit of eligibility.

The petition does not meet the referendum filing requirements, the ballot title is insufficient, and the proposed local legislation is contrary to state law.

This referendum petition seeks to put Ordinance No. 632, enacted on October 20, 1988, to a referendum. The deadline to put the ordinance was in 1988, 30 days after the ordinance was adopted by the city. This referendum petition was filed on September 9, 2016, nearly 28 years after it was adopted.

Additionally, a correct and complete copy of Ordinance No. 632 was not attached to the referendum petition as required by law, therefore, the petition is incomplete and invalid.

The ballot title is also insufficient. A voter, inside the voting booth, could not reach an intelligent and informed decision for or against the proposal and understand the consequences of his or her vote based on the ballot title. The ballot title states:

A proposed amendment to the Code of Ordinances of the City of Monticello, Arkansas, amending Section 9.7-4 concerning filing for petitions for nomination as independent candidates for municipal office in the City of Monticello, Arkansas; repealing Ordinance 632 concerning filing period for petitions for nomination as independent candidates for municipal office; and declaring that if any provision in the Ordinance should be held invalid, the remainder shall stand.

The ballot title does not give the voter any information about how the proposed measure changes existing law. It does not explain the current requirements or the proposed new requirements.

Moreover, the proposed measure is contrary to state law which provides the time during which the candidate must file a petition, with whom the petition must be filed, the form and contents of the petition, the number of electors required to sign the petition, the pledge and affidavit that must be filed by the candidate, and related matters.

Municipalities have the limited authority to enact local legislation to require independent candidates for municipal offices to file petitions for nomination with the county clerk no earlier than 20 days prior to the preferential primary election and no later than 12:00 noon on the day before the preferential primary election.

Petition 416 Monticello Gross Receipts Tax Repeal and A&P Commission Dissolution Ordinance

This proposed measure would put to a referendum Sections 11-61 through 11-66 of the Monticello City Code, as well as their enacting Ordinances 761, 763 and 765, which would dissolve the Monticello Advertising and Promotion Commission, repeal a 3% gross receipts tax, and transfer the Monticello Advertising and Promotion Fund to the city council. The proposed measure also declares that Section 11-65 violates Arkansas law and that the remaining sections are a risk to the finances, peace, property, and constitutional rights of tax payers and other persons.

This petition is a referendum petition which does not meet the referendum filing requirements, the ballot title is insufficient, and the proposed local legislation is contrary to state law.

The deadline to put the ordinances three ordinances, which were adopted in 2011, to a referendum was 30 days after they were adopted by the City Council. Therefore, the petition was not timely filed as required by law.

The ballot title was also insufficient. A voter, inside the voting booth, could not reach an intelligent and informed decision of this or her vote based on the ballot title. The ballot title states:

A proposed amendment to the Code of Ordinances of the City of Monticello, Arkansas, repealing the gross receipts tax, Monticello Ord. No. 761 and its amendments Ord. No. 763 and Ord. No. 765, and Sections 11-61 through 11-66; dissolving the Monticello Advertising and Promotion Commission; transferring control of the Monticello Advertising and Promotion Fund to the City Council; declaring that if any provision in this Ordinance should be held invalid, the remainder shall stand; and declaring an emergency.

The ballot title omits material information that would give a voter serious ground for reflection. The ballot title does not inform the voter that, by voting for the proposed measure, he is declaring that the Advertising and Promotion Commission and its enacting Ordinances violate state law. Not only is this incorrect, but the proposed measure is contrary to state law as set forth below. Moreover, the ballot title does not inform the voter that the proposed measure would limit use of the Advertising and Promotion Fund to “advertising and promoting the City and finance tourist attractions” and could not be used for other purposes specifically authorized by the General Assembly.

The proposed measure is contrary to state law. The General Assembly has thoroughly legislated the topic of local Advertising and Promotion Commissions.

State law invests the city advertising and promotion commission, and only the commission, with the authority to direct use of the fund. Moreover, state law outlines the manner in which the commission must use the fund: advertising and promoting the city; construction and operation of a convention center; operation of tourist promotion facilities in the city or county where the city is located if the city owns an interest in the convention center or facility, and facilities necessary for, supporting or otherwise pertaining to a convention center; or payment on the principal of, interest on, and fees and expenses in connection with bonds.

All local taxes levied under the statue must be credited to the city advertising and promotion fun and used for the purposes described in the statute.

The proposed measure would divest the Monticello Advertising and Promotion Commission or, upon dissolution the city council of authority to determine the use of the Advertising and Promotion Fund, contrary to the clear intent of the General Assembly. Specifically, the proposed measure would limit use of the Advertising and Promotion Fund to advertising and promoting the city and finance tourist attractions and would prohibit use for other purposes specifically authorized y the General Assembly.

Petition 532 Monticello Manufactured Homes Codes Repeal Ordinance

This proposed measure seeks to put to a referendum all sections of the Monticello City Code dealing with manufactured homes. These sections apply to all new manufactured homes brought into the city limits, moved within the corporate limits of the ctiy, or changed ownership after June 31, 2014. The sections govern building and occupancy permits, lots, home placement, installation, support and anchoring, and the like. A vote in favor of the proposed measure would nullify all local legislation regarding manufactured homes and would strip the city of the power to enforce.

This referendum petition does not meet the referendum filing requirements, the ballot title is insufficient, and the proposed local legislation is contrary to state law.

The referendum petition was not timely filed. It seeks to a referendum city ordinance 785. The ordinance was adopted on January 21, 2014. The deadline to put this proposed ordinance to a referendum was 30 days after it was adopted. Also, a correct and complete copy of Ordinance 785 was was not attached to the referendum petition, as required by law.

The ballot title is insufficient. A voter, inside a voting booth, could not reach an intelligent and informed decision for or against this proposal and understand the consequences of his or her vote based on the ballot title. The ballot title of Petition 532 states:

A proposed amendment to the Code of Ordinances of the City of Monticello, Arkansas, repealing manufacturing homes Ordinance No. 785; repealing Chapter 12 Sec. 12-1 through Sec. 12-46 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Monticello; declaring that if any provision in this Ordinance should be held invalid, the remainder shall stand; and declaring an emergency.

The ballot title omits material information that would give a voter serious ground for reflection. Namely, there is no information whatsoever regarding the Ordinance being put to a referendum. Sections 12-1 through 12-46, which were enacted by Ordinance 785, comprise the entirety of the city’s legislation regarding manufactured homes. The ballot title does not inform the voter that a vote for Petition 532 would render the city powerless to govern the location, maintenance, use and safety of manufactured homes. The voter would be unaware, for example, that the proposed measure would allow manufactured home park operators to begin operating without a city permit. Nor would they be aware that the city would no longer be required to notify tenants of manufactured home parks when the parks are operated in violation of any regulations. They would not be aware that restrictions on the location of manufactured home parks were nullified, and that the park operator was no longer required to maintain such parks in good and sanitary condition.

The ballot title is simply far too vague and uninformative to enable a voter to reach an intelligent and informed decision.

The state has already extensively legislated on the topic of manufactured homes and, specifically, adoption of local ordinances governing manufactured homes. A wholesale repeal of the entire Monticello City Code section governing manufactured homes is contrary to this legislative scheme.

An Arkansas law, known as the “Affordable Housing Accessibility Act,” expressly authorizes and limits the extent to which municipalities may regulate manufactured homes.

The General Assembly clearly contemplated that municipalities would regulate manufactured home and mobile homes within their jurisdictions. Indeed, such regulations are vital to protect the property values, health, and safety of the residents of the municipality. An ordinance that requires, for example, that “all manufactured homes shall have one or more sanitation facilities, including a toilet and bathing capabilities” is certainly an ordinance intended to provide for the health and safety of persons within the municipality. The proposed measure is contrary to state law and is, therefore, invalid.

Petition 585 Monticello Ordinance and Resolution Passage Requirements Ordinance

This proposed measure requires that ordinances be read on three different dates before passage. This requirement may be suspended by 2/3 vote of the city council, but only when the measure contains an emergency clause. The city council may not adopt an emergency clause unless there is an identifiable risk to peace, health or safety and a finding that such a risk will occur within a certain time if the measure is not adopted immediately.

The ballot title of this proposed ordinance is insufficient. A voter, inside the voting booth, could not reach an intelligent and informed decision for or against the petition and understand the consequences of his or her vote based on the ballot title. The ballot title of Petition 585 states:

A proposed amendment to the Code of Ordinances of the City of Monticello, Arkansas, to protect the public against passage of ordinances and resolutions without adequate public awareness and opportunity to provide input; amending Section 2-15 concerning separate readings; amending Section 2-16 concerning emergency measures; and declaring that if any provision in this Ordinance should be held invalid, the remainder shall stand.

The ballot title is not impartial. The language “protect the public” is partisan coloring, as is “without adequate public awareness.”

The ballot title omits material information that would give the voter serious cause for reflection. The ballot title is simply too vague to giver the voter any idea of the specific requirements of the proposed measure, such as suspension of the rules only for an emergency. The voter has no idea of the changes in law that would result from a vote for Petition 585.

State law sets forth the process for adoption of ordinances by a city of the first class. It states that it must undergo three separate readings, unless suspended by 2/3 vote of the city council. This proposed measure is in direct conflict with the process set forth by the Arkansas Legislature. It would allow for a suspension of the requirement only in the event of an emergency.

Petition 609 Monticello Land Use Restrictions Repeal Ordinance

This proposed measure seeks to put to a referendum all sections of the Monticello City Code related to land use and city planning.

The Referendum Petition dos not meet the referendum filing requirements, the ballot title is insufficient, and the proposed local legislation is contrary to state law. It seeks to put the following ordinances to a referendum:

Ordinance No. 406, enacted February 6, 1959
Ordinance No. 412, enacted June 10, 1960
Ordinance No. 651, enacted March 21, 1991
Ordinance No. 782, enacted November 5, 2013

The deadline to put each of these ordinances to a referendum was 30 days after they were adopted.

Additionally, state law requires the petitioner to attach to the Referendum Petition correct and complete copies of all ordinances to be put to a referendum. The ordinances were not attached.

Further, the inclusion of Ordinance 782 in the Referendum Petition is erroneous or misleading. Ordinance 782 did not enact Monticello City Code Sections 11-3, 18-1 through 18-4, or 18-15 through 18-23, which this referendum petition seeks to repeal. Omission of Ordinance 784 from the petition is also erroneous or misleading. Ordinance 784 enacted section 11-3, but Petition 609 does not seek to put Ordinance 784 to a referendum. This error, alone, is fatal to the Referendum Petition.

Also, the ballot title is insufficient. A voter, inside the voting booth, could not reach an intelligent and informed decision for or against this petition and understand the consequences of his or her vote based on the ballot title. The ballot title of Petition 609 states:

A proposed amendment to the Code of Ordinances of the City of Monticello, Arkansas, repealing Ordinance 412, Ordinance 651, and Sec. 18-1 through 18-4 of the Code of Ordinances, concerning land use plan map; repealing Ordinance 406 and Sec. 18-15 through 18-23 of the Code of Ordinances, concerning planning commission; repealing Ordinance 782 and Sec. 11-3 of the Code of Ordinances, concerning restricted uses for a certain area of the city; and declaring that if any provision of this ordinance should be held invalid, the remainder shall stand.

The ballot title omits material information that would give the voter serious ground for reflection. Specifically, the ballot title does not indicate that a vote for the proposed legislation would effectively dissolve the City Planning Commission and nullify land use restrictions upon which the residents of Monticello have relied for decades.

The effect and intent of the proposed legislation are clear from this statement in the proposed ordinance, “the people of Monticello have made clear their opposition to zoning.” The proposed referendum would revert the city to a Wild West style use model, where anything goes. The voter, inside the voting booth, cannot reach an intelligent and informed decision for or against the proposal and understand the consequences of his or her vote based on the ballot title.

The City of Monticello, like all cities of the first class, is vested with broad authority to adopt zoning and land use regulations. The statutory authority in this regard is extensive and detailed. Moreover, in furtherance of this authority, a city is authorized to create a planning commission which shall have the authority to carry out the municipal land use plan. Once land use ordinances and regulations are adopted, they may be amended only in conformance with procedures specified in state law (14-56-422). Section 422 contains a detailed procedure for amendment of zoning regulations, including public notice, public hearing, adoption by the planning commission, adoption by the city council and filing with the city clerk.

The proposed measure would repeal or nullify the existing land use restriction passed pursuant to the above-cited statutes. Such a measure is contrary to state law because such changes “shall be adopted or amended” pursuant to state law. This Referendum Petition would amend the zoning provisions of Monticello in a manner other than that outlined in state law. It is invalid.

Petition 614 Monticello Town Hall Meetings Ordinance

This proposed measure would allow any official, city employee, or resident to call a town hall meeting. It sets forth rules of decorum for such meetings and establishes the process for them.

The ballot title is insufficient and the proposed legislation is contrary to state law.

A voter, inside the voting booth, could not reach an intelligent and informed decision for or against this petition and understand the consequences of his or her vote based on the ballot title. The ballot title of Petition 614 states:

A proposed amendment to the Code of Ordinances of the City of Monticello, Arkansas, adding Chapter 26, concerning Town Hall meetings; adding Chapter 26, Article I with Sections 20-174 concerning purposes and calling of Town Hall meetings, meeting decorum, public comment, and use of city facilities for Town Hall meetings; reserving Sections 2-175 — 2-180; and declaring that if any provision in this ordinance should be held invalid, the remainder shall stand.

The ballot title does not give voters a fair understanding of the significance of the proposed change in law. It merely states that the proposed measure “concerns” town hall meetings, decorum, public comment, and the use of facilities. Without having the proposed measure in front of him, the voter has no idea what he is voting for. None of the substance of the measure is conveyed by the ballot title.

The proposed ordinance would allow city officials, employees, and residents with a 71655 zip code to use any city facilities for a “town hall” meeting anytime they choose. The proposed ordinance does not limit the city facilities which may be put to this use or the dates and times for such use. A resident could, in theory, schedule a town hall meeting for 10:30 a.m. on a Wednesday in the mayor’s personal office. Under the proposed measure, anyone can speak for multiple five-minute sessions during the town hall meeting of unlimited duration. The burden on the city officials and employees who may be required to attend these meetings and manage the use of city facilities would be enormous. The ballot title does not convey this to the voter.

The Arkansas Legislature has not authorized a city council to establish laws on the calling and operation of a town hall meeting, nor is the power to do so necessarily implied for the purposes of, or incident to the city council’s express powers, nor indispensable, and not merely convenient, to their objects and purposes.

Petition 744 Monticello City Government Job Analysis and Design Ordinance

This proposed measure requires every two years, a job analysis for each city job which determines the efficiency, effectiveness, productivity, utilization, and morale of employees. It also requires a study of the design of each city job and the modifications or elimination of jobs as necessary to promote the efficiency, effectiveness, productivity, utilization, and morale of employees. It further mandates that no new job be created until a valid benefit/cost analysis showing a positive benefit/cost ratio has been completed. It prohibits the use of paid consultants, but requires the work be done by volunteers and city employees.

The ballot title is insufficient and the proposed local legislation is contrary to state law. A voter, inside the voting booth, could not reach an intelligent and informed decision for or against the petition and understand the consequences of his or her vote based on the ballot title. The ballot title of Petition 744 states:

A proposed amendment to the Code of Ordinances of the City of Monticello, Arkansas, adding to Chapter 2, Article III, a new Division 7 concerning analysis and design of City of Monticello jobs; declaring the public interest in the efficiency, productivity, effectiveness, utilization, and morale of city employees; providing relevant definitions; providing that every two years a job analysis shall be performed for each city job and changes in job design and headcount shall be made as necessary to improve employee productivity, efficiency, effectiveness, utilization, and morale; providing that all newly created positions shall require positive benefit/cost ratio; reserving sections 2-97.17 — 2-97.20; and declaring that if any provision in this ordinance should be held invalid, the remainder shall stand.

The ballot title is not impartial. “Public interest in the efficiency, productivity, effectiveness, utilization and moral of city employees” is partisan coloring. The same is true for “positive benefit/cost analysis” and “positive benefit/cost ratio.” These are vague, undefined terms with partisan coloring.

The ballot title omits material information, namely, any of the relevant definitions of efficiency, productivity, effectiveness, utilization, and morale. As used in the definition section of the proposed measure, terms like “productivity” and “utilization” are not commonly understood. “Positive benefit/cost analysis” and “positive benefit/cost ratio” are not defined in the ballot title or in the proposed measure itself. These undefined terms would not be commonly understood by the voter, especially as used in this context.

The ballot title does not convey the extremely onerous nature of the job analysis and design requirements of the proposed legislation, nor the frequent hiring and firing that would be required to comply with the proposed measure.

The ballot title does not convey that no jobs may be created unless they meet an undefined positive benefit/cost ratio analysis, and the voter has no idea how that metric will be measured or defined.

The ordinance will also require that these reviews take place every two years, but without the assistance of paid consultants. Voters will want to know that this is an additional burden placed upon existing city employees that could have a substantial negative impact on regular city operations.

The petition is contrary to state law in that the mayor has the power to appoint and remove all department heads subject to a 2/3 override by the city council. As this proposed measure relates to department heads, it is clearly in conflict with the statutory power of the mayor and city council.

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