FCRA rejects effort by City of Barling to appoint ex-officio member

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 73 views 

The Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority (FCRA) has said it will not recognize the Barling Board of Directors’ appointment of Steve Beam as its ex-officio member on the FCRA Board of Trustees.

The Barling Board appointed Beam, a vocal critic of FCRA Executive Director Daniel Mann, as the city’s ex-officio member on the FCRA Board of Trustees during a June 25 board meeting because they wanted someone who had sat in on some of the original meetings when the trust was founded.

Barling Mayor Greg Murray has served as Barling’s ex-officio member on the board. Fort Smith Mayor George McGill and Sebastian County Judge Steve Hotz also serve as ex-officio members of the board. Ex-officio members cannot vote on FCRA board items but can participate in board discussions. Murray sent a letter to the FCRA board on June 28 notifying them that Beam is the designee for the mayor of Barling to the board of trustees.

Beam was a member of the Barling Board of Directors when the FCRA trust was formed in 1997 to oversee redevelopment of 6,000 acres of land released by the U.S. Army from Fort Chaffee as part of a Base Realignment and Closure downsizing. The trust has four beneficiaries – the cities of Barling, Fort Smith and Greenwood, and Sebastian County.

Dalton Person, FCRA attorney, notified Murray Wednesday (July 10) that the appointment will not be recognized by the FCRA because it does not comply with the proper procedures for appointing a designee.

“As an initial matter, I request that any future action taken by the City of Barling related to the FCRA comply with Arkansas law, specifically Ark. Code Ann. § 14-48-120. I have listened to the audio of the City of Barling Board of Directors meeting from June 25, 2024. Nothing on the agenda for the meeting references the FCRA or an attempted appointment of a designee for the ex-officio position to the FCRA. Yet, during his report, City Administrator Steve Core requested the Board of Directors appoint Steve Beam as a designee for the Mayor’s position as an ex-officio member to the FCRA Board of Trustees. Three days after the Board’s motion and vote on the matter, your letter was sent as ‘notification’ of this ‘appointment,’” Person wrote in the letter.

Arkansas law requires that “every motion, resolution, and ordinance adopted by the board, if approved by the mayor, shall be signed by the mayor and attested by the city clerk.” Person said because the Barling Board held a vote and simply sent a letter of notification to the FCRA instead of providing a copy of the written motion adopted as signed by the mayor and attested by the city clerk it was insufficient notice.

“Nevertheless, while compliance with Ark. Code Ann. § 14-48-120 is requested, even a lawful record of the motion and board vote would not be recognized by the FCRA,” Person said.

That is because, according to Person, when the city agreed to be bound by the FCRA’s Indenture of Trust, the trust instrument became a binding contract between the city of and the FCRA. He said neither the Indenture of Trust nor the FCRA’s bylaws permit an ex-officio member of the authority to unilaterally take any action, including the proposed appointment of a designee to the ex-officio member’s position on the FCRA’s Board of Trustees.

The Indenture establishes the makeup of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority Board of Trustees as consisting of nine trustees who shall be residents of Arkansas. It also states that the Sebastian County judge, the mayor of Barling and the mayor of Fort Smith “or their designee(s)” shall serve as ex-officio, non-voting members of the board.

“Note, though, that the Indenture of Trust does not provide the ex-officio members with any explicit authority to unilaterally select a designee to their position,” Person said in the letter.

He said the FCRA board is to operate under Robert’s Rules of Order and that since neither the Indenture of Trust or the FCRA’s Bylaws address the appointment of a designee to take the place of an ex-officio member, doing so must align with Robert’s Rules of Order.

“In its current edition, these Rules clearly provide that the business of the Board of Trustees should be brought before it in the form of a motion,” Person said, noting that it is his opinion that only full board members can make a formal motion.

“As such, an ex-officio member, such as the Mayor of Barling, does not have the ability at a meeting of the FCRA Board of Trustees to make any such motion for the appointment of a Designee,” Person said. “As a result, in the absence of specific bylaws or customary practices explicitly authorizing an ex-officio member to name his or her designee, appointing a designee requires a motion, second, and affirmative vote by the voting members of the FCRA Board of Trustees before any such designation would become effective.”

Person said Murray could request a designee be appointed to the position in writing, but consideration of such would be at the discretion of Trustees Board Chair Dean Gibson and would require a motion, second, and affirmative vote of the majority of those voting members present at a meeting in which a quorum exists.

Core said Wednesday that a copy of Person’s letter had been sent to the city’s attorney, Matt Ketcham, and the city had no comment at this time.

Controversy around FCRA has developed over the past year as many have called for the dissolution of the trust. The cities of Barling, Fort Smith and Greenwood and the Sebastian County Quorum Court have passed resolutions calling for FCRA dissolution. Only the authority board can vote to dissolve the organization.

The FCRA Board of Trustees passed a resolution May 16 to continue forward “in its successful mission pursuant to the terms of the Indenture of Trust agreed upon by the Beneficiaries on February 19, 1997.” The resolution also states that the trustees believe it is in the best interest of the trust to work in coordination and consultation with the beneficiaries to openly discuss operations of the trust until the trustees decide it is time to dissolve.

Greenwood Mayor Doug Kinslow, Murray and Barling City Administrator Steve Core, Hotz, and Fort Smith City Administrator Carl Geffken and Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman attended a meeting June 10 with Mann and Gibson to begin discussing the process of a possible dissolution of the FCRA trust. At that meeting, beneficiaries expressed their desire to set a date for dissolution, but Mann and Gibson declined to discuss an exact date. Mann has in the past given a timeline from three to 10 years, based on the amount of trust land still available for sale, and recently said he is still comfortable with that timeline. He said being able to narrow it down more is not now possible.

The group has agreed to meet again to review projections of revenue and expenses for the next five or more years and review what land is still available for sale at Chaffee.