APPEAL FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NOS. CV-2014-147-G; CV-2014-151-G. HONORABLE J. MICHAEL FITZHUGH, JUDGE.
Mark R. Hayes and Michael Mosley, for appellant.
Smith, Cohen & Horan, PLC, by: Stephen C. Smith and Don A. Smith, for appellee Shadow Lake Association, Inc.
Walters, Gaston, Allison & Parker, Attorneys at Law, by: Troy Gaston, for appellees Shirley Ann Walters and Jennifer Puckett, Trustees of the Bill and Shirley Walters Family Trust of 2007.
PAUL E. DANIELSON, Associate Justice.
Appellant City of Greenwood (" City" ) appeals from the interlocutory order of the Sebastian County Circuit Court in favor of separate appellees Shadow Lake Association, Inc., a/k/a Shadow Lake Property Owners Association, an Arkansas nonprofit corporation (" SLPOA" ) and Shirley Ann
Walters and Jennifer Puckett, Trustees of the Bill and Shirley Walters Family Trust of 2007 (collectively, " the Trustees" ). The SLPOA and the Trustees had sued the City, claiming that two of the City's ordinances, which were to submit to the City's voters questions relating to the annexation of property, were derived in violation of the open-meetings provision of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (" FOIA" ). In its order, the circuit court granted injunctive relief by ordering that the ordinances not be included on the November 4, 2014 ballot. See Ark. R. App. P.--Civ. 2(a)(6) (2014) (permitting the appeal of an interlocutory order by which an injunction is granted). On appeal, the City asserts that the circuit court erred in finding that the City violated the open-meetings provision of the FOIA, Arkansas Code Annotated § 25-19-106 (Repl. 2014). It alternatively claims that, to the extent this court might find the matter moot, the circuit court's orders should still be reversed or vacated. We dismiss the City's appeal as moot.
The relevant facts are these. On September 30, 2014, the SLPOA filed a complaint against the City regarding an annexation ordinance that included the subdivision of Shadow Lakes Estates, specifically, Ordinance No. 14-13, that was adopted by the City and to be submitted to its voters at the November 4 election. The complaint alleged several irregularities relating to the substance of the ordinance and its adoption by the City's council. Specifically, the SLPOA asserted that (1) in adopting Ordinance No. 14-13, the City failed to strictly comply with Arkansas Code Annotated § § 14-40-302 to -303 (Repl. 2013), by failing to properly read the ordinance, failing to give notice of the procedures to be followed at the special meeting during which the ordinance was adopted, and denying the right to comment via a public forum; (2) Ordinance No. 14-13 constituted a taking because the legal description contained in the ordinance did not exclude Shadow Lake resulting in a violation of Arkansas Code Annotated § 14-40-501(b)(2) (Repl. 2013); (3) the City acted arbitrarily and capriciously in including and excluding certain properties, which resulted in irregular boundary lines, and pressing forward with annexation when it would not be able to economically sustain and maintain proper services to the annexed properties; and (4) Ordinance No. 14-13's adoption violated the open-meetings provision of the FOIA, where the City's attorney had visited with the City's council members individually. To remedy these alleged violations, the SLPOA sought an injunction removing the ordinance from, or prohibiting the inclusion of it on, the November 2014 ballot.
A few days later, the Trustees filed a similar action pertaining to the City's adoption of Ordinance No. 14-12; their petition against the City sought a declaratory judgment that the ordinance was invalid and an injunction enjoining the City from proceeding with the November election. The Trustees averred that, despite having received notification that their property would not be targeted for annexation, their property was included within the legal description of the tract of land included for annexation by Ordinance No. 14-12. They further asserted that the City's reading of the ordinance was not in compliance with Arkansas Code Annotated § 14-55-202 (Repl. 1998), and that the City adopted the ordinance in violation of the FOIA where the City's attorney admitted that he had visited with members of the city council prior to the meeting at which the ordinance was adopted. Like the SLPOA, the Trustees also sought an injunction removing the ordinance from
the ballot or precluding its inclusion on the November ballot.
The City answered both complaints and filed a motion to dismiss in each case. That same day, a hearing was held before the circuit court at which both cases were heard jointly. Some debate was had over which claims of the SLPOA and the Trustees the circuit court could hear at that time due to the fact that the ordinances had not yet been put into effect since they had not yet been voted upon. The circuit ...