A Villager who reluctantly yielded the lectern last Wednesday during July’s Hot Springs Village Property Owners’ Association board of directors meeting later apologized to the board and to police.
Prior to public comments, board chairman Tom Weiss reminded patrons each would be limited to two minutes to speak, asking each speaker to be prepared and have their statements ready.
After several other speakers, a Villager who said he’s lived here just more than three months, asked if the board had a parliamentarian. Director Nancy Leuhring identified herself as parliamentarian.
“Does the board have a treasurer?” he asked. Chief executive officer Lesley Nalley identified herself as treasurer.
“Does the board have a secretary?” he asked. Chief operating officer Linda Mayhood told him she is secretary.
He told the board it should have an independent secretary and treasurer.
Directors elect the two positions each year.
He also differed with a director who said earlier in the meeting that protective covenants have gray areas. “Protective covenants are black-and-white,” he said.
After the chairman told him his time was over, the speaker said he was not finished.
After further debate, Police Chief Ricky Middleton stepped forward, telling the man in a quiet, conversational tone that under Arkansas law, he could not disrupt a public meeting.
“It’s not a public meeting; it’s a board meeting,” the Villager said.
Middleton reiterated it was a public meeting and that the speaker could not disrupt it.
Disrupting a meeting could constitute disorderly conduct.
After the pair spoke further, Weiss called for an adjournment vote, which was unanimously approved. Several “no” responses ensued from the audience following the vote to adjourn.
The police chief and the Villager moved back from the lectern and continued talking. The man later went to the front and spoke with Weiss and possibly other board members.
In response to an email from the Voice, the chairman said he felt the police chief and other policemen handled the situation “very professionally and with respect for [the Villager].”
Last Friday, Middleton told the Voice the First Amendment gives citizens the right to peaceful assembly. “You have the right to speak — but you do not have the right to disrupt,” he said.
The chief said it is his duty to keep peace at meetings. “I think we must remain civil when we have meetings,” Middleton said last Friday. “My job is to ensure we have civil meetings.”
No charge was filed.
What is disorderly conduct? The chief provided information about pertinent laws. Among other examples listed in the statute, Arkansas law says recklessly creating a risk of public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm leading to disrupting or disturbing any lawful assembly or meeting may constitute disorderly conduct, a Class C misdemeanor.
A physical struggle could have serious consequences. Second-degree battery, a Class D felony, could arise when someone injuries anyone they know to be age 60 or older, or age 12 or younger.
Some other examples of second-degree battery include attacking:
• An officer or state employee acting in their lawful duty
• Physicians or other medical or mental-health providers providing services
• An incompetent person
• Teachers or other school employees serving in their employment.