March 24, 2007 – Threat of Alamo Lawsuit Stops Road Being Opened On Circle Drive

Texarkana Gazette
March 24, 2007

Fouke backs off Circle Drive: Threat of Alamo lawsuit convinces council to stop inquiry into opening road near the ministry headquarters

FOUKE, Ark. A letter threatening a lawsuit against the City of Fouke convinced enough members of the Fouke City Council to approve a resolution stopping any further action to open Circle Drive on the south side of the Tony Alamo Ministries headquarters. During a called council meeting Thursday night, the council approved the resolution to ‘terminate inquiries on Circle Drive and no further review of property rights on the street. Circle Drive dead ends near the headquarters of the Alamo Ministries. In 2006, R&G Securities had been hired to stop traffic from driving on the street and coming onto the parking lot of the ministries. Proposals had been made to extend Circle Drive to connect to Forrest Street and then open Forrest Street from Circle Drive to Williams Circle. Proposals were made in 2006 to give additional access to property behind the Alamo headquarters. Reportedly, several mobile homes are located behind the ministries and there was concern about the limited access in case of a medical emergency or fire.

It has also been reported that members of the ministry own the property. Councilman Ben Edwards made the motion, which was seconded by Cody Williams, for the resolution ending further inquires on Circle Drive. The motion passed 5-3 with council members Edwards, Williams, T.O. Hardin, Philip McFerrin and Betty Upton voting in favor of the resolution. Council members James Sanders, Roger Mixon and Lenten Clements voted against it. Edwards presented the letter to the council and Fouke Recorder-Treasurer Wanda L. Harris read the letter out loud to the audience.

The letter, reportedly prepared by New York attorney Eric M. Lieberman, was dated Feb. 28, 2007. The letter read:

‘The history of this matter clearly demonstrates these efforts have been motivated by a sectarian purpose … to impose sufficient burdens on the church and its congregation so as to induce them to leave Fouke entirely. The councils exclusive focus on a road through the Alamo properties, to the exclusion of any other roads, properties or traffic situations in the city, is further proof of the anti-Alamo Ministries motivation, purpose and expected effect of your actions and proposed actions. ‘Such actions are in clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits government authorities from undertaking actions based upon such a sectarian purpose. It also violates the federal Religious Land Use Act.

The letter referred to previous legal actions against other communities and indicated the lawyer would ‘protect its legal and constitutional rights vigorously. Tony Alamo, who is the founder of the ministries, has been described in national news media accounts as a ‘charismatic evangelist who was convicted and served a federal prison sentence for evading federal income taxes. Williams said Fouke couldnt afford a lawsuit and its unfair to pursue opening the street regardless of whether Protestant or Catholic churches were in the location.

Clements questioned why Edwards and Williams wanted the resolution during the called meeting, which should have been for an emergency. He said there was no emergency to consider the resolution. Mayor Terry Purvis said he has no malice toward the Alamo Ministries.

‘I think it is good business to find out the right of way on Circle Drive. But right now we only get $40,000 in state turnback a year to do roads and I have no intention of putting a road up there. There is no way Im going to condemn the property to put a street in’ said Purvis.

In other business, the council met for two hours and 10 minutes in executive session to reportedly discuss personnel issues. The personnel discussion reportedly concerned polygraph tests for city employees as part of the investigation into the theft of about $332 from the city cash drawer. Fouke City Hall was burglarized and the cash was stolen sometime during the night of March 14 and the morning of March 15, according to a report from Miller County Sheriffs Investigator Don Thornell. The burglary was discovered about 7:45 a.m. March 15 when employees and Mayor Terry Purvis arrived at City Hall. Employees had left City Hall about 5:30 p.m. March 14.

After Thursday nights council meeting, Purvis said the city employees had volunteered to have polygraph tests. ‘We dont want to taint the investigation and want to cooperate fully with the state police and the state auditor. In other business, the council also approved purchasing protective OSHA gear for employees who work in manholes and with the sewer treatment facilities. The action was initiated after a former city employee developed an infection. The employee had worked at the sewer lift station without proper protective gear, said Purvis.

Hardin made the motion to purchase the equipment. Clements questioned why Hardin wanted to consider the equipment when the council meeting was called for personnel issues. Again, he said it wasnt an emergency. Hardin countered by saying the city needed to protect its employees.

The called meeting Thursday was a contrast to the one Wednesday, which was canceled after the Texarkana Gazette protested the meeting. City officials failed to notify the news media two hours prior to the meeting, required under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. After Wednesdays meeting was canceled, several members of the audience shouted at some of the council members in protest. Some of the council members also made verbal remarks directed at members of the audience. The council meeting Thursday had 65 people attending and Purvis asked the audience to refrain from making any remarks.

When the council went into executive session, the audience was required to leave the building since executive sessions are closed to the public. Several members of the audience were frustrated at the executive session and questioned the validity of the meeting since there was no known emergency requiring the meeting to be called.

In: 2000-2007

| Back to Top |
Want to help?

Click the button!

Comments are closed.