Citizens Holding Officials Responsible Everyday (CHORE) — a political action committee — filed suit on Monday in Saline County Circuit Court against the city of Benton alleging the municipality has improperly used sales tax revenue for economic development.
Click here for a copy of the lawsuit. Nobles Law Firm represents CHORE.
The Suit alleges that the city has agreed to spend up to $1.4 million in conjunction with a memorandum of understanding entered into by Benton Investment Partners, LLC and Benton Public Utility Commission. Under the agreement, Benton is obliged to reimburse Benton Public Utility Commission for infrastructure improvements to a proposed shopping center — the Shoppes of Benton.
CHORE argues that the money pledged by the city came from a 1.5 percent sales tax approved of by city voters in 2004. That sales tax, according to the complaint, is to be used exclusively for the city’s general fund, street improvements and operations and maintenance of parks and recreation facilities. CHORE, in its suit, pointed out that Arkansas law requires cities to only use sales taxes for the purposes designated to voters unless a special election is held.
As the city of Benton never had such a vote and part of the sales tax revenue is being used for economic development, then CHORE alleges the city has violated state law.
According to the complaint, the city of Benton has already reimbursed the Benton Public Utility Commission $400,000 for infrastructure improvements to the Shoppes at Benton project and plans to spend at least $400,000 more in the near future. CHORE has asked the court to direct Benton to pay $400,000 back into the city’s General Fund and to prohibit the city from paying any more money under the memorandum of understanding.
Saline County Circuit Judge Gary Arnold will hear CHORE’s request for a temporary injunction on Jan. 15 at 10 a.m. The temporary injunction, if put in place, will prevent Benton from paying any more money under the memorandum of understanding while the action is pending.
Media contacts: Greg White, (501)317-6297; Ethan C. Nobles, (501)794-9742
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