A hearing is set in Sharp County Circuit Court for 1 p.m. on Dec. 16 before Circuit Judge Rob Ratton regarding a preliminary settlement in the case of Debra Lumley and similarly situated residents of Ozark Acres. The lawsuit was filed on Sept. 7, by Ozark Acres resident Debra Lumley against Ozark Acres Road and Street, Recreational, Fire and Ambulance Service, combined are known as Improvement District One. The Hearing Notice states that “failure to object to the setting will constitute a waiver of objection to the date and type of setting. Any objections to the setting are to be submitted and filed in writing in the form of a motion in accordance with Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure with a copy also sent to the Court at P.O. Box 477, Ash Flat, AR 72513.”
This is first of two cases against the Ozark Acres SID.

• An order declaring the Defendants’ annual installment against the Assessment of Benefits completely exhausted for properties that are not delinquent and prohibiting the District from any further extension and/or collection of a levy against the Assessment of Benefits for parcels that have paid each year’s Annual Installment.
• An order finding that the Plaintiff and all similarly situated taxpayers are further entitled to a declaratory judgment declaring which parcels have paid off the Assessment of Benefit and the amount remaining for all other parcels.
• A refund of all moneys collected on any levy charged after the Assessment of Benefit for any particular parcel was already exhausted;
• The Plaintiff and all similarly situated taxpayers are further entitled to an award of reasonable attorney fees and costs of collection as allowed for under Arkansas law.
Last week a settlement agreement was met in the Class Action Suit filed by Lumley.

• It is agreed that the District has, through the years, levied an amount against the original Assessed Benefits that has resulted in the exhaustion of said Assessed Benefits. However, an immediate cessation of annual levies against the Assessed Benefits could cause significant harm to the class of taxpayers represented in this action. Specifically, class members would be without funds for continued road maintenance, fire protection, and maintenance and operations of District amenities.
•. As such, the parties agree that the levy on the Assessed Benefits shall be permitted through the year 2028 (five years). Thereafter, the District is permanently enjoined from levying or collecting any amount against the Assessed Benefits.
• For the years of 2023 through 2028, the District is not permitted to levy an amount greater than eight percent of the Assessed Benefits for any lot located within the District. For select lots whose borders do not abut any public road, the annual levy shall not exceed six percent.

• Between the years of 2023 through 2028, the District agrees to post any and all job openings on a job posting website such as Indeed.com or ziprecruiter.com. Further, the District shall post all job openings at the Ozark Acres Clubhouse.
•. District Commissioners shall appoint a Budget Committee made up of 3-5 District residents who shall make recommendations to the Commissioners related to the prioritizing of expenses.
• District Commissioners shall immediately terminate the contract with the Sharp County Sheriff’s office which will result in a savings of approximately $18,000 a year.
• For properties that carry a delinquent assessment of benefits, the District shall, upon purchase by a new owner, waive the delinquency, but shall, going forward, collect the annual assessment of benefit for that property through the year 2028.
• The District shall, within 90 days of this Court’s final approval of this settlement agreement make available for review and inspection by District property owners a listing of all properties, assets, equipment, materials, and inventory owned by the District excepting only delinquent properties being held by the District and items that are less than $500 in value.
• In order to ensure compliance with this Settlement Agreement through at least the first year, the District’s next election of Directors shall be moved to the second Tuesday of November beginning in 2023 with subsequent elections continuing thereafter on the same second Tuesday of November until subsequently modified by action of the Board or until dissolution of the District.
• Any newly elected commissioner shall be required to participate in training or classes offered by the Arkansas Municipal League whereat information regarding the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act and competitive bidding requirements for public contracts are discussed.
• The District shall set aside thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) of the current reserves for the purpose of engaging any necessary professionals (e.g. attorneys, accountants, signature gatherers and others) to assist with any costs or expenses that will assist efforts toward the incorporation or annexing of Ozark Acres, as determined by the Board of Commissioners.

• The District will pay the class representative, Debra Peterson Lumley, $2,500 which represents the amount of out-of-pocket expenses she has incurred as part of this litigation.
• The District shall pay Plaintiff’s attorney’s fees totaling $25,000 which represents the estimated amount of hourly charges Plaintiff’s counsel will accrue throughout this litigation.
• The amounts identified in paragraph 14 and 15 shall be paid within fourteen (14) days of this Court’s granting final approval of this settlement agreement.
• Plaintiffs’ counsel agrees to cover all costs associated with this action from the attorney fees received herein.
• Upon this Court’s final approval, the Plaintiff will file with this Court a Motion to Dismiss this case with prejudice.
The Dec. 16 hearing will be held to determine the final approval of the Settlement.
The second case, A Writ of Mandamus, and an Amended Complaint was filed by Heidi and Joseph Hall on Oct. 3. After the tentative settlement agreement was filed, Heidi Hall, filed an objection within an hour of the filing. Judge Ratton approved the tentative settlement hearing, 30 days after the settlement was published, but set the hearing for Dec. 16, which Hall explained is less than 30 days after the publication would go out.
A Writ of Mandamus filed by the Halls is an order requesting a court to an inferior government official ordering the government official to properly fulfill their official duties or correct an abuse of discretion. In this case to prevent the named parties from illegally exacting taxes through further levies after the assessment of benefits have been exhausted.
The case further states “to prevent the misappropriation of public funds and for the recovery of an illegal funds exaction, wrongly paid to public officials for law enforcement services and to compel various government officials to perform an act or omit to do an act where such performance or omission is enjoined by law.”
Based on the 343 -page filing of the second suit, a Class Action Suit, naming Ozark Acres Road And Street, Recreational, Fire And Ambulance Service, Suburban Improvement District No. 1, Board Of Commissioners, Sharp County Judge Gene Moore, Sharp County Collector Charlotte Ratllff, Sharp County Clerk Alisa Black, Sharp County Sheriff Mark Counts and Arkansas Department of Transportation as defendants.
One resident of Ozark Acres who wished to remain anonymous for fear of backlash, told the SRC regarding the settlement “They are still trying everything they can to not to inform property owners of the proposed negotiation settlement doesn’t include informing all property owners. I absolutely can’t wrap my mind around how they can be allowed to proceed and not inform property owners of the lawsuit concerning their property, it seems like a violation of the 14th amendment and taxation without representation. And then taking an additional $30,000 for annexation/municipality that they already stated they will only allow property owners that live here a vote on what happens if the SID decides to dissolve.”
Hall said, “Deba’s lawsuit was 100 percent about preventing someone else from ending the assessments immediately. They want a five year plan to become a town.The settlement agreement is approving a ton of illegal exactions going forward five years. Cherokee Village at least had a reassessment of benefits in the first place, Ozark Acres had none and refuses to do one saying it will cost too much. Because the Cherokee Village lawsuit was over a reassessment the court had authority to enter order calculating reassessments. There is no such authority in Ozark Acres and there is caselaw on it. I’m prepared to appeal if necessary.I’m filing more Pleadings including objections to the hearing and a motion to dismiss Debra Lumley as a Plaintiff for voluntary payment.”
The SRC will continue to follow this developing story.