Council to mayor: pay it yourself

 

The Dillon City Council met for just 21 minutes last Wednesday night, but still managed to stick Mayor Mike Klakken with a legal bill of more than $2,700.

The Council voted 6-1 to make Klakken himself pay for legal work he requested be done on behalf of the city earlier this year by local lawyer, Adam Shaw of the Dillon law firm, Erb & Suenram.

The City Council’s Finance Committee had concluded at its meeting earlier that day that the Council had not requested an opinion from an attorney, nor granted Klakken the authority to seek a legal opinion, so the mayor should pay for Shaw’s work himself.

“It was discussed in the Finance Committee that in our opinion that was not something that was asked for and the city should not pay for, so we did not approve that bill,” Finance Committee member Dick Achter told the Council. “I would ask that the Council agree with that.”

The Council did agree, by a 6-1 vote, with only Councilperson Dan Nye voting against making Klakken pay for the bill out of his own pocket.

Klakken said at a previous meeting he had hired Shaw under authority granted him in the city charter in order to answer a question that the Council itself had raised at its Jan. 15 meeting.

The mayor hired Shaw after the City Council had refused to consent to Klakken’s appointment of Neal Straus as city treasurer at the Jan. 15 meeting.

Judiciary Committee Chair Lynn Westad told Klakken at that meeting that replacing current City Treasurer Ty Cobb with Straus could open Dillon to an expensive legal fight, based on her reading of a recent Butte lawsuit.

Klakken, along with local attorney and former City Councilperson Jean Bergeson, who was present at the Jan. 15 meeting, disagreed with Westad’s legal interpretation of the Butte case and its applicability to the situation in Dillon. Klakken subsequently asked Shaw to look into the matter and advise the city on it.

Shaw told the Council at its Feb. 5 meeting that the Butte case did not apply to the situation facing Dillon. But Cobb brought his own lawyer to that meeting to warn the Council that the city would open itself up to legal action based on the Montana Wrongful Discharge of Employment Act if Cobb was replaced as city treasurer.

At that Feb. 5 meeting, the Council voted 3 to 5 against consenting to Klakken’s appointment of Straus, with Nye, Bill Shafer and Bob Cottom voting in favor of the appointment, while Westad, David Spehar, Achter, Swede Troedsson and Derek Gore voted against it.

 

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