Three city council recall petitions filed

 

Local citizens looking to recall four Dillon City Councilpersons last week turned in enough signatures to theoretically trigger the recall of three of them.

Examination of the petitions by the Dillon Tribune revealed that petitioners appeared to have gathered 162 signatures for the recall of Nils “Swede” Troedsson and 160 for the recall of Troedsson’s fellow Ward 4 representative Derek Gore, along with 125 signatures asking for the recall of Ward 3 representative, Dillon City Council President David Spehar.

Efforts to recall Ward 2’s Lynn Westad fell short, after the main signature gatherer in her ward became ill earlier this summer.

Efforts in Ward 3 and Ward 4 may also be found to have fallen short if enough of the gathered signatures are deemed invalid by Beaverhead County Clerk & Recorder and Election Administrator Debra L. Scott.

Scott’s office has until August 9 to examine the petition signatures to determine if they were provided by actual registered voters living in the two wards that the three recall targets represent.

The petitioners enjoy only a narrow margin for error in that process.

State law requires petitioners to gather signatures from at least 20 percent of registered voters to trigger a recall of elected or appointed officers of municipalities.

Ward 4 had 715 registered voters and Ward 3 had 527, as of the last election, according to figures provided by Scott. That means that at least 143 of the 162 and 160 signatures calling for the recall of Troedsson and Gore, respectively, would have to be ruled valid, while a minimum of 105 of the 125 signatures requesting Spehar’s recall would have to gain certification.

According to state law, recalls can only proceed for a few specific offenses, including a “violation of oath of office.”

The petitioners claim Spehar, Troedsson and Gore violated their oaths of office by failing to uphold the Montana Constitution in relation to open meeting laws.

The violation in question stems from a letter signed by seven Dillon City Council members, including Spehar, Gore and Troeddson, and sent to a judge earlier this year. The recall petitioners claim the signing of the letter constituted an illegal meeting that “deprived the public of its right to participate in a matter of significant interest to the public.”

The letter was sent amidst a series of controversial acts by the Dillon City Council in its dealings with Mayor Mike Klakken, who last November unseated three-term incumbent Marty Malesich.

Troedsson earlier this month accused Klakken of violating open meeting laws by conducting contract negotiations with representatives of Dillon city employees and police officers without public notice.

Montana residents in the Bridger Canyon Rural Fire District pulled off a successful recall of the district’s board chair this year for alleged violations of open meeting laws, though Beaverhead County Attorney Jed Fitch this spring expressed skepticism over whether the alleged open meeting law violations by the Dillon City Councilpersons were legally sufficient to justify a recall.

Petitioners in 2006 gathered enough signatures in Dillon to trigger the recall of Malesich, but saw their efforts disqualified by Judge Loren Tucker, of Montana’s Fifth Judicial District, because of legal defects in the petitions.