Recall petitions recalled

 

In yet another reversal of fortune in city politics, three Dillon City Councilpersons this past week found out the recall petitions filed against them for allegedly violating their oaths of office have been disqualified—two days after Beaverhead County Clerk & Recorder and Election Administrator Debbie Scott had announced the petitions contained enough valid signatures to trigger recall elections.

In a pair of Aug. 8 letters, Scott informed Dillon residents Raymond Graham and Edith Fletcher that she was rejecting their recall petitions against City Councilpersons Derek Gore, Swede Troedsson and David Spehar, based on advice from Beaverhead County Attorney Jed Fitch.

“I agree with Mr. Fitch that the violations claimed in the recall petitions do not constitute a violation of oath of office,” Scott wrote Fletcher and Graham.

In the recall petitions, Graham and Fletcher asserted that the three City Councilpersons had violated their oaths of office by breaking Montana’s open meeting laws. That violation occurred, the petitioners claimed, when the three joined with four fellow Dillon City Councilpersons in signing a letter delivered last winter to a pair of district court judges, urging them to not let new Mayor Mike Klakken derail a pair long-running civil cases over the disputed installation of water meters at the homes of former City Councilperson Martin Brenneke and former Dillon Mayor George Warner.

The cases, which by then had gone on for more than five years and cost the city more than $50,000 in legal fees, were brought by former City Attorney Duke Gilbert, whom Klakken had fired for insubordination on Feb. 5.

Fitch had expressed doubts about the justification behind a planned recall in a letter to the petitioners in March.

But Fitch and Scott offered their approval of the three recall petitions on “sufficiency as to form” on April 15, giving the petitioners the go-ahead to start collecting signatures.

Last week, Scott announced that the petitioners had collected the valid signatures of the more than the required 20 percent of registered voters in their respective wards to trigger recall elections on Spehar, Troedsson and Gore, who announced his resignation the next day.

Gore rescinded that resignation (see story on page 1) on Friday when Scott sent the letters to Graham and Fletcher rejecting the recall petitions on the grounds that Gore, Troedsson and Spehar had not violated their oaths of office with the disputed letter signing, according to a legal analysis by Fitch.

Fitch communicated that analysis to Scott in a two-and-a-half page letter dated Aug. 7.

 

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