City government spat widens, goes multimedia

M.P. Regan
Wednesday, February 17, 2021

A dispute between members of city government aired out in December by one side of the kerfuffle puffed up again this week with the release of responses from its other two main participants.

Board of Adjustments members Mary Jo O’Rourke and Ed Mooney each offered written replies included in the packet for tonight’s Feb. 17 Dillon City Council meeting to oral accusations made against them two months ago by City Attorney Jim Dolan.

“Dear Mr. Dolan, I do not appreciate your approach to letting me know you are unhappy,” wrote O’Rourke in a letter dated Jan. 20 regarding what Dolan said at the end of the Dec. 17 Board of Adjustments meeting about her and Mooney regarding their interactions— or alleged lackthereof—with Dolan at that board’s meeting a week earlier.

“While I feel privileged to have had the benefit of your advice and insights during my tenure on the Zoning Commission, Planning Board and Board of Adjustments, the behavior on display at the 12/17 BOA meeting was all too familiar. I’ve witnessed the slamming of your notebook followed by huffing out of a meeting several times,” Mooney wrote in an email response to Dolan’s spoken comments about him and O’Rourke on Dec. 17.

“I’m here to inform you both, Ms. O’Rourke and Dr. Mooney, that I refuse to be publicly manipulated and/or excoriated by you. Your quite public efforts at belittling me, your mutual contempt and condescension of me, have obviously not gone unnoticed,” Dolan said as part of his comments on Dec. 17.

“I am not going to allow you to abuse me like a junk yard dog. It’s not going to happen. You treat me with contempt and disdain, both of you,” added Dolan.

Dolan had left that Dec. 10 Board of Adjustments meeting before its adjournment after growing frustrated with a discussion on a variance request by Harvey Investments LLC following the tabling of that request, discussion Dolan believed conflicted with Montana’s open meeting laws—and which he contended later he was being unfairly excluded from by O’Rourke and Mooney.

“During your speech you made several claims, among them: (1) you were excluded from participating in the discussion following tabling of formal consideration of the issue; (2) comments and discussion regarding your opinion and the way to proceed with the Harvey appeal were disrespectful and offensive; (3) that Ms. O’Rourke and myself displayed disdain, condescension and contempt toward you,” Mooney wrote in his reply to Dolan.

“I will point out that you were at no time excluded from further discussion; you chose to get up and leave the room,” asserted Mooney in his email to Dolan.

“Appreciation for and recognition of your work on the opinion was also expressed,” pointed out Mooney.

During his public comments at the Dec. 17 Board of Adjustments meeting, Dolan stated, “However, after the matter was supposedly tabled, discussion continued among Ms. O’Rourke and Dr. Mooney concerning the merits of my opinion about it—again, despite the fact that the matter had been unanimously tabled. At no time was I recognized by the Board of Adjustments, or my input requested. Indeed, what followed could most charitably be described as a hatchet job by Ms. O’Rourke and Dr. Mooney.

“Dr. Mooney preceded, again with the matter being tabled, preceded to lambast my opinion,” said Dolan “and without affording me any reasonable opportunity to respond.”

Later, during his Dec. 17 speech, Dolan also expressed dismay at what he saw as inappropriate behavior by O’Rourke a week before.

“Ms. O’Rourke, again, after the matter was supposedly tabled, manifested the temerity, or rather the audacity, of asking for an outside opinion from Kelly Lynch from the League of Towns and Cities, as to an official City of Dillon matter squarely within the bailiwick of my office,” continued Dolan, who had advised the Board of Adjustments that if it granted Harvey Investments LLC a variance it could be setting a precedent and that a rezoning of the area in question might be a better course for the city to take, prior to the board deciding to go forward with a variance.

Later, during his Dec. 17 speech, Dolan delved into the realm of abnormal psychology.

“One of the hallmarks of narcissistic behavior, as I understand it, is the inability of a narcissist to empathize with others, along with the innate need to constantly berate and manipulate others in such a fashion as to make the narcissist look better,” commented Dolan at the Dec. 17 meeting.

In his email response, Mooney threw that language back at Dolan.

“Of most concern to me, though, was your decision to personalize your comments by publicly attacking me and Ms. O’Rourke by name, labeling us as narcissists, etc.” Mooney wrote in his response to Dolan.

“Ironically, your 10/17 speech,” wrote Mooney, in apparent reference to Dolan’s 12/17 speech, “clearly expressed the ‘contempt’ and ‘disdain’ you have for others’ thoughts and the ‘condescending’ and the ‘narcissistic’ behavior you claim to be the victim of.”

Mooney also presented a starkly different take than Dolan on what he felt had transpired at the Board of Adjustments meeting the prior week.

“Please note the contrast with the 12/10 BOA discussion that was focused on facts that may have been helpful in resolving the way forward with Mr. Harvey’s variance request. You were not ‘lambasted’ or subject to a ‘hatchet job’ and at no time were you called a ‘junk yard dog’ or treated as such,” wrote Mooney.

“Going forward, I hope you will be able to control yourself and recognize questions and discussion of issues as an appropriate problem-solving activity. Discussion should always focus on ideas and issues and never personal attacks,” insisted Mooney.

“Finally, please be advised that if anything remotely close to the behavior on display at the 12/17/2020 BOA meeting happens again—against me or anyone in the room—I will personally file a formal complaint with the City,” vowed Mooney.

“I look forward to working constructively with you in the future,” concluded Mooney.

“We are both engaged in serving our City. I believe we both do this with honest and earnest intentions,” O’Rourke wrote in her Jan. 20 letter to Dolan.

“The difference is that you are a paid employee of the City, in fact the highest paid employee of the City. I am a volunteer,” wrote O’Rourke.

“I believe I have always treated you with kindness and respect and at a minimum, civility when you are attacking me,” added O’Rourke.

“Here’s hoping,” concluded O’Rourke, “for a better 2021.”