Dolan’ it out

Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Dolan’ it out

Loathe triangle City Attorney Jim Dolan presents comments criticizing the behavior of Ed Mooney and Mary Jo O’Rourke as the pair look on at last Thursday’s Board of Adjustment’s meeting. M.P. Regan photo

City Attorney Jim Dolan had finally had enough last week of what he saw as unacceptable behavior towards him by two members of the city’s Board of Adjustments.

And last Thursday evening, Dolan let the pair and the rest of the world know about it.

“I’m a little offended by how I was treated,” began Dolan during the public comment period at the end of the Dec. 17 meeting of the Board of Adjustments.

“Now, we all know the adage that ‘No good deed goes unpunished’—and that’s apparently what was operative on Dec. 10,” said Dolan, referring to what he regarded as vindictiveness expressed towards him by Board of Adjustments members Mary Jo O’Rourke and Ed Mooney during the previous week’s meeting of that board.

According to Dolan, the problem began when he received an email at 3:21 p.m. on Dec. 10 requesting he provide “a written opinion” on the request for a variance on a storage unit project that the Board of Adjustments was scheduled to meet less than four hours later to consider.

“At no time prior to this was any request made to me for a written opinion,” asserted Dolan, who, under that stated time frame could not possibly complete the letter in time to be legally considered during that meeting.

“Subsequently to this, Ms. O’Rourke correctly moved to table the matter under the basis that the 48-hour rule was not followed,” reported Dolan, referring to a component of Montana’s open meeting law which requires that written materials to be considered as part of a meeting must be completed and made available to members of the public at least two days prior to the start of that meeting.

“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,” said Dolan referring to a procedure during meetings designed to end consideration of a matter until a later date.

“Indeed, what followed could most charitably be described as a hatchet job by Ms. O’Rourke and Dr. Mooney,” stated Dolan.

“Dr. Mooney proceeded—again with the matter being tabled—proceeded to lambast my opinion letter as to the merits, again after the matter was tabled, and without affording me any reasonable opportunity to respond,” said Dolan of Mooney, who has served for years on various city boards, including the Zoning Commission.

“Ms. O’Rourke, again, after the matter was supposedly tabled, manifested the temerity—or rather the audacity—of asking of an outside opinion from Kelly Lynch from the League of Cities and Towns, as to an official City of Dillon matter,” said Dolan of the general counsel of the Montana League of Cities and Towns.

“As an aside, I will note that this is not the first time this sort of behavior on Ms. O’Rourke’s part has manifested itself in the form of Ms. O’Rourke’s perception of my status as city attorney with regards to official city business,” recalled Dolan of a city council meeting several years ago during which he asked, ‘What am I? Chopped liver?’ after O’Rourke discussed how she’d contacted an outside agency for a legal opinion on a matter then pending before the city council.

“I then left the Dec. 10 Board of Adjustments meeting because,” said Dolan, subdividing his four reasons for leaving the meeting into a, b, c and d. “the matter had supposedly been tabled” and “it was obvious that the motion to table meant nothing to Ms. O’Rourke and Dr. Mooney and was of no effect as to their discussions surrounding my letter,” and “apparently, even if it would be inappropriate because the matter was supposedly tabled, I would not be recognized or welcome to respond,” and “because, apparently according to Ms. O’Rourke and Dr. Mooney, my status and opinions as Dillon’s city attorney do not matter whatsoever.”

“I ask, why would any reasonable professional stay for such condescension and contempt?” wondered Dolan, who got appointed by Mayor Mike Klakken as Dillon’s city attorney in 2014 after years of serving as Dillon’s deputy city attorney under the previous administration.

“Now 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,” fumed Dolan.

“Thus, I would ask you to consider this formal notice that you’re going to have to find somebody else to push around. I’m tired of it, and I think a lot of other people are, too,” frowned Dolan.

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

According to Dolan, the fuse of the blow-up got lit on Dec. 4, when Board of Adjustments Chair Richard Miller visited Dolan in his office to request that Dolan attend the board’s Dec. 10 meeting.

“At no time at that meeting was I requested to draft a written opinion concerning Harvey Investments LLC’s variance request,” insisted Dolan, who said he only received such a request via an email from City Director of Operations Todd Hazelbaker on the afternoon of the Dec. 10.

That account was backed up at the Board of Adjustments meeting by Deb Pierce, a paralegal in Dolan’s office.

“Again, at no time prior to this was any request made to me for a written opinion. At around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2020, I visited Todd Hazelbaker’s office. I told him that while I would drop what I was doing to prepare him an opinion from my own research and notes on the matter, notes on short notice, I was concerned that such a belatedly re quested opinion violated the 48-hour policy of the city for proper inclusion in the notices,” said Dolan.

“Regardless, I proceeded to prepare the written opinion, working through my dinner hour. I did so out of a spirit of accommodation as a public servant through the Board of Adjustments and to Mr. Harvey, who I’m sure desired a timely resolution to the request he’s presented by the variance request,” added Dolan.

“Just prior to 7 p.m. on Dec. 10, 2020, I entered the council chambers and provided my three-page opinion letter to Mr. Hazelbaker, and requested that he make copies for all the Board of Adjustment members present. He did so and distributed copies,” said Dolan.

“In the future, I expect members of this board, should they have a need for guidance on official city matters, to request the assistance of my office through the mayor,” said Dolan near the end of his comments at the Dec. 17 meeting.

“No city employees ever have to put up with the condescension and contempt that you two have shown me. That’s just not the Dillon way.”