07.31.08

Joint City – County Planning Board Troubles

Posted in City Government at 11:08 pm by Moorcat

This week’s copy of the Dillon Tribune carries an article about the ongoing troubles for the Joint City – County Plnning Board. The article does a good job of laying out the primary issues but there are a few issues I would like to explore that weren’t mentioned in the article.

City Control of the Donut

One of the strongest driving factors behind the Joint City – County Planning Board is the 1 – 5 mile donut surrounding Dillon. In a nutshell, the City wants (at the very least) to have a say in how that area is developed and the County is uncomfortable giving up control of that area to the City (as well as the legal issues involved in doing that). To make matters worse, many of the County Property Owners in that area are VERY uncomfortable with the idea that the City of Dillon has any say in their area.

A joint study group was commissioned to do a study of development in the area and they reported back to both the Dillon City Council and to the County. At the time, all involved said that the information was useful and the City pursued the idea of a joint planning board shortly following that report.

Now, it appears that the City wasn’t happy about that study group. Lynn Westad – a member of the Dillon Planning Board and one of the members of the Joint Study Group – is quoted in the paper –

Board Member Lynn Westad said she sat on the joint city/county task force that met for almost a year, and it didn’t accomplish anything. “The City didn’t get anything”, she said.

That seems to be the primary issue for the City – they aren’t getting what they want.

City Planning Board President and Dillon City Councilman, Mike Riley is much more direct in his comments –

Riley said, “The city of Dillon wants to control the area around the city. We need hard, concrete information, not a ‘vision'”.

He goes on to say –

“We are saying over and over and over and over and over and over again that we’re concerned, we’re concerned… The next thing a rattlesnake does when it is ignored is strike.”

While the last quote sounds like a threat, it is a toothless one. It has been testified in Council Meetings that the City has no authority in the contested areas many times – in fact, that is the basis of the City’s concern. It wants authority.

What the County Property Owners want –

There are many issues here that were reported to the City Council when the Joint Task force made their presentation but the issues boiled down to two primary ones – Zoning and Trust.

The comments reported in the Joint Task force presentation surrounded the distrust of the property owners of the donut in the City of Dillon’s ability or desire to consider their wishs when setting zoning in that area. There were also a number of comments made about the way the City of Dillon goes about their business. I have personally received two emails from residents of that area asking questions about how the City has been handling the Malesich/Warner situation.

How this situation can be resolved (or IF it can be resolved) remains to be seen. Mr. Riley’s comments were unfortunate (as they will play on the fears of the people living in the contested areas) but he has expressed considerable frustration with the situation when reporting to the City Council.

Personally, I think threats are a bad idea to convince someone to work with you. We will see if it works for the City of Dillon

Moorcat

Gilbert swallows foot in letter to Mr. Warner

Posted in City Government at 10:40 pm by Moorcat

It seems this week was a banner week for interesting quotes in the Dillon Newspaper – The Dillon Tribune. In an article about the City digging up Mr. Warner’s and Mr. Brenneke’s yards to install water pits, Mr. Gilbert makes some interesting comments –

The article quotes a letter dated July 1, 2008 penned by City Attorney Gilbert responding to the request for information made by Mr. Warner about when the meter project was approved. I would remind the reader that under Montana’s Open Document Law, any citizen of the City has a right to request and receive copies of ANY city document or communication that doesn’t contain “confidential” information. Any minutes of the Dillon City Council woud certainly fall under under the catagory of “City Documents”.

In my recollection serves, the meter project was approved by the council at a meeting from which you were absent. regardless, the project is ongoing, and has reached virtual conclusion. I am not going to spend any of the City’s time and money on extracting the council minutes in which the water project was approved

So to paraphrase… Mr. Gilbert is saying that he remembers the meter project being approved but he isn’t going to do anything as mundane as to actually look to make sure – it would be a waste of time…

What Mr. Gilbert seems to fail to understand is that it is his job to do exactly that. Mr. Gilbert is the legal council for the City of Dillon. He is failing to do his job if he does NOT verify that the meter project was property authorized. I can see the court testimony now….

Judge: Mr. Gilbert, can the City produce documentation of when and how the Meter project was approved?

Gilbert: No, Your Honor. We felt it was a waste of City Time and Money. We remember doing it. You will have to just take our word for it.

That will fly…

I wonder how those shoes he wears taste.

Moorcat

07.30.08

Awaited Explanation

Posted in Blog General at 7:44 pm by Moorcat

I have been asked many times – both in person and through email – why I stopped posting for months. It is only fair that I give an explanation.

Loss of my Hosting Service –

I could easily step back and blame it all on the loss of my hosting service. They did shut my server down and it was done without notification or warning. I have still not been able to get them to release my files back to me (or give me a decent explanation of why they did it) so that I can put up the archive of previous posts. While I will be able to get those posts back at a later time through another avenue, those posts are – for the moment – only saved in hardcopy.

I am happy to report that I do have a new hosting service and I am quite happy with them. The new hosting service is located fairly locally (in Utah) and has excellent customer service with an actual phone number I can call to resolve any issues that do come up.

All that said – that is not the real reason I stopped posting.

Objectivity –

Any citizen reporter has some bias that regularly appears in their writing. I am no exception. I try to report the facts – as I see or know them – but even the most objective of us is biased in some way. I make it clear that I have issues with the way Government works in Dillon but…

After my arrest – orchestrated by Mayor Malesich and Former Councilman Troadsson – I got angry. Not just a little angry – a LOT angry. My posts relating to Mayor Malesich and the Dillon City Government began to reflect that anger. I was no longer able to maintain even the semblance of objectivity. Each new perfidy performed by Malesich and Dillon Government simply made matters worse. I completely skipped over the good things that the Dillon City Council attempted to do and I certainly focused on the bad. It began to effect me – personally – and I was actually getting physically sick after attending City Council Meetings.

My heart attack was a wake up call. Even though my Doctor cannot even tell me for sure that I had a heart attack, it was certainly real enough for me. I am glad that the battery of tests came back saying I was extremely healthy – in fact, far more healthy than I should be given my age and lifestyle – but it was time to do some re-evaluation of my life and how I was living it. One of those things I had to evaluate was how blogging about the Dillon City Government was effecting my health.

Return to Blogging

I made the decision to return to blogging about the City Government because I feel it is important. The things being perpetrated against the Citizens of Dillon need to be reported – but so does the good the Dillon City Council accomplishes. I needed to return to some semblance of objectivity in my reporting about the things happening. More importantly, I had to get past the anger I felt about the personal attack made on me by Malesich and Troedsson.

I have taken what steps I can in dealing with that situation and I have let it go. What happens now is up to other people but I can finally let go of the anger because I know I have done what I can do. It is time to move on to other things.

I can now blog about the City Government without getting sick or take the situations personally. I will still get angry when I feel that the Dillon City Government does something wrong or illegal – it is my nature – but I will no longer take it as a personal attack on myself. I will be happier for it and my family will breath easier because I am no longer heading at breakneck speed for another heart attack.

Hopefully this explains my absence from the blogging world, and I hope that my writing will be better for having experienced it.

Moorcat

A Response to Mr. Plutt

Posted in City Government at 7:02 pm by Moorcat

I originally posted this as a comment to an earlier post – – Judiciary committee Meeting, 7-28-08 but, in fairness, it deserves it’s own post. I want to preface this with the following comments –

I have nothing but respect for J.P. Plutt. In a world where everything published in a newspaper or seen on a TV news report has to be scanned for the hidden bias, Mr. Plutt stands out in that he is very good at publishing THE NEWS as it really is. He is articulate and tends to try to strike at the heart of the matters he writes about. I also usually agree with his editorials and even when I don’t, I can at least understand the position he takes in them. I want to make it clear that I would love to see the situation he speaks about resolved in the manner he discusses. Unfortunately, I did not see the events occur in the manner he saw them and I feel it is important to point that out. I invite Mr. Plutt to come over at any time and we can sit down and watch the video of the meeting over a cold drink of his choice. I would love to discuss his take on how this idea could be implemented. I simply don’t believe that the Judiciary Committee – or the Dillon City Council – is discussing Mr. Plutt’s version of how this could be done and I certainly don’t believe that Mr. Gilbert will quietly accept the loss of his “pound of flesh”.

My Response –

J.P. Plutt wrote an editorial in the Dillon Tribune that was “interesting” about this meeting. In that editorial, he “waxes poetic” about the idea of hiring a Deputy Criminal Attorney and how – in his vision – it could save the City of Dillon $60,000. Unfortunately, he must have attended a different meeting than I did….

I will be penning a response to Mr. Plutt (though we will see if the Dillon Tribune bothers to print it), in which I will point out some very simple realities to Mr. Plutt –

1). Mr. Gilbert testified that he would need at least 40 hours a month to complete City Business (with his usual caviat that he might need more). 40 hours a month at $110.00 an hour is $4,400.00 a month and $52,000.00 a year – far in excess of the $19,800.00 Mr. Plutt sees in his fantasy world.

2) As Mr. Plutt stated in his article, the committee did talk about 40 hours a month for the proposed Deputy Criminal Attorney (again with the usual caviat that it might be more). Unfortunately, again Mr. Plutt travels to a fantasy world. Mr. Gilbert did bring up Mr. Finch’s replacement and Mr. Plutt stepped on Mr. Gilbert by pointing out that Mr. Finch was one of the highest paid Criminal Deputy Attorneys in the State. (Thank you for showing graphically that Mr. Gilbert will say anything to support his demands for higher wages…). Unfortunately for the Citizens of Dillon, that is NOT the number they are working with to determine the wages for their proposed Deputy Attorney. The actual number they were working with was $60.00 to $70.00 an hour based on another statement made by Gilbert. So let’s do the math (and we will even use the lower of the two wages being discussed). 40 hours a month at $60.00 an hour comes out to $2,400 a month and $28,800 a year. Total for both the Deputy City Attorney and Mr. Gilbert would be $80,800. Also keep in mind that this is just salary we are talking about. It doesn’t include the 13% over the top that Mr. Gilbert (and presumably the Deputy Attorney) gets in various benefits bringing the total closer to $91.304.00.

As one of the “fiscal conservative citizens” in attendance at that meeting, I do not see that the application of this “wonderful” idea – as contemplated by the Judiciary Committee as it stands – is much of an improvement over what we have now. It still means that Dillon Citizens are footing the bill for City Legal Services FAR in excess of any other city our size and even many cities much larger.

Thank you, J.P. for pointing out how simple and elegant the solution COULD be, but your take on that meeting was vastly different than mine…

Moorcat

Stealth Committee Meeting held Monday

Posted in City Government at 6:46 pm by Moorcat

Imagine my surprise when I showed up to the Judiciary Committee meeting at 3:00 on Monday, only to find out that there had been a Street and Alley Committee Meeting held at 1:00pm that same day. Now I must confess, I have a little advantage over most citizens in that I live with a City Councilwoman. She usually informs me of any upcoming meetings and I do spend a lot of time downtown checking the board outside City Hall to see what the City Government is up to. This meeting was pulled by stealth.

When I asked my wife if she had received notification of the meeting, she said that she hadn’t. That requires some explanation….

The City Notification Email List –

Without going into the “blow by blow” details on this issue, I will give a short recap. When I started investigating the Dillon City Government, I discovered that the City operates an email notification list. All of the City Council are on this list as well as various members of the community and City government – the Fire Marshall, the Chief of Police, the various members of the media that Malesich has deemed “official” and various citizens that Malesich has approved to be on it. After 4 unsuccessful attempts, I got myself added to the list.

Last year, in what appeared to be a fit of childish anger, Malesich decided to “re-write” the list, removing me from the distribution list. This situation was brought to the City Council and after much argument, the City Council passed a policy that an email notification list would be set up, and that any citizen requesting it would be added. Malesich, at first, refused to follow the City Council’s established policy and then grudgingly agreed – with the caviat that any requests would have to come to his office in writing (presumably this was to explain why he had not added me after 4 more requests to be added at multiple Council and Committee meetings). A few citizens in the Community did request – in writing – to be added.

By the time all this happened, my wife had been elected to the City Council. I was tired of playing the Mayor’s childish games and simply relied on the information she was receiving as a City Councilwoman. There were some meetings that were not announced over the list, but the excuse given was always that one of the office staff had forgotten to send out the announcement.

The Policy Changes –

After attending the Judiciary Committee Meeting, Councilwoman Kailey asked why she – as a sitting City Councilwoman – had not received notification of the Street and Alley Committee meeting. She was informed that Mayor Malesich had instructed the City Office Staff that “any committee meeting notifications are the responsibility of the Committee Chairperson” and that the City no longer sends out notifications over the email list.

This is in direct violation of the policy established by the City Council last year. Malesich has apparently decided that he (once again) no longer has to follow policies set by the duly elected City Council of Dillon. Malesich is the “Decider” and he is not required to follow the rules.

It is my understanding that this policy change will be addressed at the next City Council Meeting next week but if I miss a Committee Meeting in the interum… please don’t blame me. I can’t get downtown every day and the Dillon City Government has gone back to holding stealth meetings.

Moorcat

07.29.08

Judiciary committee Meeting, 7-28-08

Posted in City Government, Uncategorized at 10:51 pm by Moorcat

The Judiciary Committee of the Dillon City Council met at 3:00pm on Monday, July 28th to discuss two issues – the proposed Tree Ordinance for Dillon and the City Attorney’s Contract.

The Tree Ordinance

This ordinance is primarily designed to address the issues of dead/diseased trees in Dillon and how the City of Dillon deals with trees in City Limits. It was loosely based on similar ordinances from Belgrade, Bozeman and Missoula and written primarily by City Councilman Mike Riley.

Many questions were raised about the proposed ordinance including the scope of the ordinance, the rates the ordinance sets for tree removal and penalties for failing to comply with the Ordinance. Councilwoman Kailey raised the issue of whether it was wise to write an ordinance that gives the City power to dictate to property owners what they will or will not do on their own property and why would they want to give the City the authority to effect changes to someone’s private property. Mr. Riley assured her that the ordinance would only be used in emergency situations and that the City Council would have the authority to override decisions made by the “Tree Board”.

The Committee made minor adjustments to the ordinance and then voted to forward the ordinance to the Dillon City Council with the recommendation that it be passed.

Mr. Gilbert’s Contract

When this issue was brought up, the question was raised why it had been sent back to the Judiciary Committee. Mr. Riley stated he felt it was the administrative task of the Mayor to assign issues to committee and he wasn’t going to second guess the Mayor. The members of the committee discussed sending the contract – as originally forwarded – back to the City Council and then comments were solicitated from the others in attendance.

The question of the the cost of the Contract, as submitted was raised, as was the current overbudget situation. I presented my “Open Letter” to the committee. Mr. Riley spoke at length about ensuring that Mr. Gilbert was paid enough to run his office and that Dillon should be glad that Mr. Gilbert was their attorney because he had argued a case before the Supreme Court.

The question was called on whether to send the contract back to the City Council – Mr. Achter voted “yes” and Mr. McIssac voted “no”. Mr. Riley broke the tie by voting “no”.

In a surprise twist, Mr. Riley suggested hiring a “Criminal Deputy” that would handle all the criminal cases for the City, freeing up Mr. Gilbert to just work on City Municipal work. Many figures were floated on what that would cost the city and how many hours could be expected for each attorney. I made the observation that unless the City moved away from the “open ended hours” model, we would never be able to accurately budget for the City Attorney and the numbers being discussed were still far in excess of what other cities our size are paying for an attorney. Mr. Riley pointed out that Dillon “was stuck” with Mr. Gilbert’s original contract until January of 2009. Former Councilman Klakkan and Mr. Gilbert got into an exchange about billable hours VS actual hours worked, and the question was raised that if the City is paying Mr. Gilbert for his office staff, if they had the right to expect City Compensation. Mr. Gilbert quoted a figure for what an attorney had been hired in a similar situation and Mr. Plutt pointed out that the person Mr. Gilbert was refering to was one of the highest paid attorneys in that job. Mr. Gilbert also testified that he would still require $110.00 an hour regardless of whether a Deputy Attorney was hired.

Again a vote was taken on whether to recommend hiring a Criminal Deputy and the vote failed. Mr. Riley directed Mr. McIssac and Mr. Achter to do research on the idea of a Criminal Deputy so as to answer their concerns and that the Committee would meet again next week and discuss the idea further.

Summary –

I have some very serious concerns about the Tree Ordinance as written. Given the situation that just occured where the Mayor authorized the damage of private property without City Council involvement and (seemingly) without any authority by ordinance, what are the chances of a Mayor or Tree Board abusing an ordinance that does, seemingly, give them the authority? I have NO confidence that this administration, at least, is responsible enough with that authority and I am uncomfortable even contemplating what they will do with it. I will post a further critique of the Tree Ordinance once I have had the opportunity to study it further.

As far as Mr. Gilbert’s Contract is concerned, it is obvious that Mr. Gilbert is still demanding $110.00 an hour, retroactive to January 1, 2008. I question how that can even be done since the fiscal year closed on July 1, 2008, and you can’t do a budget adjustment after the Fiscal Year closes. There is also no question that at least Mr. Achter and Mr. Riley support that increase in Mr. Gilbert’s wages.

At this point, I do not see the Judiciary Committee stepping up to the plate to reduce the cost Mr. Gilbert represents to the City. If anything, they appear to be more than happy to give Mr. Gilbert the $110.00 an hour he is demanding from the City. The question of why the City of Dillon is expected to fund the office that Mr. Gilbert runs HIS PRIVATE PRACTICE out of also does not seem to be something anyone wants to discuss.

It seems that the Citizens of Dillon cannot expect any help or protection from the City Council. If the Citizens want to have any chance in curbing this ridiculous wage being paid to Gilbert, they are going to have to show up – en mass – to the meeting where that wage is being discussed. Maybe, just maybe, we might get someone to listen to us. Mrs. Kailey seems to understand. One can only hope that we can get the others to understand – and act.

Moorcat

07.28.08

Open letter to the Dillon City Council – Gilbert Contract

Posted in City Government at 5:53 pm by Moorcat

Today, Monday July 28th, the Judiciary Committee of the Dillon City Council is meeting at 3:00pm to discuss the status and future of the Contract for our City Attorney – Wilber Gilbert III. While it is no secret that I dislike (probably too weak a term…) and distrust Mr. Gilbert, there are some larger issues here that need to be addressed. I will be presenting the following verbal letter at this meeting –

An Open Letter to the Dillon City Council

We are here to discuss the contract for the Dillon City Attorney, the position currently held by Mr. Gilbert. In the contract before the Committee, Mr. Gilbert is demanding a pay raise that would result in a yearly salary of over $100,000.00. This is not in contention as this figure has already been discussed at a regular City Council Meeting and Mr. Gilbert himself admitted that the figure was accurate.

My dislike and distrust of Mr. Gilbert is already well known. I am not here to discuss my opinion of Mr. Gilbert. Instead I will focus on something far more important – the job of the City Council to protect the Citizens of Dillon and spend the money entrusted to you by the Citizens wisely and responcibly.

Mr. Gilbert’s Wage is already too high

The amount of money being demanded by Mr. Gilbert is nothing short of rediculous. The Montana League of Cities and Towns did a study in 2006 of what City Officials are paid in Cities throughout Montana and this study clearly indicates that Dillon is already paying far in excess of the average for a City our size – not only for the City Attorney, but for all of our City Employees. As a side note, it should be pointed out that Dillon did NOT report accurate figures to the Montana League of Cities and Towns. The figure that was reported for the City Attorney’s salary was $50,018.00. According the figures reported during the last budget cycle, Mr. Gilbert was actually paid $64,234.00, but that is a side discussion. I invite you all to actually look at that survey – I assure you that I will make that survey available to the Citizens of Dillon.

Some examples are – Lewiston, Population 5813, pays $37,800.00 for thier attorney. Sydney, Population 4774, pays $27,000 for thier attorney.

The bottom line here is that we already pay Mr. Gilbert far in excess of what other attorneys are paid in City of our size. Worse – and let me emphasize this as strongly as I can… – NO CITY IN MONTANA PAYS THIER ATTORNEY IN EXCESS OF $100,000.00. In fact – according to this report – the highest paid attorney reported was for Kalispell, with a starting wage of $66,812.00 and a top end of $93,537.00. I called to verify that this wage was for a FULLTIME attorney (and was actually told that it was for more than just the attorney).

A Reasonable Budget

Earlier this year, our 27″ TV started to fail. What I wanted to get to replace it was a really nice 60″ plasma TV. Unfortunately, they run in the neighborhood of $5,000.00. Our budget would allow us to spend around $500.00 on a new TV.

Did we go out and buy the big Plasma TV I wanted? No. We realised that we had to stay inside our budget – in other words, to be responcible. The 32″ flat screen TV we purchased (after researching the various models available and searcing around to find a good deal), is more than adequate for me to watch my movies on. It is vastly superior to our previous TV and we are satisfied that we got the best we could afford.

Dillon needs you – the City Council – to show similar responcibility with our money. It is obvious by the survey conducted by the Montana League of Cities and Towns that attorneys are available for FAR less than what we are paying Mr. Gilbert. When this contract was first adopted by the City Council – forced on the City by Mayor Malesich’s “Tie Breaking Vote”, no research was done to find a more reasonably priced attorney for Dillon. In fact, when a number of City Councilmen demanded that alternatives to Mr. Gilbert be placed on the agenda, Malesich massaged the Agenda to force a vote on Gilbert BEFORE those alternatives could be discussed. The Dillon City Council failed to protect us – the Citizens of Dillon – from the irresponcible waste of our money that contract represented. You now have a chance to correct that mistake. We are waiting to see if you actually act this time.

Going Over Budget

Mayor Malesich and Mr. Gilbert have already shown that they do not care how much money is spent on the City Attorney. They have defied the previous Dillon City Council by going seriously overbudget in the last fiscal cycle – a situation the Dillon City Council has yet to address. There is no reason to expect that they will not do the same thing in this budget cycle. The Dillon City Council is responcible for managing the City’s finances by setting a reasonable budget and the departments of the City are REQUIRED to spend WITHIN that budget. This seems not to apply to the City Attorney. There is no assurance in this contract that the same situation won’t develop this fiscal year – the damage being far worse if you approve the increase in Mr. Gilbert’s salary.

Questions that need answers

There are a number of questions and issues that I feel need to be addressed in this, and subsequent hearings on this subject. These are –

1) What policies are the Dillon City Council going to adopt or establish to prevent the serious overbudget situation that currently exists from occuring again?

2) What legal council is the Dillon City Council going to use to review the contract and ensure that Dillon (and by extension the Citizens of Dillon) are protected? This obviously can’t be Mr. Gilbert (or his attorney) as Mr. Gilbert stands to Financially Gain from this contract.

3) What steps are the Dillon City Council going to take to ensure that the Mayor does not circumvent any discussion of alternatives to Mr. Gilbert’s Contract.

These three things are essencial to discuss if the Dillon City Council is serious about being financially responcible for the money entrusted to them by the Citizens of Dillon.

My request of you

As a citizen of Dillon, I am requesting that you stop overspending our money on an overpriced attorney. I request you set a reasonable limit on what this city can afford for our Attorney ($45,000.00 a year is high but a lot more reasonable than $100,000.00) and then find an Attorney that is willing to work for that amount. They obviously exist given the data collected by the Montana League of Cities and Towns and there is no reason to think that Dillon would be incapable of finding an attorney for that amount. Beaverhead County just hired a FULLTIME attorney for $68,000.00. We are only looking for a half-time attorney.

If Mr. Gilbert wants to work for that amount, fine. He can follow the same interview and vetting process any other prospective attorney has to follow in applying for the job. He can explain his win/loss record, and his experience in how competant he is in Municipal and Criminal Law. He even has the advantage given that he has held the position for several years.

Keep in mind, though, that Mr. Gilbert stands to Financially Benefit from any discussion about a new contract. Anything he says or inputs is suspect given that very fact. He is more than welcome to try to convince you that he should be paid that salary, but make no mistake – he is trying to get more money from the City and his arguments are going to try to support that.

The Cost of Doing Business

Mr. Gilbert runs a private practice. He is more than welcome to charge anything he wants to his private clients. They have the ability to say “No, Mr. Gilbert, you are charging too much and we will find another lawyer”. Unfortunately, the Citizens of Dillon don’t have that luxury. We depend on you – the duly elected representatives – to say that for us.

Mr. Gilbert made a statement when this new contract was brought before the Dillon City Council. He said that the requested wages are “a function of doing business”. I posit to you that the statement he made is incomplete. The full statement should have been that “it is the cost of doing business… with Mr. Gilbert”. I think it is high time that Mr. Gilbert be given his “pink slip” and that the elected City Council of Dillon find a more reasonable Attorney for the job of City Attorney.

Kenneth Kailey
Ward 4 Citizen
Moorcat

The Nuremberg Defense

Posted in City Government at 4:06 pm by Moorcat

Something both Bob Cottom and J.S. Turner said on Thursday when they were tearing up Mr. Brenneke’s and Mr. Warner’s property has been bothering me all weekend. As usual, when something bothers me, I write it down…

“My boss told me to”

At Mr. Brenneke’s house, prior to work starting, Mr. Cottom made the statement that he was only following orders in tearing up Mr. Brenneke’s property. Later, at Mr. Warner’s house, Mr. Turner made a similar statement (captured on video).

What bother’s me about these statements is that a person only makes that kind of statement when they are concerned about their actions being wrong. It is a way to “pass the buck” of responcibility to someone else. By making that statement, they are saying “I know what I am doing is questionable but I have been told to do it by someone else, so don’t blame me”.

The Nuremberg Defense

The most famous use of this defense was at the Nuremberg Trials after WWII. Many of the German Officers and Leaders were on trial for War Crimes and, almost to a man, they used the defense “I was only following orders”. This didn’t work out too well for those men as most of them were hung by the neck until dead.

In fact, in American Law, as I understand it, this is taken even farther. In the Military – the most structured part of American Society – there is actually a rule that says you are REQUIRED to refuse to follow an order you believe to be illegal. It is printed in black and white in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In Civilian Law, it is stated quite clearly that “ignorance of the law is not a defense”. Again, you are not required to follow the illegal orders of a superior. If you do, you can be held just as responcible as the person giving the orders. Case after case proves this out.

There is no question that there are some very serious issues involved in what Mayor Malesich ordered done at Mr. Brenneke’s and Mr. Warner’s house. Unfortunately for Mr. Turner and Mr. Cottom, thier backsides are just as far out on that limb as Malesich’s is. I hope they realised that when they started digging those rather large holes on someone else’s property. Make no mistake – this WILL see the inside of a courtroom. We will see if the Nuremberg Defense actually works in Dillon Montana.

Moorcat

07.25.08

Malesich responds to Warner

Posted in City Government at 2:54 am by Moorcat

As I reported two days ago, Former Dillon Mayor George Warner published a letter in the Dillonite Daily in response to a threatening demand penned by City Attorney Gilbert to comply with the installation of a new electronic water meter in Mr. Warner’s residence. Today, Mayor Malesich’s reply was posted in the Dillonite Daily. I will post the response in it’s entirety, since it was addressed to the Citizens of Dillon – and comment on each section a piece at a time…

Read the rest of this entry »

07.24.08

Two Big Holes

Posted in City Government at 11:46 pm by Moorcat

Surprise installation

As I reported on Tuesday, the Dillon City Water Department was scheduled to arrive at Former Mayor Warner’s house at 2:00pm today to install the new electronic water meter. In the letter sent to him by Dillon City Attorney Gilbert, it stated that the meter would be installed in a Meter Pit outside the residence if Mr. Warner refused to give the Water Dept. access to the home and the charges for the installation would be charged to Mr. Warner. I also stated in that post that these letters were sent to other Dillon citizens that had refused to have the new meters installed.

This morning, at about 8:30am, I was informed that Mr. Warner’s installation was actually the second installation planned for the day. Former Councilman Martin Brenneke’s installation was scheduled to take place at 10:00am. Since I didn’t have time to go home and get my camera prior to the installation, I went directly to Mr. Brenneke’s house.

The installation at Mr. Brenneke’s house

Asst. Police Chief Craft arrived shortly before 10:00am. He spoke with Mr. Brenneke and informed him that he was there “just to keep the peace”.

At 10:00, Mr. Cottom from the Dillon Water Department arrived and asked Mr. Brenneke if they would be allowed to install the meter in the house. Mr. Brenneke reiterated that he had still not received the requested information and that the Water Department would not be allowed access to his residence. He also asked Mr. Cottom to try not to damage his landscaping or his underground sprinkler system. Mr. Cottom got angry at this point and stated that they could dig if they wanted. “The City owns 12 feet onto your property”, he claimed. After he exhanged a few more words with Mr. Brenneke, he left.

By 10:30, three members of the Dillon Water Department had arrived as well as a backhoe and dumptruck. The Director of Operations, J.S. Turner, had also arrived and discussed the situation with Asst. Chief Craft.

At 10:35, Mr Turner and Officer Craft approached Mr. Brenneke and asked one more time if they would be allowed to install the meter in the house. Mr. Brenneke replied that “on the advice of my legal council”, they would not be given access. At this point, the Water Department began digging. Given the location of the stop valve and the location the water line, it was necessary to remove the sidewalk in the area completely and dig approximately 6 feet into Mr. Brenneke’s lawn and landscaping.

After two hours of digging and exposing the pipe, I was informed by Asst. Chief Craft that even though the job underway was not completed, the installation and Warner’s house would still proceed at 2:00. I left Mr. Brenneke’s house, returned home and picked up my camera.

Installation at Mr Warner’s House

I arrived about 15 minutes early to Mr. Warner’s house and set up my camera. Former Councilman Mike Klakkan was in attendance with a video camera and various bystanders were there watcing the procedings. J.P. Plutt from the Dillon Tribune was also there.

Mr. Warner and Asst. Chief Craft conferred and Mr. Warner explained to Mr. Craft his intentions. At 2:00, Water Department personel began to arrive. Mr. Warner and Mr. Turner had a short conference, mediated by Asst. Chief Craft. Mr. Turner asked again whether Mr. Warner would allow them access to the house to replace the meter, and Mr. Warner said “No”. Mr. Warner explained to Mr. Turner that he had already arranged to have a private plumber do the work of replacing the line all the way to the house and asked if the permit for that work had been approved. Mr. Turner stated that the question had nothing to do with the meter installation and appeared to begin to get visibly upset. Mr. Warner also explained what laws he felt were being violated. Mr. Turner stated that he was only doing what “my boss told me to do”.

Next, Mr. Cottom reluctantly agreed to answer a single question from Mr. Warner at the behest of Asst. Chief Craft. Mr. Warner asked again if at permit had been approved by Mr. Cottom. Mr. Cottom stated that “there was no permit to sign”.

Work began with the Water Dept. using a backhoe to first remove the asphalt curb and then to dig into the ground around the stop valve along the water line. J.P. got up to leave and asked the summer hire for the water department his name for the paper. At this point, J.S. Turner got visibly upset and stated that J.P. couldn’t use any pictures that included the young man. J.P. and J.S. exchanged words for a short period of time and then J.P. went inside with Mr. Warner to conduct an interview.

Councilwoman Kailey showed up on her way home from work and stopped to discuss the situation with both Mr. Brenneke and Mr. Warner (as well as bring her poor overheating husband a cold soft drink….). They discussed the matter at length. Shortly afterward, Councilwoman Kailey and I left.

Litigation

At both residences – Mr. Brenneke’s and Mr. Warner’s – I was informed that litigation over this situation is “inevitable” at this point. Whether that litigation is criminal or civil remains to be seen. Both men claim to have legal council and are determined to proceed with complaints.

Mr. Turner stated at both residences that the owners (Mr. Brenneke and Mr. Warner) would be responsible to pay for the installation of the meter pits. If they refused to pay, a lien would be assessed against their property.

Summary and Observations

To Asst. Chief Craft – Your were nothing if not professional all day. You displayed exceptional mediation skills and even though there was little confrontation, those that did occur, you were able to soften rapidly. My hat’s off to you.

I wanted to get that out first. I was very impressed by Asst. Chief Craft’s behavior and demeanor throughout the day..

In fact, almost everyone dealt with what can only be called a potentially explosive situation today with calm and aplomb.. the exception being Mr. Cottom.

I realise that Mr. Cottom is in a bad situation – being caught in the middle. Unfortunately, that does not excuse the confrontational and aggressive behavior he displayed at Mr. Brenneke’s house. Other than J.S. Turner’s short exchange with J.P. Plutt, everyone was maintaining a calm atmosphere and there was no need or call to be abrasive, dismissive or abusive to Mr. Brenneke.

In summary, a VERY difficult legal and political situation was handled with – mostly – calm disagreement and the end result is that the two electronic meters were installed against the propery owner’s wishes. I am sure that the litigation stemming from this fiasco will continue for years but at least no one got arrested… Yet. I will post a few pictures that I took of the excavations as well as a short interview with Mr. Warner in the coming days.

Moorcat

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