08.14.08

Budget meetings

Posted in City Government at 9:10 pm by Moorcat

I have been attending the City Council Budget Meetings and will report on them once they are completed. I am waiting till then to report on them because there is a lot of give and take that goes on in these meetings and nothing is final until they settle the differences.

That said, there are a few things that do need to be pointed out up front. –

1) Like last year, the budget submitted to the City Council by the Mayor’s administration was seriously in the red – like over $87,000.00 in the red. It will be a trick to see how the City Council manages to slash enough out the Mayor’s budget to break even. They also have to take into consideration that some money has be put aside as a cash reserve. The issues with the Fire Hall budget last year developed because not enough money was put aside and when certain revenues didn’t come in as expected, it created a problem.

2) It appears that the City is going to try to use a number of tactics to develop more revenue – including an SID to pave Glendale street, and a number of mill levy requests to fund certain items in the budget. Given the almost $2,000,000.00 shortfall in the Police Retirement Fund that is still unaddressed, it remains to be seen if the Citizens of Dillon are willing to approve ANY further tax money to the City.

3) Certain statutory deadlines have already passed for some of the items in the budget – most notably, the deadlines for the Special Maintenence Districts. To date, no public hearing has been held (as required by statute) and no resolution has been passed. They have discussed a number of things but no resolution has been presented to the City Council. Councilman Straugh wants to raise the amount levied again this year but it is uncertain whether the rest of the council is willing to vote for that. Last year the City Council raised the “per foot” amount from $.50 a foot to $.80 a foot (an increase of 60%). There was a lot of contention about that increase and the way it was done and many property owners protested their taxes because of it. There are still members of the community that claim they want to sue the city over that increase.

4) The City Council voted to increase the amount levied for the Special Lighting District from $.43 to $.49.

Moorcat

08.06.08

Why I hate election years…

Posted in State and Federal Politics at 11:37 pm by Moorcat

I don’t spend as much time now reading the blogs as I used to (and certainly not as much I probably should) but there are some blogs I read everyday. The five blogs I list in my “blogroll” are blogs I read everyday – until an election year. I hate reading the blogs in an election year. My reasons are pretty simple –

1) Blind Partisanship –

Nothing disgusts me more than the tendancy of certain people – usually rational and logical – to throw out all pretense at “informed decision making” during an election year. It seems more and more, that the letter following a candidate’s name (D or R) is more important than anything – including values, truth, or even common sense. More over, it seems that these people are so invested in their partisanship that they immediately attack ANYONE – even someone that believes in the same value system they do – if any disparaging remark is made about THEIR candidate. The amount of blind – dare I say, hatred – astounds and confuses me. Maybe I am a dinosaur, but I still believe that a candidate should stand for something more than just a stuffed suit. These people are running for a position where they will represent ME – and that is damn important. I want to see more than just that they are a member of a political party. I want to see what these people actually stand for and what they have actually done.

2) Attack and Damage Control –

It used to be you would see ads for Candidates where they discussed their accomplishments and the platforms they stood on. Now what you get are “Hit Ads”. Each side of the political spectrum engages in this behavior and it doesn’t matter which side started it or who is better at it. If both sides engage in this behavior, they are BOTH wrong. I don’t want to see what dirt you dig up on your opponent. I want to see what the candidates, themselves, stand for.

The other side of the coin is just as true anymore. Candidates spend more time doing “damage control” – explaining the dirt the other side dug up, minimizing past mistakes, outright lying about their previous stances and changing positions on the issues more often than they change their underwear – than they do taking a stand on the basic issues facing the American Public. We live in the age of “political stunts” and “bad politics” to the point where we accept and expect those behaviors. This is insanity, plain and simple. I could give you a dozen examples – from both sides of the aisle – but I don’t have to because any reasoning and semi-intelligent person is already aware of them.

The system itself is designed for failure –

For all the promises made by all these candidates, how many of the issues are actually addressed? The Republicans like to point to the Democrats currently and say “now you all control Congress.. how come nothing has changed?”. The sad fact, though, is that the Democrats DON’T control Congress. There aren’t enough Democrats to override a minority push to kill or slow an action and there certainly aren’t enough to overcome a presidential veto. If action isn’t being accomplished, it is because BOTH sides of the aisle have failed, and that is a failure for the American People, not the stuffed suits sitting in Congress. The only way things are ever going to get accomplished (right or wrong) is if either the stuffed suits learn to get along (not bloody likely…) or one side gets enough control to ACTUALLY control Congress.

My stand –

I am a conservative. I believe in smaller government, accountability for our representatives and fiscal responsibility. That used to be the mantra of the Republican Party but not so much anymore. Instead, you hear them crow about how much Pork they can bring back and how the Government can solve all the woes of the world – either through “police actions” like what is going on in Iraq or through Government handouts to the filthy rich like Exxon. Where is the fiscal conservatism of 30 years ago? Where is the action to curb government spending and growth? It has gone into the same hopper as every other value held by the Republicans I worked with in the early 80’s.

Anymore, it almost appears that the Democrats are running on a platform traditionally held by the Republicans. “I have seen the enemy, and it be us” (yes, I know that is a misquote..). How did this happen? When did this happen, and why didn’t we do anything about it? One of the statements I have seen on a couple of blogs recently that I actually agree with is that there isn’t all that much difference between the parties anymore. Neither one seems accountable to their constituancy and nothing seems to change regardless of what party is “in control”.

So the next time you want to showcase a new “hit ad” on your political website, stop for second and think about if that ad really portrays the values you hold. If you are just posting it because it comes from your party, you are part of the problem, not the solution.

Moorcat

08.01.08

Special Finance Committee Meeting called

Posted in City Government at 12:28 am by Moorcat

A Special Finance Committee Meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, August 5th at 12:00 noon in City Council Chambers. This is in addition to the regulary scheduled Finance Committee Meeting set for the same day at 4:00pm.

The Agenda for the meeting is –

1) Fire Department Excess Expenditures
2) Payments for City Attorney
3) Public Comments on Subjects not on the Agenda

Background

This is actually the first I have heard about the Fire Department exceeding their budget and until I know more about the situation, I am unwilling to comment. The announcement for the meeting did not contain any additional information so I am kind of in the dark on this item – other than it will entail much of the same difficulties as the second item on the agenda.

The issue with Mr. Gilbert was a given. When the budget meetings began back in May, it was already obvious that Mr. Gilbert was going to exceed his budget spectacularly. With May and June’s pay still to go, Mr. Gilbert was already over $1,500.00 over budget. Further, there were still outstanding bills totalling over $5,000.00 for hours Mr. Gilbert worked in excess of 55 hours a month. The amount of money owed Mr. Gilbert overbudget at this point was not disclosed in the meeting message but it has to be in excess of $10,000.00 based on the figures presented during the budget talks.

Mr. Gilbert submitted a request to be paid the outstanding amount to the City Council at the last City Council meeting. I was not in attendance, so I am not sure how much that bill was or what Mr. Gilbert was claiming it was for.

Over budget and Past deadline –

The issues here are simple to describe but seemingly hard to resolve. Montana Law is specific about how a City is required to Budget and spend money. While a City is allowed to NOT spend budgeted money, any money spent OVER budget requires a Budget Amendment. You are allowed to shift money around in a budget account, but you are not allowed to exceed the budgeted amount for an account.

In the case of Mr. Gilbert, they had already shifted money around in his account to pay some of the overages. Unfortunately, Mr. Gilbert submitted hours that exceeded the entire amount for the account. Further, no budget amendment was ever done to address the issue.

To complicate matters, the Budget year ended on July 1, 2008. I have been informed that a City is not allowed to do “retroactive” budget amendments after the fiscal year has ended.

What it will take to resolve this situation is anyone’s guess. In conversations with two seperate accountants, they were unable to suggest a solution that meets the requirements of Montana Municipal Finance Law. Further, any information from Mr. Gilbert is suspect because he stands to financially gain from the decision of the City Council. This is not a small matter and will take some serious consideration to resolve.

Kudos to Councilman Straugh

As I reported yesterday, Mayor Malesich has issued a policy to his office staff that they will no longer send out notifications over the announcement list about Committee Meetings. Apparently, Mr. Straugh made a special request that notification about this meeting be sent out to all the City Council. Further Malesich required that the meeting announcement be sent to Rick Later and Scott Marsh of the Fire Department. Thank you, Councilman Straugh for at least insisting that the meeting announcement be sent to the Council.

Moorcat

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

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