Despite the fact that Stevensville Mayor Brandon Dewey was sticking by his veto of the Town Council’s June 13th appointment of Jim Crews to fill the council vacancy in Ward 2, Crews was sworn in as councilmember by Town Judge Maureen O’Conner on the sidewalk in front of Town Hall on the following Tuesday, June 25.
Dewey vetoed the council’s decision based on his belief that the public notice was inadequate, primarily due to the failure to name in the agenda item the candidate that was slated for appointment.
Following the appointment, Mayor Dewey asked the Town’s attorney Brian West if the Town’s appointment of Crews was legal and got a reply on June 19 stating, “Yes.” But adding, “The Council was authorized to suspend rules and proceed to appoint a replacement for the vacant seat. It would be advisable in future agenda language to separate actions and define who the applicant is to avoid the possibility of a challenge under the Public’s Right to Know.”
Based on that opinion, council president Bob Michalson sent an email to the mayor informing him that they would proceed with the swearing in of the appointed candidate.
Dewey responded by email, stating, “Mr. West’s opinion does not invalidate the veto that was issued on Friday. The only way to truly determine whether my veto is binding would to seek a ruling from the District Court. The same would be true if we wanted a ruling on the unconstitutionality of the appointment altogether, which I am entirely prepared to do.
“The veto has been issued. Council must act on that veto regardless of Brian’s opinion. Municipal Code clearly states that: ‘No ordinance or resolution so vetoed by the mayor shall go into effect unless the same is afterwards passed by two-thirds vote of the whole number of members of the council.’ Therefore, you have the option to override my veto at the next council meeting based on
the reasons that were provided by legal counsel. Until you meet to override the veto though, no action can be taken.
“This is the position of the administration. No action whatsoever will be taken by myself or my staff to accommodate the swearing in of Mr. Crews.”
The Mayor in fact did not recognize the oath ceremony and use of Town Hall space was limited for the unpublicized swearing in ceremony due to interviews being held for the vacant Clerk and Finance Officer positions.
Nonetheless, supporters of Crews did show up and Judge O’Conner held the swearing in ceremony on the sidewalk in front of Town Hall. Crews and Michalson took the paperwork from the judge and hustled off to the county courthouse to file the documents.
Since then, Mayor Dewey told the Bitterroot Star that he had informed Crews that his administration did not recognize the swearing in as valid since the appointment was illegal.
“Basically, he said I needed to prove it. He said that I needed to send him an attorney opinion and state the reasons,” said Dewey.
Dewey said he intended to do that, and in the meantime, he said, he considers the veto in effect.
Crews said at the swearing in ceremony that he was just trying to do the best job he can for the Town of Stevensville, “Like I’ve always done,” he said. “You know that.”