The Stevensville Town Council, at a special meeting held on July 3rd, over-rode the Mayor’s veto of its appointment of Jim Crews to serve on the council.
Crews, who was appointed to the Ward 2 seat unanimously at the last meeting. Mayor Brandon Dewey then issued a veto of that decision and refused to acknowledge the appointment, claiming that it was done in violation of public participation laws. Nevertheless, Crews was sworn in by Town Judge Maureen O’Conner on the sidewalk and it was registered at the county courthouse. (Note: It was mistakenly reported in the Star that Crews was sworn in as mayor. He was sworn in as council member.)
At the latest special meeting, held in part to address the Mayor’s veto, Crews was not initially seated. It was only following a unanimous vote by the council to over-ride the Mayor’s veto that he was seated at the table as councilperson for Ward 2.
Council member Robin Holcomb stated in the discussion of the veto that the Mayor only had the authority to veto resolutions and ordinances and that the action they took to appoint Crews was neither a resolution nor an ordinance.
Mayor Dewey stated that his claim is that the legal definition of a resolution is an order by the governing body that some specific action be taken concerning an issue of significance. He said that is just what the council did, and that no formal documentation of a resolution was needed.
Council member Stacie Barker said, “I feel that if Judge O’Conner did not feel that it was appropriate that she would not have sworn in Crews.” She said their attorney Brian West had ruled that it was a legal appointment.
Mayor Dewey said that the attorney cannot rule on an issue; only the court can and that the attorney just stated his opinion.
Council president Bob Michalson read aloud an email he and the mayor received from Town Attorney Brian West. In the email, West states his opinion again that Crews was legitimately appointed to the council as a representative of Ward 2. He notes that the only two conditions placed on the appointment by law were that the appointment be confirmed by the legislative body and that he had taken the oath and that both those conditions had been met. He stated that it is not the mayor, but the voters, who must decide if it is the right appointment.
West also asserted that the mayor has no authority to veto the appointment, so no vote to over-ride was necessary. He said he would like to see another attorney’s opinion of the matter if Mayor Dewey had one. He said he believed it was the Mayor who needs to go to court and challenge the appointment.
“I believe the burden is on you and you should bring the matter before the court,” he stated to the Mayor.
He suggested that the way to proceed that evening would be to seat Crews at the table as a member and let the Mayor make his objections and then take whatever actions he deemed necessary.
Council member Holcomb noted that when she was appointed her name was not on the agenda.
Mayor Dewey said that the council had been inconsistent in that regard and that in this case he felt like the public was not aware that Crews, who had withdrawn his application, was going to be appointed.
Crews spoke in agreement with the town’s attorney. He said no resolution was made and the mayor only has power to veto resolutions and ordinances.
“I implore you not to confirm or deny the mayor’s veto of the council’s appointment,” he told the council. “It is not in his authority. By voting either way you could set a precedent that would allow any future mayor to veto any motion made and approved on the floor.”
The motion, which was “to invalidate the mayor’s veto,” was approved unanimously and Crews then took a seat at the table for the rest of the meeting.
The Council balked at confirming the Mayor’s appointment of Scott Owens as the new Town Attorney and the matter was tabled until July 11, in order for the council to have an opportunity to interview both Owens and the Town’s current attorney, Brian West, the only two applicants for the position.
The Mayor’s appointment of Robert Underwood as Finance Officer at the wage of $21 per hour was approved unanimously.