Ravalli County Attorney Bill Fulbright recently found former Stevensville Town Council member and current candidate for council seat Bob Michalson’s ethics complaint against Mayor Brandon Dewey to be invalid.
Michalson’s allegation against the Mayor had to do with the additional compensation that the Town Council approved on May 23, 2019. Michalson alleges that in accepting the compensation, Dewey was taking on another job. Michalson claims this “clearly violates MCA 2-2-104 rules of conduct” and that the Mayor “cannot hold two separate jobs at once.”
Fulbright, in a letter to Michalson dated November 1, 2019, notes that Section 2-2-104 provides, in part, that “a public officer, legislator, or public employee may not receive salaries from two separate public employment positions that overlap for the hours being compensated.”
Based on a review of the recorded meeting, however, Fulbright concludes that the law was not violated by the council’s actions and the mayor’s acceptance of the compensation because there was no second job. Fulbright quotes from the record Councilperson Robin Holcomb’s motion, “that we give our Mayor a temporary compensation of $25 an hour for administration during the finance officer and town clerk recruitment, hiring, and onboarding, and not to exceed 30 hours a week.”
Fulbright notes that the motion failed, “but then passed on reconsideration without any amendment or revision.” What they authorized, according to Fulbright, was “a temporary increase in the Mayor’s compensation, but it did not create a situation in which he was receiving “salaries from two separate public employment positions.” For the same reason, he found that the doctrine of incompatible offices was not violated either.
“I do not find the complaint is justified, and decline to file an action alleging an ethics violation,” wrote Fulbright.
He told Michalson that even though he was declining to file the complaint, other legal remedies could be pursued. According to statute, he writes, “the person alleging a violation of this part may file a civil action in district court seeking a civil fine of not less than $50 or more than $1,000. In an action filed under this subsection, the court may assess the costs and attorney fees against the person bringing the charges if the court determines that a violation did not occur. The court may impose sanctions if the court determines that the action was frivolous or intended for harassment.”