By Susan Devlin, Stevensville
I thought I had become accustomed, to some extent, to council member’s lying. However, I found myself genuinely appalled at a recent bold faced lie by Council member Holcomb, after watching the May 21, 2020 Board of Adjustments meeting regarding a variance request by property owner, David Laursen. My comments contained in this letter can be verified by watching the Town’s video recording of that meeting, or listening to the audio, both of which are available on the Town’s website for review and inspection. I am also including approximate times that events I reference took place.
Council member Holcomb, on the record and acting in her official capacity as a Board of Adjustment member, pronounced at this meeting that she had only had one e-mail from Bob Michalson related to Mr. Laursen’s variance but did not answer it. She said that her vote was based on her own impressions of the issue and what she had learned during the variance hearing (can be heard at approximately 1:05:55 into the meeting). Holcomb then voted “aye”, supporting approval of Mr. Laursen’s request. She took this action knowing full well that the request did not meet the Town’s laws and regulations in a number of ways. And also that it was against the Town’s consultant’s advice, who had reviewed the request and recommended to the Board of Adjustments to deny the variance, providing solid reasons for the denial.
Holcomb’s blatant lie was exposed only seconds later when Council member Devlin read into the record several e-mail correspondences between Holcomb, Michalson and Laursen. Council member Devlin explained the legal gravity of the behind-the-scenes interactions of Holcomb and Michalson and further explained that by not disclosing these interactions, they had placed the Town into a possible serious legal liability (approximately 1:06:47 into the meeting).
It was then and only then that Holcomb withdrew her vote and admitted that she had been in communication with Mr. Laursen for several months – which is totally different than her statement at approximately 1:05:55 – an out and out lie. She tried to justify her lie by saying Mr. Laursen wasn’t getting the assistance he needed from Town Hall (approximately 1:08:23 into the meeting).
This in itself is appalling for several reasons. Why did she feel the need to lie? What were her motives to lie? Why was she involved in behind-the-scenes dealings about a request that was obviously against our zoning Codes? Why didn’t she disclose her behind-the-scenes communications until she was caught redhanded? Why did she turn a blind eye to the consultant’s report detailing how the request did not meet the Town’s zoning codes and regulations? What else is going on behind-the-scenes that we don’t know about, but should?
People involved in Stevensville, whether you live within the town’s limits or in the 59870 zip code area, we have been quiet way too long and need to hold our elected and appointed representatives accountable for their actions. Lying on the record and supporting projects that are against the Town’s very own laws should not and cannot be tolerated. I urge everyone to start asking questions and take an active role in what is happening right under our noses.