Tuesday, June 16, 2009

City Is Sued

Last Friday in state District Court, Susan Overfield filed a lawsuit against the City pertaining to her expulsion two years ago from a City Commission meeting.

I was at that City Commission meeting.

I can say that prior to being "escorted" out of the chambers, Ms Overfield was not "loud and poorly behaved" as the city prosecutor claimed during her Municipal court trial. She most definitely was intent on finishing what she had come to say, but at no time at the podium did I feel she was "loud and poorly behaved". Yes, she was told her time was up, but please keep in mind that Mayor Stebbins has on more than one occasion allowed certain folks to go over the time limit; but, and this is a big but, it depends on who you are and what you are saying.

Ms. Overfield was found guilty at that trial, but that decision was overturned by District Court Judge Julie Macek in February of this year.

Ms. Overfield is now suing for "general and special damages, loss of past and future earnings, compensation for pain and suffering, and attorneys' fees".

City Attorney Dave Gliko was not aware of the suit, but indicated that the City will submit information to its insurance carrier and they will determine if they will provide coverage and step in to defend the city.


Anonymous said...

If I recall correctly there was a hearing that night in which public comment should have been allowed without time limit.

As has been stated before Montana Code Annotated says OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT can be purposeful or negligent of any mandatory task.

Allowing comment during a public hearing is a mandatory task.

Anonymous said...

Gliko out the lunch - again and again. Us taxpayers will pay in 'the end', no matter if an insurance carrier comes in. HOW will the city commission justify this, and after all, wasn't Mr. Gliko the 'architect' of the time-limits? I don't advocate vulgar and profane language, but citizens must be encouraged to participate AND our elected officials are expected to respond.

Anonymous said...

I was there at this fateful commission meeting:

The subject Ms. Overfield was addressing was an earlier item on the commission’s agenda for that evening.

She was apparently addressing an earlier animal shelter/control agenda item but, doing so during the public's open comment period, where her time could/would be restricted by the NEW three minute ruling (a point she apparently was not familiar with).

According to Ms. Overfield's civil testimony that evening this animal shelter topic somehow involved the mayor in costly proposed changes she (Ms. Overfield) was opposed to (now proven to be the case and costing the city currently hundred's of thousands perhaps millions before it is all settled).

These comments of Ms. Overfield's obviously upset the mayor who then strictly enforced the NEW three minute ruling on Ms. Overfield by having her forcibly removed by unknown persons (something previously never done before at a GF commission meeting).

At that time very few of us realized there was several plain clothes police officers in the chambers who (without first identifying themselves) physically and very forcefully removed this lady from the podium and commission chambers and out into the hallway. We later learned that she was arrested and her documentation seized.

She was understandably trying to defend herself from these unidentified persons (now known to be undercover police) suddenly grabbing her from behind and trying to drag her forcefully away. Not only was that shocking to watch, but others and myself wanted to hear what she had to say on this important topic. To this day I have never heard her complete testimony on this. It should be very interesting to hear at the trial, if that occurs!

All present, myself included, were much surprised and upset by this reaction from our mayor and city to suppress free speech, in this manner, especially at the public's podium. Completely uncalled for in this circumstance.

The mayor needs some serious lessons on how to run and properly maintain control of a public meeting. Our police department needs some serious training in properly identifying and handling themselves under these sort of circumstances. Had they and she done so intelligently all parties would now be much happier!

This situation was entirely preventable. It was the wrong approach to this minor (unfair) rules violation by mayor Stebbins and will probably cost our city dearly in tax dollars to defend and/or settle. It also made our police department appear out of control.

Maybe the new police mill levy can cover these court and settlement costs? Hang on as our taxes are going to go through the roof to cover not only this fiasco, but also several other ongoing plunders by our city leadership (can you say ECP/HGS)!

It is past time for changing our political leadership at city hall. The current old guard commissioners and mayor are apparently very afraid of the citizens they are purported to represent and instead opt to repress citizen involvement and comment as much as possible.

They certainly do not tolerate very well any sort of constructive criticism and hide and obscure facts from the public (Need I say SME secret box). All these problems and obstructions are linked to their poor rubber stamp management and some inept city staff!

By the way our current mayor has practiced this same secret police control tactic of restricting citizen rights to free speech several other times in the recent past, picking on some highly respected local citizens respectfully speaking at the public's podium during public open meetings and, I believe, improperly utilizing our police force in Gestapo tactics against the public!

Why do we need and put up with these distasteful tactics at our public city commission meeting in this town? I assume our police force has more pressing things to do? Like responding to 911 calls for help! Oh, oh I hit a nerve - another possible lawsuit in the wings we will probably have to pay for.....