Stevensville mayor defends recommendation to replace town’s attorney

Posted at 7:10 AM, Jul 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-10 12:05:50-04

STEVENSVILLE – Stevensville Mayor Brandon Dewey is proposing the town hire a new city attorney, saying it’s time to change up the jurisdiction’s legal representation.

But members of the Town Council are crying foul, accusing the mayor of replacing the attorney because he didn’t get a favorable opinion on a recent council appointment.

During last week’s special Town Council meeting, Mayor Dewey proposed the town issue a new contract for its legal services, hiring Scott Owens to take over as the city’s counsel.

“I have had the opportunity to discuss, on a couple of occasions, the dynamics of the town and the needs of the town with Mr. Owen,” Mayor Dewey said. “And I have met him and the Chief of Police has also met him.”

But the timing of the proposal to hire Owens comes amid the latest firestorm over the operation of Town Hall.

Brandon Dewey
Stevensville Mayor Brandon Dewey (MTN News photo)

Current City Attorney Brian West had issued an opinion saying he didn’t think Dewey had the right to veto the council’s appointment of former mayor Jim Crews to fill the latest vacancy. Crews was appointed last week over the mayor’s objections.

However, Dewey denies those accusations.

“It’s certainly not based on certain opinions of anything like that. It’s based on the interests of the town. And I think that a new face in the city attorney’s office is warranted,” Mayor Dewer said.

The proposal is drawing fire from Dewey’s opponents on the council, and in the public, who also complain West has more experience with Montana municipal law than Owens.

“This new attorney has come right out and said he knows very little or nothing about MCA codes,” Councilman Bob Michaelson said.

“He does lack some experience municipal counsel, where dealing with town councils. He has some experience but he lacks the experience Mr. West has,” Mayor Dewey stated.

The council said it couldn’t agree to the change without meeting Owens, so the question is being punted ahead until the next Town Council meeting Thursday night.