Bridger Canyon Rural Fire Department Board of Trustees recall, Montana (2014)
An effort to recall the Bridger Canyon Rural Fire Department Board of Trustees in Bozeman, Montana was launched in September 2013. Supporters of the recall submitted petitions in order to qualify the recall question for the ballot on November 27, 2013. The trustees being targeted by the recall then filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the recall election against them.
A group of recall supporters calling itself the "Bridger Canyon Fire District Safety Coalition" began a second recall effort. The second attempt triggered a recall election, held on May 6, 2014, in which Fire Board Chairman Mike Conn was successfully recalled, while the other four members retained their positions.
Below are the official election results:
|Mike Conn Recall (2014)|
|Colleen Carnine Recall (2014)|
|Margaret Foster Recall (2014)|
|Dennis Guentzel Recall (2014)|
|Dave McKee Recall (2014)|
The Gallatin County Commissioners decided to hold a recount of the votes in Conn's election, stating that there were two potential ballots that could alter the outcome of the election. The recount was held, however, it confirmed that Conn was, in fact, recalled by a vote of 195 to 194. Conn said the following in response to the results of the recount: "I'm not terribly surprised. It is what it is. We'll go from there."
The recall effort was led by a group calling itself the "Bridger Canyon Fire District Safety Coalition." The group alleged that the Board broke state open meetings laws and blamed the Board for the resignations of Chief Dan Astrom and a group of veteran fire fighters.
After the second recall attempt was underway, a criminal investigation began after the county sheriff and attorney were "tipped off by residents" about a potentially illegal board meeting. The Gallatin County Sheriff, Brian Gootkin, stated that he believed that members of the board had acted illegally, and he turned the investigation over to the Gallatin County Attorney's Office. The board members were accused of holding an illegal meeting that was neither open to the public nor properly announced. The board members claimed it was a necessary emergency meeting. Conn said, "It was not an illegal meeting. It was definitely an emergency, and that's what was done and that's where we'll go from there. I guess the voters are going to decide."
Response to recall effort
In response to the first recall attempt, Conn told reporters, "We don't want to violate any laws either intentionally or inadvertently. We have no desire to keep things secret. I don't know that we were always perfect, but I can guarantee you there was no ill intent."
Path to the ballot
- See also: Laws governing recall in Montana
Recall supporters had 90 days to collect 104 signatures, 15 percent of the registered voters in the district, for each petition to trigger a recall election. Ultimately, a judged ruled that the language of the petition was not sufficient, and the first recall attempt failed.
The County Elections Office approved the language of the second recall petition. Recall supporters then submitted a petition with over 115 signatures on Wednesday, February 26, 2014, paving the way for a second recall attempt.
- Bridger Canyon Rural Fire Department
- Bridger Canyon Fire District Safety Coalition (Recall Supporters)
- Bozeman Daily Chronicle, "Bridger Canyon residents seeking to recall fire trustees," September 16, 2013
- Bridger Canyon Fire District Safety Coalition," September 16, 2013
- KXLF.com, "Petition to overthrow trustees being circulated by some Bridger Canyon residents," September 17, 2013
- Billings Gazette, "Fire district trustees seek to halt recall," December 7, 2013
- Bridger Canyon Rural Fire Department, "Board of Trustees," accessed September 20, 2013
- Bozeman Daily Chronicle, "Judge stops Bridger Canyon trustee recall election," January 27, 2014
- Bozeman Daily Chronicle, "Bridger Canyon Fire District starts second board recall attempt," February 27, 2014
- Bozeman Daily Chronicle, "Board chairman recalled in Bridger Canyon fire district election," May 7, 2014
- Bozeman Daily Chronicle, "Commissioners will recount Bridger Canyon recall election," May 9, 2014
- Bozeman Daily Chronicle, "Recount confirms recall of Bridger Canyon Fire District chairman," May 16, 2014
- NBC Montana, "Investigation into Bridger Canyon fire board turned over to co. atty," March 28, 2014
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