Bridger Canyon Rural Fire Department Board of Trustees recall, Montana (2014)

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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.[1][2][3][4]

The effort was specifically targeting Fire Board Chairman Mike Conn, Colleen Carnine, Peggy Foster, Denny Guentzel and Dave McKee.[1][5]

On January 27, 2014, a judge permanently put an end to the first recall effort, ruling that the language in the recall petition wasn't legally sufficient to be submitted to voters.[6]

A group of recall supporters calling itself the "Bridger Canyon Fire District Safety Coalition" began a second recall effort.[7] 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.[8]

Election results

Below are the official election results:[8]

Mike Conn Recall (2014)
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 195 50.13%
No19449.87%
Colleen Carnine Recall (2014)
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No19851.16%
Yes 189 48.84%
Margaret Foster Recall (2014)
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No20555.41%
Yes 165 44.59%
Dennis Guentzel Recall (2014)
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No21959.51%
Yes 149 40.49%
Dave McKee Recall (2014)
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No21656.10%
Yes 169 43.90%

Aftermath

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."[9][10]

Background

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.[1]

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."[11]

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."[1]

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.[1] Ultimately, a judged ruled that the language of the petition was not sufficient, and the first recall attempt failed.[6]

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.[7]

See also

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