The city of Libby has settled with councilman Allen Olsen after a district court judge determined the city council member lives within city limits. On Nov. 13, the city agreed to pay $47,500 of Olsen’s legal fees as a result of the city’s 2013 lawsuit against him.
The agreement was reached during a mediation meeting in Whitefish. Libby’s insurance provider, the Montana Municipal Interlocal Authority, will cover the fees.
Last October, just days before the 2013 mayoral election between incumbent Doug Roll and Olsen, the city of Libby filed a lawsuit alleging the councilor did not live in the city and thus could not run for mayor or serve on the council. City Attorney James Reintsma filed an injunction in hopes of stopping the election but the request was overruled and the election went forward. Roll won by just 13 votes.
On Aug. 26, attorneys for Olsen and the city faced off in court. Reinstma argued Olsen began renting a home in Libby for $1 a month so he could run for city office and that he actually lived just outside of town at his place of business, Antler Tree Nursery. Olsen said that he would stay at the tree nursery only during the busy months, but that most of the year he was living in town. The court ruled in Olsen’s favor. Olsen also filed a counter claim for the city to pay his legal fees, which were sorted out last week.
Both Roll and Olsen agreed that they hope both sides can move forward and govern the city.
“The settlement was the best bet for the city and I hope we can move past this now,” Roll said.
“This has been an embarrassment for the city of Libby and I’m glad this is all behind me,” Olsen said. “I hope everyone gets past their personal vendettas so that we can run this community as a group.”
Roll and Olsen have had a troubled relationship ever since Olsen was elected to the city council in November 2011.
In 2012, Roll refused to formally put Olsen on any committees because he alleged the councilor did not live within city limits. Then, in 2013, Olsen blasted Roll for fixing a city-owned truck at his garage. Roll said no other garage was able to make the repair quickly but later reimbursed the city.
A few months later, Olsen and Roll butted heads again over the lease of a city-owned asphalt zipper. Then in September 2013, City Attorney Reintsma threatened Olsen with censure after he continued to criticize the work of a local water irrigation company during city council meetings. All the while, city council meetings in Libby have been filled with bickering and outbursts between Olsen and the other councilors.