Harball Steps in as Acting Kalispell City Manager

By Beacon Staff

Kalispell’s city attorney has agreed to fill in as the acting city manager while the search continues for a permanent hire.

At a council meeting on Jan. 9, Charles Harball, the city attorney since 2001, agreed to fulfill dual roles inside City Hall after the original interim candidate, David L. Nielsen, resigned at the last minute because of a misunderstanding involving the state’s retirement program.

Kalispell city councilors will vote Jan. 23 on whether Harball will become the official interim city manager, a distinction that was raised by one councilor who expressed concern over a court filing involving Harball.

Councilor Bob Hafferman referenced a perjury charge made against Harball in a 2010 bankruptcy case involving John Stokes, the former owner of the KGEZ radio station. Stokes filed a motion of perjury accusing Harball of lying about the city’s intentions regarding the municipal airport expansion. Stokes later withdrew the motion, Harball said, but it remains part of the overall transcript being sent to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

At the Jan. 9 meeting, Harball said he did not lie about the city airport expansion and described his role in the situation as all but resolved.

Hafferman remained undeterred.

“There’s a court action in the process and I don’t believe we should be appointing as an interim city manager any person who is involved in that process,” he said.

Mayor Tammi Fisher and the rest of council defended Harball and his ability to fill in as a temporary city administrator.

“I have no concerns whatsoever,” Fisher said.

City Councilor Duane Larson, who joined the council in 1990 after a long career with the fire department, officially retired on Jan. 9.

“It’s been a good run and a rewarding run,” he said, adding, “I’ve always tried to vote for what was best for the community, no matter where the chips would fall.”

Councilors and the mayor all expressed gratitude and appreciation for Larson, describing him as a devoted public servant with integrity who worked tirelessly to improve his community.

“You, sir, have raised the character of the city of Kalispell,” Fisher said.

Larson’s replacement, Phil Guiffrida III, was sworn in as the newest member on the eight-person council. Guiffrida’s first recommendation was to look into eliminating transportation impact fees, a matter that will be discussed at a Jan. 17 work session.

Kari Gabriel, a councilor in Ward 1 since 2004, narrowly edged fellow Councilor Jim Atkinson in a vote to become the newly elected council president.

New full-time Fire Chief Dave Dedman delivered six “Life Saving Awards” to public safety officers who helped revive a 77-year-old man who had a heart attack. The officers honored were Todd Hawes, Josh Pipolo, Rob Cherot, Chris Rupp, Joe Hansen and Taylor Zachary.