Judge Says Libby Council Member a City Resident

The city alleged that councilman Allen Olsen did not live within city limits

By Justin Franz

Allen Olsen will continue to serve on Libby’s City Council after a Lincoln County judge decided that Olsen does indeed live within the town’s boundaries.

Lincoln County District Court Judge James Wheelis handed down the ruling on Aug. 29, three days after the city went to court with Olsen over claims that he did not live in Libby.

Last October, just days before the 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 finally faced off in court. City Attorney James Reinstma argued Olsen began renting a home in Libby for $1 a month just 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.

Various witnesses also testified that they had visited Olsen unannounced and said that the home within city limits, located at 703 Louisiana Ave., appeared to be lived in. Wheelis wrote in his decision that “It is unlikely that the Defendant contrived the living conditions they observed, such as piled-up laundry, dirty dishes in the sink and a child’s scattered effects, to give the appearance of a home without it actually being one.”

Olsen also submitted a counter claim, asking that the city pay for his legal fees. Wheelis wrote that that issue would have to be resolved at a future hearing.

With the residency issue now behind them, it appears Olsen will remain on Libby’s City Council, but it’s unknown if his strained relationship with the council will get more amiable. Olsen has often butted heads with other members, especially Roll. The two men 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. Olsen owns a tree nursery that also does water work.

And finally, Reintsma filed an injunction again Olsen and his candidacy for mayor, alleging he did not live in the city. All the while, city council meetings in Libby have been filled with bickering and outbursts between Olsen and the other councilors.


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