Libby Mayor Recall Moves Forward After Court Hearing

Judge rules Mayor Doug Roll has to post $25,000 bond to keep preliminary injunction in place

By Justin Franz
Doug Roll. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

Opponents of Libby Mayor Doug Roll are again collecting signatures this week in the effort to recall him.

The recall effort resumed after a Lincoln County District Court judge ruled that Roll would have to post a $25,000 bond to continue a preliminary injunction that he had filed against the recall petition.

Lincoln County’s election administrator said on Aug. 29 that she will continue to process signatures until the judge rules otherwise or Roll posts the bond.

In early August, a few months after a group of Libby citizens began gathering signatures to force a recall election, Roll filed an injunction against the petition. On Aug. 23, attorneys for both sides of the effort met in court. During the hearing, recall organizer Tammy Brown and Mayor Roll both testified before Judge James Wheelis. On the stand, Roll stood by past statements that he had never violated the constitution or his oath of office, specifically when he unilaterally appointed a new city attorney earlier this year.

When Brown was on the stand, Roll’s attorney, Nicole Siefert, asked her if the mayor had committed any of the five reasons for recall as outlined in Montana Code Annotated, including physical or mental lack of fitness, incompetence, violation of the oath of office, official misconduct, or conviction of a felony offense. Brown replied “no” each time.

Wheelis then ruled from the bench that the preliminary injunction would continue, essentially ending the recall effort. But later, in a brief filed on Aug. 25, Wheelis ruled that Roll’s opponents could continue to gather signatures for recall until the mayor posted a $25,000 bond. In the ruling, Wheelis wrote that Brown may have misunderstood the law when she was testifying and that Roll could have violated his oath of office by hiring a new city attorney. The judge welcomed additional arguments in the case.

The ruling allowed opponents of Roll to once again start gathering signatures, and by Aug. 29, they had given the local election administrator more than 200 unverified signatures. Supporters of the recall need to gather more than 300 signatures to force an election. Brown and her supporters were happy that the recall effort was moving forward, at least temporarily.

“I feel like we’re finally back on track to making our community a better place,” Brown said. “The mayor has again demonstrated his utter lack of concern for the people of this community by attempting to sidetrack a citizen effort into the courts, but Judge Wheelis lifted the temporary restraining order and has allowed the people of Libby the right to make their own choice in the matter.”

Roll was surprised by the judge’s decision and said his attorney had filed a petition to reduce the bond, as well as an argument to continue the preliminary injunction.

“If there are no grounds for this recall to continue, I don’t know how the judge can let it continue,” Roll said.