Embattled Libby Mayor Resigns

After years of turmoil, Libby Mayor Doug Roll steps down; Councilwoman Barb Desch also leaves council

By Justin Franz
Doug Roll. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

Libby Mayor Doug Roll announced on Sept. 7  he will resign after eight years as that town’s highest-ranking elected official.

The mayor’s decision to step down comes after a tumultuous summer, when a group of local citizens and city council members tried to recall Roll, alleging that he had abused his power and violated his oath of office. A judge dismissed that effort last week, ruling the mayor had never violated the law.

Despite that legal victory, Roll said Wednesday that he had had enough and that he did not see a way for him to work with the current city council.

“These people don’t have a clue of how government works,” Roll told the Beacon. “This was a hard decision for me to make because I don’t like to quit things, but I just don’t see any hope for this council.”

In an email to other city councilors and local media, Roll said he was proud of what the city has accomplished in the eight years he was in office.

“I want to thank the employees of the city, past and present, who made my job much easier by providing advice, cooperation and hard work,” Roll wrote. “Our finances are strong. Our city infrastructure is in the best shape it has been in years.”

Roll’s resignation went into effect at 5 p.m. on Sept. 7. The council now has 30 days to select a new mayor.

Libby City Councilor Barb Desch also announced her resignation this week. When reached by the Beacon on Wednesday afternoon, Desch said that she and her husband were retired now and that she planned on traveling more. She said she was unable to dedicate more time to serving on the council.

Desch is the second council member to step down in a month. Dejon Raines announced her resignation in August after finding out she will become a mother next year. On Tuesday night, the Libby City Council appointed Gary Beach to serve out the remainder of Dejon’s term.

Roll was first appointed to the Libby City Council in 2003 and later appointed mayor in 2008. He was first elected mayor in 2009.

Roll has long butted heads with other city council members, specifically Allen Olsen, who was elected in 2011. In 2013, Olsen ran against Roll for the city’s top spot but lost by 13 votes. A year later, the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices alleged that Roll, former City Attorney James Reintsma and the Libby City Council possibly influenced the 2013 mayoral election when the city filed a lawsuit against Olsen alleging he was not a resident and thus could not run for mayor.

In 2015, Roll announced that he was running for city council as a “spoiler” in an effort to unseat Olsen and make sure DC Orr and Arlen Magill, longtime critics of the mayor, didn’t get a seat on the council.

The saga came to a head earlier this year when local resident Tammy Brown began collecting signatures to force a recall election against Roll. Brown and others alleged that Roll violated the Constitution and his oath of office when he unilaterally appointed a temporary city attorney earlier this year and refused to put an item on the meeting agenda. Roll challenged the recall in court and a Lincoln County District Court judge agreed last week that there was no reason for a recall.