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Judge rules against mayor

by The Western News
| April 5, 2012 7:29 AM

It’s decision time for Troy Mayor Don Banning.

At 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 20, in the 19th Judicial District Court here in Lincoln County, Judge James B. Wheelis decided there is enough reason for a recall election of the mayor whose term has been embroiled in controversy.

Wheelis gave Banning two options: 1.) He must either resign by Thursday, March 29, or, 2.) by April 5, submit a written reason in 200 words or less why the process should continue with a recall election.

On Friday, Banning was asked what his course of action would be.

“I don’t know whether I can fight this thing anymore,” a dejected Banning said.

“All I’ve tried to do is run the city by the books, according to Montana code. I’m not a quitter, but I don’t know that I can afford to fight this thing for a job that doesn’t pay.”

The recall of Banning has been brought by Troy City Councilwoman Fran McCully, who has outlayed four reasons for the recall vote:

• McCully alleges Banning terminated City Attorney Charles Evans without consent of the Council, a violation of Montana Code Annotated 7-44-603.

• Banning cashed a check, No. 18479, in the amount of $331.80 made out to him without the approval of the Council as it exceeded the budget in travel and training in violation of state statutes.

• Banning allegedly allowed a construction project at the city’s park — Roosevelt Park — without the proper appropriation by the council.

• Banning interfered with the Council legislative role by intercepting the codification and making changes without the council knowledge in violation of the city charter, the charge alleges.

In each case, Banning denies the allegations, and alleges he was acting within the rights as mayor

“I have not done anything illegal, unethical or otherwise intentionally improper during my term as mayor of Troy,” Banning said. “I have certainly not violated my Oath of Office as proclaiming on the Petition to recall me. Fran McCully and Heather McDougall’s intense dislike of me is the only reason for this recall effort.”

In presenting the case for Banning, Attorney Jim Reintsma outlined reasons for the actions taken by his client, the mayor. 

In each charge, Reintsma cited state statutes claiming Banning acted properly in those actions.

However, Wheelis ruled against the effort for the recall and allowed it to progress.

A call to Reintsma for comment on the decision was not returned, however, Banning did comment.

“I don’t know what I’ll do,” Banning said Friday. “I’m not the dictator they allege. I have gone to classes on how to run the city. I’ve asked City Council members to attend these classes, too, so they hear the same things I do about state code. However, they won’t.

  “I guess I’ll proceed with the election. I just hope all this talk has eroded my base of support. Guess we’ll have to see,” Banning said.

Late Friday, Lincoln County Clerk Tammy Lauer received confirmation from the Secretary of State’s office that her request for the special election on May 24 was approved.

The election will be mail-in ballot, and likely will be hand-counted to lessen the expense of the balloting for the city of Troy.