Stevensville Mayor Brandon Dewey faces two choices this week.
Ravalli County Election Administrator Regina Plettenberg has certified a petition for a recall election of the mayor, meaning that Dewey can either resign by the end of the week or decide to plead his case before town voters.
“I don’t intend to resign,” Dewey said Tuesday.
After running the recall petition filed by Stevensville resident Leanna Rodabaugh by the county attorney’s office and verifying signatures, Plettenberg officially accepted the petition Friday.
The petition alleges that Dewey violated his oath of office by signing a $79,000 IT contract in December that had not been authorized by the Town Council or reviewed by the city attorney.
Putting the recall issue before Stevensville voters required the petitioners to obtain signatures from 20% of the town’s electorate.
They needed 251 signatures. Plettenberg said her office certified 254.
If Dewey decides to fight the recall, he can write a 200-word statement that will appear on the mail ballots that will go out to voters sometime in late July.
Plettenberg said she is looking at holding the special election on Aug. 4.
In a letter sent on the same day the recall petition was certified, Dewey asked Plettenberg to reject the petition he claimed was invalid and asked the county to investigate Rodabaugh for submitting false allegations and information on the recall petition.
Plettenberg forwarded Dewey’s letter to the county attorney’s office.
Dewey claims the council delegated the mayor the authority to make agreement with vendors. In a telephone interview, Dewey said the issue has already come before the council and explained.
“The council delegated that authority to the mayor before I was even in office and that’s what we acted on when we put this agreement in place,” Dewey said. “We maintain no laws have been broken.
“The city attorney investigated the whole issue right down where the budgeting authority was,” he said. “We had spending authority for the money and so we moved forward with getting the service on board.”
Dewey said the recall petition is part of the “antics and lies” that some in the community are using to “distract from the real corruption going on in the Town Council.”
“We’re all distracted by this recall issue that we have underlying issues with council members and misconduct that’s totally missing the radar,” Dewey said.
On Tuesday, Rodabaugh called Dewey’s decision to award the contract “blatantly illegal. There’s a lot you can get away with in this town, but this one can’t be argued. The proof is right there.”
Even with COVID-19 creating challenges in meeting with people, Rodabaugh said it didn’t take long to gather the signatures necessary to certify the recall petition.
“The recall election will give everyone a do-over,” she said. “A lot of people were enthusiastic about him at first. He was young and personable, but then he got in there and there was nothing but arguing.”
Rodabaugh said the town has posted information about the recall petition on its website, which she claims are one-sided.
“They have printed their version of the recall,” she said. “Most of it is about his version of the facts. … The mayor has not authority in the purchasing policy for this kind of purchase.”
Rodabaugh said the recall petition has added to the stir in the community.
“It exploded,” she said. “So now everyone is arguing. I want to wait under the covers until it’s all over.”
This isn't the first time Stevensville residents have filed a recall petition against the town's mayor. In 2003, Pat Groninger resigned rather than face a citizen-led recall campaign after 18 months in office.
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