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By Nathan Bourne
Pathfinder 

Date of director seating questioned

Seeley Lake Sewer

 


SEELEY LAKE – According to a memo on the Seeley Lake Sewer District website the Board will not seat two newly elected Directors at their May 21 meeting. Instead they will wait until a special meeting June 15. The decision is sure to cause some waves at the May meeting as it goes against the Board’s own by-laws and relies on how the word “new” is interpreted in a section of the Montana Code Annotated (MCA).

In a statement to the Pathfinder, Sewer Board President Pat Goodover wrote that when considering what date to seat newly elected Directors Tom Morris and Jason Gilpin, he feels there are two answers and neither is wrong.

The answer based on the Board’s by-laws is that they should be seated at the May 21 regular meeting. Article VII, Section 7, Newly Elected Directors reads, “Newly elected directors shall take office at the next regular meeting after an election.”

The answer Goodover came to in the MCA is that they should be seated June 15. MCA 7-13-2271 reads, “A new board of directors shall hold its first meeting on the sixth Monday after the election of directors.”

How one interprets the word “new” in that section of MCA then becomes a sticking point. Goodover reads it as a board with new directors is a “new” board and doesn’t feel that it only applied to “brand new boards.” Goodover said he is unaware of any MCA that specifically addresses when a newly elected director should be seated when only part of the Board is being replaced.

Another section of the MCA, 7-13-2234, reads that a director “shall hold office until the election and qualification or the appointment and qualification of the director’s successor.”

Goodover dismisses this section because it can be interpreted that the person is qualified either when the by-laws say they are, May 21, or when the other section of MCA says they are qualified, June 15.

Goodover wrote that courts have said state statute governing districts would override district’s by-laws.

“I believe the conservative approach is to follow [MCA 7-13-2271] language and have the new elected people take office at the June 15 meeting,” wrote Goodover.

In statements to the Pathfinder both Morris and Gilpin disagree with not being seated at the May meeting.

Morris wrote that if the Board conducts its May meeting without seating them he felt it would be an illegal meeting. Being that the meeting will be held electronically due to COVID-19 concerns, Morris decided to do his Oath of Office in front of a notary. Based on MCA7-13-2234 Morris believes he is a board member now.

Gilpin called the decision “ridiculous” citing that the vote has been canvassed and he too has already sent his notarized Oath of Office to the Clerk and Recorder’s Office making him a “legitimate Board member now.”

In Morris’s statement to the Pathfinder he wrote, “I really hope that we can get off to a good start and work together for the good of all the electors in the District.”

Goodover stated that he fully intends to include Morris and Gilpin in discussions at the May meeting and even intends to ask how they would vote on anything the Board is voting upon.

The May 21 meeting starts at 5:15 p.m. The agenda along with the information on how to participate remotely is available at http://www.seeleysewer.org and is also posted on the bulletin board at the post office.

 

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