The bitter political fight that has divided Stevensville hits the tipping point, with voters deciding whether Mayor Brandon Dewey should be recalled over a controversial computer services contract.
Dewey maintains he had authority to execute the $79,000 IT services contract after the Town Council budgeted the money.
”Where the administration understood, look, we budgeted for it," Dewey said. "The council approved the budget. They'd be on board with it. The staff and I have always had the organization's interests, you know, at the forefront of our minds and in our decision making. The contract at the center of the recall is no exception to that.”
“It smelled. Which isn't probably a nice thing to say, but it didn't look right," recall organizer Leanna Rodebaugh said. “He could not do that kind of a contract without the council's approval and he basically broke his oath of office.”
The mayor says procedures have changed since a court ruling on that controversial computer contract, but opponents aren't so sure. They believe there's a pattern of breaking policies that needs to be changed.
“That is about as correct as it can be put," Rodebaugh said. "The pattern is wrong. I think initially if he had gone before the council and said, ‘You know, I really shouldn't assign this without your approval. Let's fix that.’ It never would have gotten this far, but he never claimed that he did anything but what was his God-given right. And it wasn't his right.”
”We understand that there are areas where the administration can execute decisions based on the council's policy," Dewey added. "Making the contract was no different than that where the council set a purchasing policy and we as the executive branch are responsible to execute that purchasing policy. And we did so in that contract.”
But the recall is just the official tip of the iceberg in this latest season of political unrest in the central Bitterroot. Rodebaugh and residents backing the recall see arrogance. Dewey says he's just using his training to help Stevensville transition through "growing pains."
“Well, it's a matter of trust," Rodebaugh said. "If you assume that you're being lied to, then you don't trust what the words are that comes out of his mouth.”
“You know there are dynamics of the, you know of the current pandemic, coupled with national politics," Dewey said. "Then you just add this layer of the recall on it and there's just so many opportunities to divide the community.”
“When you do things wrong, you have to pay for 'em," Rodebaugh added. "It doesn't matter if you're a nice guy or if you didn't mean to do something. We're disappointed in the fact that he just can't follow the rules."
Dewey hopes voters will opt for "stability," by allowing him to serve a final year. Rodebaugh and the others believe Stevensville's governance needs to be fixed now.