In a move certain to increase the City of Big Timber’s expenses, a suit was filed last week in Sweet Grass County District Court by Tom Biglen, a former Sweet Grass County attorney, husband of former Mayor Dianna Taylor and a director of the Montana ACLU (if you want to see what the ACLU agenda is for Montana click here), and Brian Miller, an attorney from Helena. The 35 plaintiffs asked the court to declare that the City Council violated their right to comment on the Dornix park issues including removing buildings and signs. According to the suit, the Oct. 4 City Council agenda called for a “discussion of Dornix Park-Master Plan.” But then, instead of conducting such a discussion, the council, without discussion and without taking any public comment, voted on a motion by Councilman Justin Ferguson to cease development of the park and to remove the structures. Previous meetings allowed extensive discussion on park related subjects.
The October 4 minutes tell a different story. At that meeting Councilwoman Lori Minette said: “At this point we are just untabling it (the Dornix Park motion) and the discussion is complete. As Kevin said, I think just about everyone in this room has been to at least one meeting and the issues have been talked about and I did a quick run through of our minutes since April 1 and Dornix Park has been on our agenda 12 times in the last 6 months. And I feel like that probably the issue has been discussed enough. And we should just untable it and end the discussion at that.” (transcribed from taped recordings of the October 4, 2010 City Council meeting) Curiously, Councilwoman Lori Minette is the only Council member NOT named in Biglen’s lawsuit against the City. Will this revelation cause him to include her in the suit?
The motion in question passed 3-1. Ferguson, McCauley and Rembold voted aye. Councilwoman Minette-Harvey voted “no”. Ferguson, McCauley and Rembold are named as defendants in the suit, as is Mayor Mark Stephens. Stephens is named because he stated that the issue had been discussed enough in the past and that there was no reason to take more public comment.
The lawsuit also claims 50 people attended the Oct. 4 meeting and there wasn’t enough room for them to be in the room. When Bill Warwick, one of the plaintiffs, asked the council to reschedule the meeting at a larger venue, he “was told that the meeting would continue as planned.”
The lawyer and his fellow plaintiffs wanted to continue discussion of Dornix Park after the motion passed but the Mayor moved on to the next agenda item. The plaintiffs also claimed that prior discussion of the Dornix Park motion had occurred among Stephens, Rembold, McCauley and Ferguson in conjunction with two local groups known as the Sweet Grass Council for Community Integrity and the Sweet Grass County Patriots.
Plaintiffs further claim that the defendants “may have discussed removing, altering, or otherwise destroying … structures at Dornix Park on the grounds that Dornix Park was part of an international subversive conspiracy, known as ‘Agenda 21,’ which the Defendants believe was directed by the United Nations in an effort to infiltrate local communities and take away private property rights under United States law.” There is no record of any of the defendants ever making that specific claim. An individual made a similar statement at a previous City Council, but he represented no one except himself.
Dornix Park is a 50-plus-acre parcel, near the settlement of Dornix that preceded the establishment of Big Timber. It consists of public trails, signs and several structures claimed by the lawsuit to be “of historical significance and importance.” The proposed park encompasses the old city landfill (a brownfield site) and the former Stene/Williams homestead with Boulder river frontage and is adjacent to the City lagoon. The park was conceived in spring 2006 and has been worked on by city and county residents, students and faculty from Montana State University and Sweet Grass County High and members of a nonprofit group known as Friends of Dornix Park. It is touted as a pilot project for the Greater Yellowstone Framework of the Yellowstone Business Partnership on their website.
Note Dornix Park Citizens Committee Milestones for Greater Yellowstone Framework Pilot Project at the link below.
Portions of this post were from an article written by Ed Kemmick of the Billings Gazette Staff.