Concern is raised over city attorney situation

A fairly routine Red Lodge City Council meeting stumbled briefly this week when discussions centered on the office of the city attorney.

The position of city attorney is coming up for renewal and the City has four candidates in the running for the job.

As Mayor Mike Schoenike finished off outlining who is on the interview panel, resident Diane Dimich asked why there was no representative from Ward 3 on it. Schoenike has chosen the following for the panel, three council members Anna Drew, Martha Brown, and Cory Thompson; the City’s Community Development Director Peter Italiano; Acting Police Chief Scott Cope, and Ashley Novakovich, DSVS.

“I selected the three (council) people I felt were most indicative of the input we are looking for,” Schoenike replied.

Dimich voiced a further concern that in a certified letter she got from Peter Italiano “he said he was having dinner with some friends of his which were Scott Cope and Joel Todd.”

“It concerns me that two of the members of that sub committee are friends with one of the applications,” she said.

Schoenike fired back saying firstly that this wasn’t a sub committee but a panel and they were picked to help him with his decision.

“The decision to appoint department heads lies solely with the Mayor. If I chose to do so, I could have this process with zero other people involved,” said Schoenike. “I don’t think this is appropriate, so I have asked the interim department head, the department that will be working with the city attorney probably the most often, and the department head who acts as my administrative assistant for the coordination of staff and three members of city council and one from DSVS.”

Dimich continued with her concerns citing a letter she had received from Italiano that states, “He was contemplating civil and criminal charges” against her. This situation arose after Italiano alleged in the letter that Dimich had publicly accused him of being a “liar” at a Red Lodge restaurant last month.

“That really concerns me that whoever he picks is the one that will go after me civilly,” said Dimich.

Schoenike refuted this saying that from the criminal standpoint it would involve the county attorney and from the civil standpoint it would involve Italiano’s personal attorney.

“I would not be supportive of the city attorney being involved in those proceedings,” said Schoenike. When asked by Dimich if the interview process would be open to the public, Schoenike said it would not as “it is a personnel issue and as with other personnel issues we do not have any of our job application interviews as a public process. Nor for performance reviews or personnel issues. Those are administrative issues within the executive branch.

STOP PRESS: The Mayor of Red Lodge has released the following four attorneys for the post: Shannon R Foley of Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands; Rebecca Narmore of Tuscumbia, Alabama; Joel Todd of Red Lodge; and Susan L. Wordal of Bozeman.  Members of the public wishing to submit comment may do so by sending comments in writing to the Mayor's attention at City Hall.  Comments on any topic relevant to the City's jurisdiction may always be made in person at any City Council meeting generally held on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at City Hall.


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