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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Opinion & Editorial

Guest Comment

Campaign against my father is shameful

by Robert S. Scott, Hamilton

I am writing to ask the people of Hamilton to show their support for my Dad, Bob Scott. As his son, I am in a position to know what kind of a person he is. He is smart, honest, hard-working, and, yes, tough. He helped teach me and my sisters how to make our way in the world. He is a man of principles and we learned from him how important those principles are in everyday life. I have watched as the father I love brought his principles, his hard work, and his dedication to the job he was elected to do in Hamilton. He has fought hard for the voters in Ward 2, who elected him with 72% of the vote.

I have also watched as my father has been vilified by a small but vocal minority of detractors. The campaign to blacken his name was fueled by the now defeated former Mayor, political detractors on the Council, and Colleen Miller, a city administrative assistant fearful of any changes to the status quo. The campaign to destroy Bob Scott began before he was even sworn into office and continued with his illegal expulsion from the Council, and now includes the attempt to recall him. It hurts me to think that the town that helped raise me, sent me to college and on to receive my PhD, would now want to destroy someone who I know to be, and I believe you know to be, such a tremendous asset to the community.

My father's illegal expulsion was based on a vague litany of alleged misdeeds compiled by Colleen Miller - the now notorious 'green-binder.' That's right, a city employee who did not live in Hamilton engaged in a concerted effort to remove from office a representative of the people who had been elected by an overwhelming margin. There is something terribly wrong with that picture.

As I said, my father is tough - he is a fighter and he did not back down. He fought these illegal efforts and with lots of help from concerned citizens he won. This victory was not without a cost (economic and otherwise) to the citizens of Hamilton and to my father. The campaign of allegations, distortions, and whispers against my father has been painful to me, my mother, and my sisters. We have stood by helplessly as we have watched a good man's name blackened in the public square. My family and I all hoped that this was now behind us and behind Hamilton. Sadly, this does not appear to be the case.

Resurrecting the discredited charges in Miller's green-binder, Carol Schwan and Greg Marose have filed a recall petition. Who are Schwan and Marose? Schwan preceded my Dad on the Council and Marose is the guy who got only 28% of the vote when he was defeated by my Dad in 2003.

The public litany of reasons to recall Bob Scott will include the whole vague hodgepodge of green-binder fabrications and distortions (probably with new inventions added on). But what is the real substance of Bob Scott's alleged official misconduct according to the petition? A $152 claim for travel reimbursement. The claim was submitted but withdrawn by my Dad once he was informed of all the rules pertaining to travel reimbursement. The technical reason he wasn't supposed to submit the claim is because he carpooled with Robert Sutherland (saving the City money). Of course, my Dad still contributed for the trip in question. If this is official misconduct for which a recall election is warranted, then Hamilton has very serious problems.

What I have learned from my father is that it is worth standing up for your beliefs and principles - for what you think is right. It is worth standing up for other people, too. Sometimes this means conflict and a fight, but it is not worth laying down your principles just to avoid a fight. This is why I know my Dad will continue to fight. The campaign of vilification against my father has been shameful. It has been undemocratic, dishonest, mean-spirited, and ugly. I hope that Hamilton will put this to rest and allow a good man, duly elected, to finish his term as City Councilor. I hope the politics of personal destruction aimed at my father will end. I hope my Dad's detractors will try to get along with Bob Scott for a change and let him do his job.

Letters to the Editor

Recall effort is character assassination

"Harassment." "Bullying." "Assault." "Hostile work environment." "Abuse." What caring person being fed a steady diet of these words and phrases in the news wouldn't get a shiver down their spine about what they're told is going on at City Hall? And what responsible citizen wouldn't demand that charges like these be fully substantiated before they're used to target an elected official?

These words and phrases, when unsubstantiated, are usually used in private whispering campaigns to denigrate or discount someone personally, and only serve to illuminate some people's unfortunate habit of description. But when such careless language is used in public forums such as city council business, when repeated ad nauseam by our local media and when aimed at duly-elected city councilors with the obvious effect of hamstringing their legitimate efforts to govern, it amounts to character assassination and the corrosion of democratic processes, both of which are core human rights issues.

The 'green binder' of Bob Scott's supposedly sinister infractions waved about by Councilor LaSalle and Administrative Assistant Colleen Miller - among others - was never substantiated as reasons for his removal. In fact they didn't stand up to even cursory legal challenge, because they were overwhelmingly nothing but policy differences the old council and administration had with Scott. Scott won that moral and legal argument, yet the charges continue, in the press as well as from some of those charged with administering the City of Hamilton, and allowed to stand unchallenged as fact by many in our community. This backbiting climate has further led to an expensive recall effort that very likely won't stand up to a court test either, and yet we allow it to continue. Why?

If we're really looking for substantive issues of government to have serious and respectful debate about, there's plenty. For example, several years ago I saw the late Bob Christ rise from his planning board seat and go sit in the audience when an issue came up that only marginally affected his neighborhood. This is called "recusing yourself" from an issue you have a possible conflict of interest in and it's not only ethical, it's the law. Mike LaSalle, on the other hand, who's employed by the largest concrete firm in the valley, not only doesn't recuse himself from city business that could benefit his employer, he's on record as being the Donaldson contact person for bids involving city funds in at least one case.

We all have a natural tendency to carp and complain in private amongst ourselves, some more than others, and that's our own business. But this sustained public assault against an elected official isn't in the protected realm of private behavior. This is the public's business, and the public is being grievously disserved by the low level of debate usually reserved for gripe sessions. The real question is: why are we chasing our tails trying to decide whether any particular councilperson fits the scapegoat persona created for him by irresponsible public chatter and allowing ourselves to be distracted from the real issues?

Bill LaCroix

BHRA follow up on Hamilton city settlement

Dear Editor,

The Bitterroot Human Rights Alliance (BHRA) is compelled to respond to front-page stories and an editorial in the Ravalli Republic about turmoil on the City Council negatively affecting Hamilton City government. BHRA helped resolve the matter of the illegal expulsion of Councilor Bob Scott in December of last year. BHRA and Bob Scott settled this matter in good faith, and assumed good faith on the part of the City Administration in abiding by the terms of the settlement.

The Ravalli Republic's recent report on the resignation of the City Administrator and its June 1st editorial perpetuate the perception that Councilor Scott is continuing in his alleged harassment and micro-management of city employees, and alleged disruptive behavior at city council meetings. BHRA has been closely following the actions of the City Council and recently sent a representative to monitor a meeting between Councilor Scott and the Mayor. At that meeting Councilor Scott asked the Mayor if, in her opinion, he had engaged in any of the alleged harassment and disruption since his reinstatement and she clearly said that he had not. Furthermore, we have seen no evidence of this behavior and have in fact gathered evidence to the contrary, and believe Councilor Scott has been working for a more positive environment in city government as called for in the settlement agreement. If anyone has any evidence of the allegation made by the Ravalli Republic since our settlement with the city, we would certainly be interested.

The City Council President also wrote a letter to the editor asking BHRA to tell Councilor Scott that his comments to her were inappropriate. BHRA spoke with the Council President, Councilor Scott, and others regarding this issue and we are convinced that bullying and intimidation were not involved. It is far outside the mission of BHRA to determine the accuracy of claims involving particular private conversations unless we are talking about serious accusations of harassment or intimidation. BHRA must refrain from taking sides on the inevitable policy and personality differences which arise in any legislative or administrative body. BHRA only chose to intervene in City Council business in December because of gross, unconstitutional violations of voter franchise.

BHRA remains concerned about the atmosphere of antagonism in the Hamilton City government, and we want the city to fully implement the settlement they signed with us. We want to reemphasize that we believe Councilor Scott has also been working for a more positive environment in city government as called for in the settlement agreement, and that our observation is that the antagonism has largely been directed against Councilor Scott and has not come from him. We have attended Hamilton Council and committee meetings in the more than four months since the settlement was reached, and have repeatedly acknowledged the steps the Council has taken to comply, while also encouraging them to address remaining items.

The two items that remain to be accomplished are vital to the process of the Hamilton City government moving forward as an effective body. As the Council President stated, one of those items is to rewrite and adopt Council Procedures on Improper Conduct and Discipline. We are aware that this item is being worked on, and we hope that the procedures that are eventually adopted are sensible and workable and not simply focused on or responsive to recent rancorous events, in a short-sighted way.

The other item is to hire a professional facilitator to assist the Council, the Administration, and city employees if necessary. This item was included in the settlement by BHRA in the hopes that it would help the government of the City of Hamilton rebuild an effective working team that treats one another with respect so that the work of the city can proceed and the citizens can be assured that their government is expending its energy on important city matters. BHRA, after ascertaining that the Mayor and Council had not made significant progress towards implementing this last item in the last four months, did some research on what other city councils had done, and provided some suggestions to Mayor Randazzo. We understand that she has made some contacts in this regard and we encourage her to make a proposal to the Council soon. In addition, BHRA expects the City Council to support these positive steps to comply with the terms of the Settlement Agreement.

Michael Helling, Chairman
Bitterroot Human Rights Alliance

Thanks from Chantilly Theatre

Dear Editor,

The board and staff of the Chantilly Theatre would like to thank all of our volunteers and our community for the support and success of our Western Heritage Days fundraisers. The Rifle Raffle was won by Jason Bailey of Stevensville. Our Silent Auction which contained over sixty lovely items donated by local businesses and artisans was well attended. A special thank you to the board and staff of the Stevensville Museum for allowing us to share in your annual sale, and to all who donated and purchased the vast array of treasures.

Margi Leininger, Executive Director
Chantilly Theatre

Paying tribute to Old Glory

Dear Editor,

It's true that flags are made of only cloth and stitches. The American flag was born in the fire of the revolutionary war and predates the Constitution. Since then it has flown in foreign capitals, in parades down Main Street, in front of homes and businesses and solemnly over cemeteries.

To anyone who has ever served, the flag is more than cloth and stitches. We all remember the day the flag was raised over the World Trade Center or draped over the Pentagon following the attacks of 9/11. It is the living, breathing embodiment of American values and virtues. Millions have fought to defend her honor and many have made the ultimate sacrifice for what she embodies.

For about 100 years beginning in the 1880's Old Glory was protected by laws. In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned all laws that protected the flag. Since then the only option to protect the flag has been a constitutional amendment.

As a Colonel in the Air Corps for 30 years, I have personally seen and experienced the sacrifices made to protect our way of life in the greatest country in the world. I know what it means to live and die for what you believe in. That's why I stand with Senator Conrad Burns in support of a Constitutional Amendment to protect our flag and our values from being desecrated.

America can survive with or without a constitutional amendment to protect our flag. However, it speaks volumes about our own values because it is the uniting force for all Americans. The flag stands above all the divisions in America; the flag is not Republican or Democrat, it's not east coast or west coast, the flag does not favor one group over another.

The United States Senate is nearing a vote on a constitutional amendment to protect the flag. I hope that you will take a moment to let your Senator know that you stand with him in support of protecting Old Glory.

Brigadier General (Ret.) Bruce Bramlette
Fort Benton

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