City Commission Sued Over Public Safety Center Bond Issue
Roger Koopman will be my guest at 11am on Saturday 11/17 Tune in for more details.
BOZEMAN – In an amended complaint filed Thursday in district court, Roger Koopman and five co-plaintiffs are suing the City of Bozeman for what they describe as “blatantly illegal, tax-funded political advocacy” in connection with the city’s recent campaign to pass the Bozeman Public Safety Center bond issue.
The 28-page suit cites several sections of state law, including MCA 2-2-121, which states in part, “… a public officer or public official may not use public time, facilities, equipment, supplies, personnel, or funds to solicit support or opposition to any political committee, the nomination or election of any person to public office, or the passage of a ballot issue …”
According to the complaint, the City Commission illegally created two registered political committees for the express purpose of influencing the outcome of the bond issue election, engaging in extensive illegal coordination, violating public employee ethical standards, and violating CoPP reporting and transparency requirements.
The suit further states that city officials spent, at last reporting, an estimated $70,000 in public funds for advocacy electioneering purposes, including approximately $30,000 to a professional marketing firm, $32,000 in city employee wages, and unspecified amounts on logos, slogans, banners, posters, postcards, mailers, handbills, buttons, stickers, t-shirts, yard signs, videos, TV and social media advertising and more.
Referring to the city’s one-sided promotional effort as “brazen and contemptuous,” the Koopman suit references Article II of the Montana Constitution, which states “use of power and public resources to propagandize in support of a measure the government submitted to the voters is antithetical to popular sovereignty, self-government, suffrage and individual dignity.” The suit further asserts that “proponents and opponents have an equal stake in the outcome of the election, and the city-led efforts assured only the proponents’ message was conveyed to the voters. Only proponents had access to public resources.”
“It is entirely appropriate to use public resources for a balanced educational effort, that provides both sides of a ballot issue to the voters. The state Voter Information Pamphlet is a good example of factual, advocacy-neutral voter education. By contrast, what the City of Bozeman is trying to get away with is a massive, professionalized, well-orchestrated political campaign to control the outcome of an election, forcing those citizens who disagree to compete against their own tax dollars. This creates a profoundly unfair influence on a democratic process that is supposed to be driven by the will of the people, not the will of government,” Koopman stated.
“That’s why we have laws prohibiting such abuses and protecting the integrity of the electoral process, thus assuring that political decisions are made by the people, not the government. City officials must play by those rules. They are not above the law,” said Koopman.
For information about this suit contact - Roger Koopman (579-8370) or Chris Gallus (459-8676) Press release used with permission.