Claiming delay tactics, NotMyBathroom.com filed a lawsuit this week in Missoula County District Court over its bid to get a petition off the ground to strike down the equality ordinance.
Plaintiffs allege City Attorney Jim Nugent and Clerk and Recorder Vickie Zeier are thwarting their attempt to get a petition approved. The lawsuit also names the city of Missoula and Missoula County as defendants.
Nugent and Zeier deny the allegations.
The lawsuit says plaintiffs diligently worked to craft a valid petition but faced "discriminatory delaying tactics." The filing appears to ask the court to mandate the defendants put the ordinance on the ballot or explain why they shouldn't "perform their statutory duties."
When contacted, plaintiff Tei Nash would not clarify the demands and directed calls to his attorney, who could not immediately be reached for comment.
NotMyBathroom.com formed to fight the anti-discrimination ordinance, which the Missoula City Council adopted April 13. The measure protects people in the gay, lesbian and transgender community from discrimination in housing and employment.
Some opponents who fought the ordinance before it was approved now want to put it on the ballot.
If they had turned in enough signatures on a valid petition within 60 days of adoption, the law would have gone dark while awaiting voter response at the ballot. So the lawsuit also asks the court to stop the clock on the 60 days, "taking into account that Respondents' tactics denied Petitioners the June 8 primary voting opportunity to collect signatures."
The lawsuit does not describe the alleged delay tactics. It requests damages, including attorney fees.
Nash and John Porter are named as plaintiffs, as is RightToVoteMissoula.com. RightToVoteMissoula.com directs people to NotMyBathroom.com, and in an affidavit, Nash identifies himself as president of both.
In his signed statement, Nash alleges the constitutional rights of voters have been denied. Porter said his only objective is for citizens to be able to vote on the ordinance.
"As a result of the delaying tactics of the City Attorney, Jim Nugent - with the complicity of Vicki (sic) Zeier, the Missoula County Elections Administrator, it appears that my desire for this to occur has been thwarted at every turn," reads Porter's statement.
Nugent, who reviewed sample petitions, said he responded in fewer days than the law allows. His letters to Zeier noted the modifications petitioners should make to get approval.
"My letters speak for themselves. I gave reasons every time I responded," Nugent said.
Zeier said she did not stall but worked quickly. She said the day before the primary election, she turned around one response in less than an hour. She even worked on the matter on Election Day, trying to get answers to some of Nugent's questions.
"There have not been any delay tactics on my part. I can say that honestly," Zeier said.
Reporter Keila Szpaller can be reached at 523-5262, firstname.lastname@example.org or on MissoulaRedTape.com.