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Former Billings lawmaker settles security deposit dispute

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BILLINGS – A Billings businessman and former state lawmaker sentenced to three days in jail earlier this month for contempt of court has paid more than $9,000 to settle a dispute with a former tenant.

The Billings Gazette reports that 57-year-old Dennis Himmelberger on Friday said the payment he made does not mean he admits guilt, but that he was “just trying to save my life” by settling.

The dispute dates back two years when 93-year-old Velda Desmul moved out of a rental property. After agreeing to return her $900 security deposit during a walk-through, the woman’s daughters said he billed her $600 for cleaning.

Desmul’s daughters filed a case in small claims court. Himmelberger filed a counterclaim for $2,200 and the case was moved to Yellowstone County Justice Court. Himmelberger agreed to settle for $2,200 in January because the rental agreement contained an illegal provision, said Desmul’s attorney, Gene Jarussi.

Three days later, Desmul’s daughter, Karen Anderson-Miller, said Himmelberger’s attorney sent notice that Himmelberger had decided not to pay them. In July, the judge granted a motion by Jarussi to force Himmelberger to pay the $2,200, plus $900 in additional costs and legal fees.

Jarussi said efforts to collect the judgment failed and Himmelberger was required to turn over his financial records during a hearing on Sept. 5. But he arrived at Justice Court hearing without an attorney or the required records, where he was held in contempt of court.

Jarussi said the $9,137.81 payment includes the judgment in Yellowstone County Justice Court against Himmelberger for $3,145, and Jarussi’s attorney fees and costs.

Himmelberger is a former Republican lawmaker who served four terms in the state House of Representatives through 2010.

Jarussi described Desmul as a “very sweet lady who I have no doubt was just an excellent renter.”

Himmelberger said he did nothing wrong.

“I maintain they moved out and left the property not in the same condition as when they moved in,” Himmelberger said.

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