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Polson city attorney resigns amid contract dispute
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Polson city attorney resigns amid contract dispute

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POLSON – The Polson city commission was set to “make a decision determining the enforceability of the city attorney contract as currently written” earlier this week.

It didn’t happen.

James Raymond, the city attorney for approximately 15 years, verbally resigned following an executive session of the commission, and before it was scheduled to take up the matter of Raymond’s self-written contract at a special meeting Monday night.

Among other things, the contract with Raymond Law Offices required a year’s notice if the city decided not to renew it.

Raymond has until Friday to submit his resignation in writing, according to a motion made Monday night to accept his verbal resignation.

The commission directed new Polson city manager Mark Shrives, who was hired this fall, to reach a “confidential settlement agreement” with Raymond.

“The city is working with another law firm on the agreement,” Shrives said Thursday. “Whatever can remain confidential by law will – we don’t know what that might be, because we haven’t gotten there yet. There will be discussions based on his contract.”

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Shrives, who formerly was city administrator for Creswell, Ore., said he didn’t know if it was rare for a municipality to enter into an employment contract that required a year’s notice for termination to take place, but added, “It’s not a contract I’ve seen before.”

Raymond has drawn occasional fire from some members of the public at some commission meetings and in letters to the editor of local weekly newspapers in recent years. Their concerns included impact fees on Raymond’s new house, language in ordinances he wrote at the behest of the city, and his attendance record at city commission meetings.

The board of directors of Domestic Violence Education and Services submitted a letter to the commission in 2012 alleging Raymond, as city attorney, failed to meet with victims of domestic violence before offering plea deals to those accused of the crimes, and failed to keep victims notified of scheduling changes and case proceedings.

Raymond could not be reached for comment Thursday. The number for his law firm was answered by a recording that said the number “is not in service at this time.”

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Raymond is paid approximately $43,000 a year to serve as Polson’s city attorney. He also was Ronan’s city attorney, a position he left last summer.

Shrives said he will search for an interim city attorney who can deal with prosecution and civil issues.

Polson has a new mayor, Heather Knutson, and two new city commissioners who take office on Jan. 6. After they’re sworn in, Shrives said he will discuss with the city commission about how it wants to proceed in replacing Raymond permanently.

Raymond finished seventh in a 12-way race for Lake County Justice of the Peace in 2012. He was also one of six people who applied to replace retiring District Court Judge C.B. McNeil this year. Raymond’s name was not among the three finalists forwarded to Montana Gov. Steve Bullock by the Montana Judicial Nomination Commission.

Reporter Vince Devlin can be reached at 1-800-366-7186 or by email at vdevlin@missoulian.com.

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