Bridger Canyon Fire Station

Mike Greener/Chronicle

Bridger Canyon Fire Station

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Bridger Canyon Rural Fire District trustees filed a lawsuit Thursday to halt the recall election against them.

Trustees Colleen Carnine, Mike Conn, Margaret Foster, Dennis Guentzel and Dave McKee requested an order to stop Gallatin County Clerk and Recorder and Election Administrator Charlotte Mills from conducting the recall election.

According to the complaint filed in Gallatin County District Court on Thursday afternoon:

Mills sent a letter to the trustees Nov. 27, informing them that a petition to hold a recall for their positions was filed with her office.

The petition stated that the reasons all the trustees should be recalled include official misconduct by holding unannounced meetings without public notice or input since December 2012 and for violating their oath of office by failing to uphold the state constitution.

Mills' letter said the petition included 108 valid signatures, a sufficient amount to hold a recall election for each of the trustees. Mills told the trustees they had until Dec. 9 to submit a statement to be placed on the ballot giving reason why each should not be recalled.

Board trustees contend that the recall petition doesn't include a clear statement of their alleged acts that constitute recall. Therefore, the trustees argue, Mills is proceeding with a recall based on legally insufficient grounds.

The trustees asked that a judge prohibit Mills from allowing the recall.

Trustees also asked for an order to immediately stop the recall process until a hearing can be held. That hearing is scheduled for Jan. 27 before Gallatin County District Court Judge Holly Brown.

The fire district was in District Court earlier this year when Bridger Canyon residents asked a judge to reinstate former fire Chief Dan Astrom and the firefighters who left because they didn't want to serve under the board. As part of that suit, residents claimed trustees failed to provide adequate fire protection after the firefighters resigned.

Residents also claimed the board failed to give public notice or allow public comment at meetings.

District Judge Mike Salvagni ruled he had no legal authority to force the chief or firefighters back to work. At the request of residents, he also dismissed the portion of the suit regarding open meeting violations.

The trustees' attorney, William Hanson, said the fire district is not paying for the cost of the legal action.

Whitney Bermes can be reached at or 582-2648. Follow her on Twitter at @wabermes.

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