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Libby, Polson Searching for New City Attorneys
Libby’s James Reintsma will stay on until end of year; Richard Gebhardt serves at interim in Polson
Two Northwest Montana towns are searching for new city attorneys. Libby’s James Reintsma and Polson’s James Raymond both recently announced that they would be leaving their posts.

Raymond has held his position for more than a decade and resigned during a Dec. 23 meeting. His resignation was effective immediately. On Jan. 6, Gebhardt was appointed to fill Raymond’s place for six months. Reintsma, on the other hand, will serve out the reminder of his term until the end of 2014.

“Jim was a really good fit and he did a good job for us. I hate to see him go,” said Libby Mayor Doug Roll. “(Being a city attorney) is a thankless position, especially in a small city.”

Reintsma will be moving to Oregon with his family later this year and plans on continuing to practice law. In the coming months, the city will begin searching for a new attorney, which will be appointed by Roll with the approval of council. Roll said the city attorney gets paid about $60,000 annually and it’s a busy position.

“It’s pretty much a full-time post,” Roll said. “There’s really too many cases for just one person.”

During his three-year tenure, Reintsma butted heads with one city councilor. In late 2012, councilor Allen Olsen accused the lawyer of playing politics when he threatened the outspoken councilman and then mayoral candidate with censure. Reintsma said Olsen was making statements about an area business that was drawing the ire from citizens and could have left the city open to legal trouble.

In Polson, Gebhardt will serve as city attorney until a new one can be found in the next six months. Newly elected Mayor Heather Knutson said the city commission would look at how it may change the city attorney position, possibly hiring either a full-time lawyer or part-time one. The six-month period will finish out the city’s fiscal year. Gebhardt is being paid $100 an hour.

“The primary goal (of appointing Gebhardt) was to fill the need,” she said. “This gives us flexibility to move forward.”

Gebhardt has served as deputy county attorney for Missoula and Sanders counties and the city attorney for Ronan, Hot Springs and Plains.

Knutson said once the city commission determines how it wants to move forward with the city attorney position that Gebhardt or anyone else would be welcomed to apply.
 
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