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Montana Politics

Rehberg’s Suit Against Firefighters Set for December—of 2012

It’s certainly interesting that Representative Rehberg is so fortunate when it comes to establishing trial dates during elections, isn’t it?

District Courts in Billings must be incredibly overwhelmed with cases, as the the trial for the Rehbergs’ lawsuit against the city of Billings won’t be able to happen until December of 2012, a month after election day.

During the 2010 campaign for the US House against Dennis McDonald, Rehberg faced the prospect of a damaging trial that might have revealed some unfortunate details about the Congressman, but the original trial date was postponed until after the election:

A criminal case certain to reveal the details of an August boat wreck – in which a congressman and a state senator were badly injured – will not go to court until after this fall’s general election.

"I think that’s a definite benefit to (Denny) Rehberg," said Craig Wilson, longtime political science professor at Montana State University-Billings. "He’s obviously not the person on trial, but the wreck is generally perceived as a negative thing, and it’s more of a negative thing if the trial is actively going on. I think any candidate would prefer the trial to be after the election."

While the Gazette story doesn’t seem to actually have posted the Rehbergs’ settlement offer with the city of Billings (errors where the link is), the story seems to suggest that Rehberg wants the city to develop firefighting strategies that he gets to approve. You know, like every citizen does:

A day before the city’s response was filed, Edwards sent Braukmann a seven-page letter that included the Rehbergs’ offer to settle the case "without monetary compensation if the city agrees to adopt specific wildland firefighting standards within an agreed time frame, and subject to review and comment by my client and/or the public at large."

If such policies are already in place, the letter states, the Rehbergs "would like to review those policies and have them amended, as necessary."

In this whole sad story of Representative Rehberg and his wife suing the very people who risked their lives to protect his scrub land, there have been two details that I just can’t shake: 1) that Rehberg and his attorney have misrepresented the City’s willingness to discuss the case and share information and 2) that, having determined there was a very high risk of renewed fire, Representative Rehberg left his own property to attend a political event.  

How very independent and conservative of him.

It seems like people keep paying for Representative Rehberg’s lack of personal responsibility—and he wants to make sure the people of Billings will as well, for years to come.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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