Red Lodge Mayor Ed Williams announced Tuesday evening that he will be resigning as of June 29, one day before the the official last day of Police Chief Steve Hibler, who announced his resignation on April 6.
Williams could not be reached for comment, but Diane Dimich, a member of Red Lodge Community Oversight Representatives, confirmed that the mayor announced his resignation shortly after the start of a 7 p.m. meeting of the Red Lodge City Council on Tuesday.
“He really didn’t say much,” Dimich said. “He just said he was resigning.”
Dimich said there was a brief discussion of how the City Council will select a successor for Williams, who was elected to his first two-year term as mayor in 2013 and re-elected last year.
This has been a tumultuous year for Williams. Most of the trouble the mayor has dealt with in recent months grew out of a botched drug raid that Hibler and other members of the Red Lodge Police Department conducted in January. Carbon County Attorney Alex Nixon wrote to Williams on Jan. 27, saying a search warrant for the raid may have been obtained by fraudulent means.
And early in February, a lawsuit was filed by a Bearcreek woman who said she was unlawfully arrested and injured in the raid, even though her house was behind and separate from the house identified in the search warrant. The city and Chief Hibler were among defendants named in the lawsuit, which asked for at least $1 million in damages.
In March, an assistant state attorney general declined to file charges related to the Bearcreek raid, which he characterized as “inappropriate.” Later that month, a group of citizens concerned about the dispute over the drug raid, as well as reports of police harassment from other residents of Red Lodge, formed Community Oversight Representatives.
Hibler announced on April 6 that he was resigning effective June 30, and in a Facebook post published by the Carbon County News, Williams said that he and Hibler were “disturbed by the vicious and personal attacks upon them by some elements of the community.”
After the mayor, under pressure, released the minutes of a closed session of the City Council that took place in March, it became clear that Williams made the decision to seek Hibler’s resignation. In the minutes, explaining his decision, he cited “the negativity we are seeing” from the the public and “concerns some Council members have brought to my attention.”
In April, the Carbon County News published a brief statement from Williams saying that rumors of his own resignation were untrue. Williams accused Lance Bourquin, a former Carbon County sheriff, of being responsible for at least some of the rumors.
“Apparently he went into a downtown business and told them I had resigned,” Williams said in the newspaper statement. “This is another case of the sheriff and the County Government attempting to disrupt our city government.”
Although Hiber’s resignation was effective June 30, he hasn’t worked since announcing the move on April 6, reportedly because he is tapping unused vacation and comp time.
Dimich, with COR, said the City Council decided to ask Sam Painter, a Billings attorney who often works for the city of Red Lodge, to help them determine the best way to select a successor to fill in for Williams until the next mayoral election in 2017.
Asked if COR might play a role in helping to choose that successor, Dimich said she wasn’t sure. However, members of COR already had an ad hoc meeting with three council members scheduled for Wednesday, she said, and “I’m sure it will be discussed.”