Judge Resigns, Tempers Flare at City Council Meeting

Chelsea Roan holds a sign outside of City Hall on Tuesday evening.
Chelsea Roan holds a sign outside of City Hall on Tuesday evening.

H/t Ed  Rebich

 

When Municipal Court Judge Douglas Dumbrill swore in Laura Chapman to the Gillette City Council last night, no one knew it would be the last service he performed in this position.

Around 80 protesters showed up to Tuesday’s City Council meeting wielding signs that read “Hold the mayor accountable” and “Fire Mayor Carter-King.” The group began gaining steam June 10, following the resignation of former City Council member Shay Lundvall, requested by Mayor Louise Carter-King in response to a letter sent to the city by two out-of-town females who complained about his liking “objectionable” posts on a Facebook page belonging to Gillette resident Bob Vomhof.

Last Tuesday, the council chose Laura Chapman to fill his empty Ward 3 seat from the seven candidates who applied.

In recent days, the public outcry has hit a fever pitch, including Vomhof’s float in the 4th of July parade Saturday calling to “Fire the Mayor” and “BLM: Bob’s Likes Matter” along with a blonde woman in a paper-mache jail cell, signifying the mayor.

Vomhof showed up with a large group of supporters to the prior week’s council meeting at which he and many others shared their outcry about Lundvall’s resignation during the public comments period. This week, they returned once again to give the Mayor a piece of their minds.

Chelsea Roan holds a sign outside of City Hall on Tuesday evening.
Chelsea Roan holds a sign outside of City Hall Tuesday evening.

Chelsea Roan of Gillette was among the protesters present before the meeting and in Council chambers.

“I’m here to support Bob’s cause,” she said.  “I don’t know Bob well and I don’t know Shay, but when I looked into it and saw what happened, I don’t believe he should have been bullied into apologizing by a mob.”

Vomhof and dozens of protestors filled council chambers fifteen prior to the beginning of the regularly scheduled 7 p.m. meeting, which commenced with Judge Dumbrill’s swearing in Chapman, with people waiting to give public comment.

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When Mayor Carter-King entertained a motion to approve the consent agenda, Dumbrill sprung up from his seat in the front row.

“I’d like to add a municipal court matter between the council’s comments and public comment,” he said, approaching the podium as he took off his black gown and announced his resignation “effective immediately, right here and right now.”

Gillette Municipal Court Judge Doug Dumbrill
Gillette Municipal Court Judge Doug Dumbrill stands at the podium after giving his resignation.

The judge then turned to face the crowded room, explaining that he couldn’t fill such a respectable position while at the same time not addressing the “cowardice” bunch before him.

“I do this with the highest respect for the Mayor who has served this community for decades,” he said, in a fiery rebuke in defense of the First Amendment, which he told the crowd they didn’t deserve.

“What have any of you done? What have you sacrificed for this community? We have laid down our lives for this town while you all feel sorry for yourselves,” he said.

The crowd watched in silence as Mayor Carter-King directed Dumbrill to speak into the microphone, so the audience could hear him.

“The people in this room want to exercise their freedom of speech without seeing the consequences of their actions,” Dumbrill yelled. “What about my freedoms?”

The former judge went on to exercise his freedoms by calling the audience a slew of names, including “cowards,” at which point the chambers devolved into a screaming match, prompting several Gillette Police Officers to intervene.

“My ancestors made their sacrifices,” a man in the back yelled as others took to their feet to stand and shout at Dumbrill.

Others in the crowd yelled at the protestors, demanding that they hear Dumbrill out.

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“Let him speak,” a man leaning against the back wall said. “We’ll have our time; this is his time.”

GPD officers stepped in to calm down the unruly residents as Dumbrill continued.

Gillette Municipal Court Judge Doug Dumbrill shouting at the community members in the room.
Gillette Municipal Court Judge Doug Dumbrill shouts over present community members.

“Is Shay Lundvall in this room?” he yelled over the crowd. “No, he isn’t. He resigned from this council and do you know why?”

The audience responded almost unanimously with “blackmail” to which Dumbrill disagreed.

“He was not blackmailed, he resigned by personal choice,” he said. “Since he’s not here we can infer that he either resigned because he was ashamed of what he’d done or because he was afraid of the public’s reaction.”

Dumbrill went on to defend the Mayor and council’s request to call for Lundvall’s resignation, stating that if he was in public office and was in the right, he would never resign.

“You just did,” several shouted.

“We accept your resignation,” another man yelled.

Vomhof stood up from his seat and fired back.

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“I think we’ve seen the public’s reaction,” he said gesturing to the packed rows of protesters behind him, as Dumbrill and Vomhof  exchanged insults.

“Vomhof, you started this whole thing,” Dumbrill yelled.

“You are a disgrace,” Vomhof said. “Thank you for resigning.”

Campbell County resident, Bob Vomhof, stands up and voices his opinions towards Judge Drumhill.
Campbell County resident Bob Vomhof stands up and voices his opinions towards Judge Dumbrill.

Less than 10 minutes into the exchanged, Mayor Carter-King announced that the council would be exiting the room and returning under cooler circumstances at which the cameras were turned off.

Police officers approached to ask the crowd to leave, telling them that GPD officers we’re going to start releasing everyone, one row at a time.

The police began exiting the crowd row by row.

“It’s a rather peculiar situation where a judge resigns, so he can berate an entire community for having the gall to think their right to free speech is God given,” Gillette resident Ed Rebich, who was present and asked to leave, told County 17 Wednesday morning.

As the officers cleared the room, resident Renee Edwards rejected the notion that an unarmed, nonviolent group should be asked to leave the Chambers while the former judge was not. She also noted that neither she nor her husband had been involved in the “screaming match” minutes earlier.

GPD Lt. Brent Wasson recited the ordinance over the din of the crowd.

“I’m sorry the Mayor has you doing her dirty work,” Edwards said to the officers as she eventually gathered her things to leave.

Edwards later clarified in a message, that her intention was not to exhibit disrespect to the officers at the meeting.

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“I support our GPD,” she wrote. “I think they have been dealt a CRAPPY hand! This wasn’t fair to them. It wasn’t fair to the people in that room. They were doing their job.”

A GPD Officer addressing the public during last night's City Council meeting.
GPD Lt. Brent Wasson addresses the public during last night’s city council meeting.

City of Gillette Communications Manager Geno Palazzari confirmed that the city accepted Judge Dumbrill’s resignation as tendered at the meeting, but declined to comment further about the incident when asked Wednesday morning.

“No. Nothing official at this time,” he said.

 

Casey Campbell contributed to this story.