The appointment of Kirk Fitch as Havre Police Chief seems to be getting widespread acclaim, even from those who were at first reluctant to go outside the department.
But the method by which he was chosen is cause for great concern.
Mayor Tim Solomon decided to make the hire without benefit of a public search. We think he should have had a more open process, but that is his decision to make.
But then the mayor thought it would be a good idea to get City Council together to have a private get-together with his appointee before council held a meeting for a ratification vote.
That is not the mayor's decision to make.
Montana open meeting laws are clear. When City Council gets together, it is an open meeting which any member of the public can attend.
Solomon called the session a meet-and-greet and almost social.
The mayor can call it a pep rally if he wants to, but under Montana law, it's a public meeting and the public should have known about it 48 hours earlier.
Mike Meloy, an attorney for the Montana Newspaper Association, put it simply: "Any time a quorum of the Council gets together for any reason, it constitutes a 'meeting' and must be open to the public and have the requisite public notice."
The law is not complicated.
The mayor called the meeting, and as far as we know, council members marched in without a peep of dissent. Of course, we don't know that for sure because we didn't have any idea the meeting was being held.
The council should not be involved in a closed-door meeting to discuss, of all things, the appointment of the city's chief law enforcement officer.
For the public's sake, City Council should make a New Year's resolution that it will comply with open meetings laws henceforth.