Gillette Municipal Court Judge Doug Dumbrill abruptly resigned during Tuesday’s Gillette City Council meeting, then got into a shouting match with the audience, most of whom were there to protest Mayor Louise Carter-King and the rest of the council.

The arguments between Dumbrill and the crowd escalated, prompting the mayor to adjourn the council and Gillette Police officers to eventually clear the room before the council returned to finish the meeting.

Dumbrill, who also is the uncle of Councilman Nathan McLeland, swore in Laura Chapman to fill a vacancy on the council created by the June 10 resignation of Shay Lundvall. Shortly after, he asked for some time for himself.

The council allowed him to speak. Dumbrill approached the podium and resigned his position as a municipal judge before criticizing people who have been protesting the mayor and council since Lundvall resigned at their urging after he had liked some offensive social media posts.

Since then, a vocal group of Lundvall supporters have protested the City Council twice and have urged the mayor and other council members to resign themselves, claiming they blackmailed Lundvall into giving up his elected seat.

Dumbrill said he couldn’t stay silent on the issue any longer, adding that his position as a local judge was in conflict with going public with his personal opinions, so he resigned and spoke up.

“I hearby resign my (position) as a city of Gillette municipal judge effective instantly, at this moment,” he said. “I do this because I cannot address this assembly (of) cowards and liars without violating the ethics of judicial conduct.”

Although people are allowed 2 minutes each during the public comment portion of City Council meetings, Dumbrill said he wanted a minute for every year he was on the bench. He then turned to face the crowd and addressed it directly.

In telling critics of the mayor and council that they’re abusing their rights to free speech, he called them “cowards.”

“I use that word because there are people in this room who want the liberty of speech and they aren’t willing to pay the price for it,” he said.

He went on to angrily ask what those in the audience have done to earn their freedom of speech, which began a 10-minute back and forth that ranged from loud talking to shouting and name-calling.

“What have you people who have come here tonight to exercise your supposed rights of speech, what have you laid on the line as a sacrifice for this community?” Dumbrill asked.

“My ancestors have!” someone shouted back.

“Shut up!” Dumbrill replied.

The interaction degenerated from there. Throughout the exchange, Carter-King attempted to restore order to no avail and about 5:15 into Dumbrill’s speech, she adjourned the council to another room.

But that didn’t phase Dumbrill or the crowd, who continued to yell at each other until a pair of police officers approached the former judge and informed those attending the council meeting that the room would be cleared.

“Bob Vomhof, you started this,” Dumbrill said to Vomhof, who was in the audience.

Four of Vomhof’s Facebook posts were cited by the city as among the offensive social media posts Lundvall had liked. He has since been among the leaders of a vocal group calling for Carter-King and the council to resign. He also organized a protest at City Hall prior to Tuesday’s council meeting.

“I would like to thank everybody here for pushing this piece of trash out,” Vomhof replied to Dumbrill.

As the room was cleared, one man had to be escorted out by police.

While the exchanges between Dumbrill and some others were heated, there were no physical threats. Some also urged civility.

Jerry Martinez was one of the dozens who attended the meeting, wearing a T-shirt that read, “Be good to people.”

During the recess, he said people need to calm down and listen to each other, even if they don’t agree.

“I can see both sides,” Martinez said. “Everything needs to be a little more civil.”

After the recess, the audience was allowed back into the council chambers and public comment about Lundvall’s resignation continued.

Into the fire

It is not often a new City Council member’s first night on the job includes a vocal protest, the abrupt resignation of a municipal court judge and a shouting match that drags a council meeting to a halt.

For Chapman, that describes her first minutes as the city's new Ward 3 councilwoman.

“It was intense,” Chapman said Wednesday morning. “It took me a little by surprise, I’m not going to lie.”

Chapman said she did not know what to think of Dumbrill’s resignation and the ensuing shouting match with the audience in the crowded council chambers.

“I think that surreal is a good word for it,” she said.

The scene was also a first for the mayor, a veteran of local politics.

“I’ve never seen that, and I've been in this a long time,” Carter-King said after the meeting.

The crowd did not dissipate much during the 45-minute recess, and when the meeting resumed, about 10 people spoke during public comment, mostly criticizing the mayor and council.

“That outburst was not expected," Carter-King said as the meeting was reconvened. "We didn’t know about it and that will not be tolerated by anyone."

She also set some ground rules for those wanting to address the council, including advising them of the 2-minute limit on time to speak and that personal attacks and name-calling wouldn't be tolerated.

“Everyone must be civil,” the mayor said. “Let’s try and keep a civil conversation so (we) can continue this meeting.”

Cheryl Vomhof, Bob Vomhof's mother, told the council she thought the city’s decision to “unmask” her son for his Facebook posts appear "insidious and self-serving.”

The only resolution that would provide some justice would be for the mayor and anyone on the City Council who was involved to resign, she said.

Aside from continuing to request resignations, some people directed their comments at the new city councilwoman.

Renee Edwards said she has nothing personal against Chapman, but that she was not elected by the voters of Ward 3.

Chelsie Clem, the wife of state Rep. Scott Clem, R-Gillette, gave Chapman some advice.

“Public service comes at a great cost with everything being dug up on you,” Clem said. “I don’t say this out of any disrespect, (but) buckle up, because it will happen. (Elected officials) are held to a higher standard.”

“Yes, I’m sitting here by appointment,” Chapman responded. “I’m also sitting here having gone through 20 years of my personal relationships dissected and still have the courage to sit here because I saw an opportunity to serve my community and I’m going to do that.”

(5) comments

Rezident

Well, well, well the inner circle is starting to crumble!

Judge, you resigned your position, you are not entitled, before or after your resignation, to any more time to speak in front of the council! What makes you better than anyone else? Asking what Right American citizens have to the First Amendment? That is just incomprehensible, coming from a former judge! Either you consider yourself part of the city’s political elite or you should have never been elevated to the honorable position as a judge.

To blame this situation on Mr Vomhof is also reprehensible! Mr Vomhof did NOT start this, mrs king started this! Place the blame where it belongs, mrs king threw Mr Vomhof into the fire, and the fire has blown up in her face. Time for the mayor and whole council to resign, IMMEDIATELY!

BTW I am a natural born US citizen, entitled to all the Rights afforded by the United States Constitution!

BethMorgan

Vomhof is NOT some sort of victim in this. He posted things on Facebook, which is not at all private. If you don't want to be called out for posting loathsome things, then don't post them. This is not rocket science.

Edwardw

The Mayor and Town Council need to be more concerned about the City of Gillette not Facebook . That’s not rocket science.

Edwardw

Here’s me using my “ supposed 1st Amendment rights”. Dumbrill :may the good lord hit ya where the good lord split ya .

tpaxton

I have missed the boat! What are they fighting about!

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