In this town of 90 people, Mayor Ed Dohrman rails at the city clerk and curses constituents at public meetings.
A group of Tensed voters says their two-year mayor is an out-of-control buffoon. They’re fighting to oust him from office.
“It’s caused a lot of tension, a lot of wondering what our local government has come to,” said City Councilwoman Carol Zarate.
Mayor Dohrman said Monday night he will not step down. He said he’s being pilloried by a group of “almost diabolical” people.
“It’s a vicious little town,” he said. “I’d say I’m madder than hell about the way things are going.”
Zarate and several other people in the southern Benewah County town say they’re equally appalled by the mayor’s behavior.
“It’s bullying - there’s no other way to say it,” said Councilman Gary Seaton. “He who screams the loudest gets his way.”
Take the incident with the tape recorders, for example. The council met recently to discuss moving the town trash bin. It was a matter of local concern, and a half-dozen citizens showed up at the meeting with tape recorders. One brought her video recorder.
No way, said the mayor. He ordered the recorders turned off.
People in the audience protested, saying it was a public meeting. Seaton agreed.
By the time the yelling ended, the mayor had cursed Seaton, saying he needed gagging, and one woman in the audience had threatened to slap another woman.
Then there’s the matter of the city’s part-time clerk, Yvette Baune. Some citizens object to the mayor’s treatment of Baune, saying he belittles and berates her. Nearly a third of the town signed a petition demanding that the mayor apologize after a recent meeting.
“To accuse the city clerk of not knowing her job and trying to intimidate her in front of a room full of people was totally uncalled for, and an apology is required,” the petition said.
The mayor refused, adding a colorful suggestion of what the townspeople could do with their petition.
Dohrman also issues rambling statements on city letterhead. In one, he quotes General George Patton.
“The City of Tensed, with no industry and few services, is the stereotype of a paraplegic beggar, scooting around on his bottom selling poppy buttons for beans,” the mayor wrote.
The current campaign against him, he suggested, is the result of citizens looking for something to do.
A third of the town’s residents have now signed a petition calling for Dohrman’s recall. The mayor, according to the petition, “doesn’t preserve the dignity and quality of council meetings by allowing personal agendas to come before the planned agenda.”
“I would say the majority of people who weren’t registered voters are now,” said Jeanette Rose, who wrote the petition. Copies of Idaho political law now share space with begonia bulb packets and cookbooks on her kitchen table.
“It’s just a shouting match at a council meeting,” she said. “You don’t pick on people. We’re tired of our council members and city clerk getting chewed on.”
The council, she feels, should be getting the roads paved, and streetlights put in, and the town’s broken basketball hoops fixed.
“He doesn’t like us, because we don’t let him have control over everything,” she said. “He doesn’t want to better the community.”
The dispute has split the town, with neighbors and even relatives not talking to each other. Some of Dohrman’s critics say they fear for their families and pets. Some say they’ve received threats.
“I want the community to know what’s going on in our town,” said Zarate. “I want it resolved. I want a good City Council and a town that grows. I want everyone to get along.”
Over in the Circle H Saloon, owner - and Councilman - Lyle Hendrickx defended the mayor.
“What it amounts to is a clique,” Hendrickx said. “In this little town of 90, they’re just ganging up on him.”
He acknowledged that the mayor swears a lot, but said critics should be paying less attention to the words and more to what the mayor’s saying.
The mayor’s critics, Hendrickx said, are trying to bring big city ideas - like mobile home ordinances - into the small town.
“That man has done good for this town,” said Hendrickx, one hand around a can of Olympia beer. “I think they want paved streets in this town. I don’t want paved streets. The kids will get run over.”
In an obscenity-laced interview Monday night, Mayor Dohrman also defended himself.
He said he felt the tape recorders were a challenge to his authority. People, he said, “are trying to build a case against me on the grounds I use more colorful language than they’re used to.”
As for the clerk, he said, she questioned an order from him to read the council minutes.
The reason the city hasn’t done much during his two years in office, the mayor said, is because there hasn’t been much to do.
“In the last week or so, we painted the gazebo in the park,” he said. “That went unnoticed. These people are so disinterested in what happens here until someone comes in and makes a big issue out of a petty argument.”