The Havre Daily News
Saturday, April 12, 1941-Page 1
The Independent Record
The Montana Standard
Barry O’ Leary of 410 North
Washington Street, a veteran Democratic alderman of the Second ward,
last night was elected mayor of Butte at a special council meeting.
He succeeds the late Charles A. Hauswirth. He will serve a
complete two-year term until the first Monday in May, 1943.
Ten votes were cast for Mr. O’Leary while Mrs. Leila Hauswirth,
widow of the late mayor and candidate of the republican minority,
received four. Two of the 16 aldermen did not vote.
The meeting was a dramatic one during which Alderman Arthur
Mehrens, acting mayor since the death of Mr. Hauswirth, repeatedly
asserted that “I am the mayor.”
He refused to leave the chair until the council passed a motion
directing the police department to remove him as “an intruder in the
mayor’s chair.” Mr.
Mehrens’ attorney also was escorted out by police, after he had been
warned to keep his place.
Mayor O’Leary’s right to the office was further disputed by
Alderman Mehrens who at an early hour this morning issued the following
“I am going to continue to serve as mayor until the State
Supreme Court decides this matter. I think that is the Democratic way. I
have been advised that these are my rights and I feel I must stick by
them. If this were not the
case I would support Mr. O’Leary.”
Mayor O’Leary, after receiving the oath of office and being
seated, thanked the councilmen “and the people of Butte for their
confidence and the honor they have conferred upon me,” promising at
the same time to do everything possible, with the co-operation of the
council, to make his administration a successful one.
He had intended to make some appointments last night but the
order of business for the special meeting did not include provision for
these. These appointments
probably will be announced at a regular meeting of the council tomorrow
Alderman Phil Doherty, Democrat, of the sixth ward, was elected
president of the council over Thomas R. Morgan, Republican, Seventh
ward, by a vote of 15 to one. Mr. Morgan was unanimously elected vice
president of the council.
Motions were adopted to make the election of Mr. O’Leary as
mayor and Mr. Doherty as president unanimous.
Long before the scheduled starting time of the meeting the
gallery was completely packed and spectators jammed the corridors to the
street. Six policemen were
on duty to keep order. A
public address system carried proceedings of the meeting to those
standing in the hall. Outbursts
from the crowd were frequent at the start of the meeting but a threat to
have police silence over-enthusiastic spectators brought quiet.
There were many cries of “Down in front!”
It was at 7:46 o’clock that Alderman Mehrens, still
presiding as president of the old council and acting mayor, rapped the
gavel to bring the meeting to order.
He was seated on the platform in a chair next to one draped in
black in respect to the memory of the late Mayor Hauswirth.
Mehrens Claims Office
Alderman John Lindquist of the Eighth ward made a motion that the
cuoncil elect a temporary chairman. This was immediately ruled out of
order by Mr. Mehrens on the grounds that “no vacancy exists and I am
the mayor according to advice of legal counsel.”
Lindquist appealed from the ruling of the chair but Mr. Mehrens
refused to recognized the appeal although City Attorney Floyd Fluent
pointed out that the council has the right to decide upon an appeal.
There followed several minutes of more or less bitter debate as
to the motion and the correct procedure for the meeting to follow.
Aldermen Take Oath
Finally, calm being restored, City Clerk Beryl Wilson
administered the oath of office to the 16 alderman, 12 Democrats and
four Republicans. In the
oath they swore to defend the Consitution, state laws and city
ordinances, stated that they secured their election properly and
promised that they would not use their offices to obtain money
Alderman Lindquist then put his motion again for the election of
a temporary chairman and Alderman Mehrens refused to submit it for a
vote. Under questioning
Mehrens admitted that he felt he was mayor and that he had been advised
to stay in the chair.
Mr. O’Leary reminded Mr. Mehrens that the 12 Democrats had
agreed to support the candidate selected at their caucus Sunday and Mr.
Lindquist asserted that Mehrens “took the oath of Office as alderman
and not of mayor.”
Attorney Taken Out
Referring to the advice he had received, Mr. Mehrens declaired
that “you can ask 10 different attorneys about this and get 10
difference opinions. I have
been told I am mayor. I
would be a chump if I didn’t stand for my rights and occupy this
chair. At this 11th
hour I have decided that I am the mayor.”
It was at this point that Attorney Phil O’Connell stepped onto
the platform to whisper to Mr. Mehrens.
Alderman John T. (Sherrig) Sullivan called for his removal and
Assistant Chief of Police Jack Duggan entered the railed enclosure.
O’Donnell, smiling, was escorted outside the railing by Mr. Duggan.
Mehrens several times asked for permission for Mr. O’Donnell to
speak to explain the opinion he had given.
This request was not granted. Some members of the council
expressed the hope that the matter would not result in any litigation.
After City Attorney Fluent made an appeal “for the good of the
people” to stop “this jockeying,” Mr. Mehrens put the motion on
his “out of order” ruling in regard to the motion to elect a
temporary chairman. His
decision was voted down unanimously and the motion to elect a temporary
chairman was carried unanimously.
Then, on motion of Alderman Lindquist, Mr. Mehrens was elected temporary chaiman.
The election of council officers followed.
Alderman Lindquist nominated Alderman Morgan and it was seconded
by Alderman E. J. Lowney, Republican, Seventh ward.
Alderman Emmett Malone, Democrat Third ward, nominated Alderman
Doherty and it was seconded by Alderman Pete Sodja, Democrat, Fifth
After Doherty’s election as president Alderman Sullivan nominated Alderman Morgan for vice president. It was seconded by Alderman Sodja.
Vote to Remove Mehrens
Alderman Lindquist then called for Alderman Doherty to take his place as presiding officer, succeeding Alderman Mehrens. Mehrens again contended that he was the mayor and that “you must remove me by law—you wouldn’t use force to remove me.”
Lindquist made a motion to have police remove Mehrens and it
was seconded by Doherty. Doherty, from his seat as alderman in the
Sixth Ward then put the motion to vote although Mehrens still occupied
the mayor’s chair. The
motion passed 15 to 1. Mehrens voting against it.
Assistant Chief Fuggan escorted Mehrens to his chair as a Third ward alderman. Mehrens went willingly but asked that the minutes show that he was removed “by force.”
The meeting proceeded more smoothly after Alderman Doherty took
over the chair and called for nominations for mayor.
Lindquist nominated Mrs. Hauswirth and Alderman Fred Scubert,
Republican, Eighth ward, seconded it.
Alderman Sullivan nominated Mr. O’Leary, and it was seconded
by Alderman John O’Neill, Democrat, Second ward.
On roll call the vote was as follows:
For O’Leary—Aldermen Sullivan, Dewey McGeehan, O’Neill,
Malone, Fred Chrisly, Alex McDonald, Sodja, John J. Haggerty, Doherty
and Frank Moran.
For Mrs. Hauswirth—Aldermen Lowney, Morgan, Lindquist and
Aldelrman Mehrens did not vote explaining the he believed a
vacancy did not exist. Mr.
O’Leary voted “present.” These
two registered the same votes on the motion to make the election
broke into applause as Mr. O’Leary was escorted to the clerk’s
stand by Chief of Police W. H. Breen.
Miss Wilson administered to him the oath of office—the same
oath as that taken by the aldermen.
Miss Wilson was the first to congratulate the new mayor after
he had received the oath.
Mr. O’Leary’s resignation as alderman of the Second ward
was then submitted and accepted and council President Doherty handed
over the gavel to Mayor O’Leary.
Mayor O’Leary’s talk was brief.
“Gentlemen of the city council and ladies and gentlemen of
Butte, I want to thank each and every one of you for the confidence
you have shown in me and the honor you have bestowed upon me,” he
“I assure you that I will do everything in my power to make
this the best administration that Butte has ever had.
I promise aid for the taxpayers and ask for your co-operation.
I promise that politics will be forgotten and I hope that with all of
us pulling together we can do great things for this great city of
Mayor O’Leary’s talk was followed by pledges of
co-operation from all factions in the council. Aldermen McDonald,
Malone, Sullivan and McGeehan explained that Cliff Crowley, defeated
Democratic candidate for mayor in the recent election, had been their
choice in the caucus Sunday but that they would support the man chosen
by the majority.
Mayor O’Leary is well known to Butte people, having made his
home here for the past 43 years. Prior to that he resided in
California. He has been
employed at the St. Lawrence mine for 39 years and for the past 32 has
been engineer there. He is
a member of the Butte Engineers’ union No. 83.
He was first elected to the council in 1921 and has served a
total of 16 years as alderman. He was named for his ninth term at the
In the council he has served on several committees, both as
chairman and member, including such important ones as the judiciary,
ways and means, parks and playgrounds,
street and alley, finance, legislative and others.
He has a reputation for his extensive knowledge of
parliamentary procedure and he is well acquainted with city affairs.
Mr. O’Leary is married and has five children, four sons and a
daughter. His married sons
are Tim and John of Butte and Mike of Anaconda, the latter being coach
of the Anaconda high school athletic teams.
Another son, Robert, is a pupil at St. Patrick’s school.
His daughter, Mary, is a school teacher at Gregson.
A nephew, Gerald Coleman, is a student at Christian Brothers
Last night’s meeting was the organization session for the new
city council. The old
council dissolved at noon yesterday and the new governing body took
over last night. New
aldermen selected are Dewey McGeehan who succeeds Joe Duffy in the
First ward, John O’Neill who succeeds Pat A. Sullivan in the Second
ward and John J. Haggerty who succeeds Fred McFadden in the Fifth
ward. All are Democrats.
Alhough a successor to Mr. O’Leary’s place in the Second
ward will not be chosen until a later date, it was indicated that
among the nominees will be Former Alderman Pat Sullivan.
The late Mr. Hauswirth, had he lived, would have been seated
last night for his fourth consecutive term.
He was elected over Mr. Crowley on April 7 and died suddenly of
a heart attack four days later on April 11.
Mr. Mehrens who was president of the old council took over as
acting maor to complete Mr. Hauswirth’s unexpired third term.
The Montana Standard
in Mayor’s Office; Mehrens says: ‘I Am Mayor’
Scores of people called at the city hall during the day to
congratulate Mayor O’Leary on his election to that position by the
city council Monday evening. He
busied himself with city affairs during the day and prepared his
message to be delivered to the council this evening.
Meanwhile, from his post in the clerk’s office, Mr. Mehrens
gave out an order to stop issuance of any city warrants unless he
authorized them. He spent
his spare time by filling out his draft questionnaire.
“I’ll sit this thing out till the courts decide it,”
Mehrens asserted. “I’ll
be here every day during business hours. If I get bored maybe I’ll
bring up a checkerboard and see if I can get a game.”
The two men did not meet during the day.
Office employees in the city hall said the lock had been
changed on the door to the mayor’s office and Mayor O’Leary was in
complete charge. All city
departments were looking to Mayor O’Leary for instructions and
In regard to Mehrens’ order to stop city warrants unless he
authorized them, the city attorney, Floyd Fluent, gave an informal
opinion that “It doesn’t mean a thing—orders like that only
create business for the typewriter-paper companies.”
The city attorney further stated that it was his opinion that
Mayor O’Leary, being elected in proper form by the council, was the
mayor and would remain such despite Mr. Mehrens’ contention.
Mehrens’ attorney, Phil O’Donnell, said the order in regard
to city warrants was “merely to protect the rights of Mehrens.”
The attorney said he plans to make application to a court to determine
the validity of the claim to the mayor’s office.
The court action, expected in a day or two is to be in the form
of a writ of quo warranto which
questions the authority of a person to take office.
The odd situation developed Monday night at the council meeting
when Alderman Mehrens of the Third Ward—who as president of the
council had been acting as presiding officer since the death of the
late Mayor Charles A. Hauswirth—insisted that “there is no vacancy
and I am the mayor.” He was informed of his “rights” by his
counsel, he said.
Mehrens was president of the old council and as such was to
serve for the unexpired portion of the late Mayor Hauswirth’s third
That term ended Monday and the fourth term to which Mr.
Hauswirth was elected, a few days before his sudden death, started.
There being a vacancy for this term the council elected
Alderman O’Leary of the Second Ward as mayor over Mrs. Leila
Hauswirth, by a vote of 10 to 4. Petitions supporting Mrs. Hauswirth,
widow of the late mayor, carried approximately 4,600 signatures.
While Mehrens still claims that he is the mayor, Mayor O’Leary is going ahead with plans for his official message to the council and appointment of some city officers this evening. The meeting is scheduled to start at 7:30 o’clock.