Rehberg’s lawsuit against Billings Fire Department cost taxpayers $21,000

Retired battalion chief calls multimillionaire Congressman’s suit ‘reckless’

BILLINGS, Mont. – Congressman Dennis Rehberg’s lawsuit against the City of Billings and its fire department cost taxpayers nearly $21,000, newly released records show.

According to a document released this week by Deputy City Attorney Craig Hensel, the City of Billings was billed for nearly 152 hours of work to defend itself in Rehberg’s lawsuit, at a total cost of $20,761.

Rehberg, a multimillionaire, sued both the City of Billings and the Billings Fire Department for monetary damages in 2010, two years after a Fourth of July wildfire burned near the Rehberg Ranch Estates subdivision in Billings.

The wildfire did not destroy any buildings, and the City contested Rehberg’s claim that the Billings Fire Department “carelessly or intentionally left the fire scene.”

Amid a firestorm of public pressure, Rehberg dropped his lawsuit last fall—but only after sticking taxpayers with the $21,000 bill.  The cost is .16 percent of Rehberg’s estimated net worth.

“Montanans can’t afford any more of Congressman Dennis Rehberg’s irresponsible decisions,” said Tim Bergstrom, retired battalion chief of the Billings Fire Department.  “Congressman Rehberg has been in Washington far too long if he thinks it’s okay to sue firefighters for simply doing their job of protecting citizens, and Montanans won’t forget that this reckless lawsuit cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.”

Rehberg filed his lawsuit against the city on July 2, 2010.  The lawsuit is available online HERE.

The Montana State Firemen’s Association endorsed Jon Tester in 2011.