THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS FOR GLASTONBURY LANDOWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC., a Montana Non-Profit Corporation, DENNIS RILEY, DANIEL KEHOE, REGINA WUNSCH, CHARLENE MURPHY, NEWMAN BROZOVSKY, GERALD DUBIEL, RICHARD JOHNSON, LEO KEELER, KEVIN NEWBY, CHARLOTTE MIZZI, PAUL RATALLO, MARK SEAVER, INDIVIDUALS, Petitioners, Counter-Defendants, and Appellees,
DANIEL and VALERY O'CONNELL, Respondents, Counter-Claimants, and Appellants.
Submitted on Briefs: April 10, 2019
FROM: District Court of the Sixth Judicial District, In and
For the County of Park, Cause No. DV-17-135 Honorable Brenda
Gilbert, Presiding Judge
Appellants: Daniel K. O'Connell, Valery A. O'Connell,
Appellees: Alanah Noel Griffith, Griffith & Cummings,
PLLC, Big Sky, Montana.
Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court
Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum
opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as
precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition
shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of
noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and
Daniel and Valery O'Connell (O'Connells) appeal from
a final order of protection from the Sixth Judicial District
Court, Park County, that prohibits them from having any
contact with Dennis Riley, Daniel Kehoe, Charlene Murphy,
Gerald Dubiel, Richard Johnson, Leo Keeler, Kevin Newby, and
Mark Seaver (Petitioners). The O'Connells also appeal an
order from the District Court granting summary judgment on
the O'Connells' counterclaims in favor of the
Petitioners and the Board of Directors for Glastonbury
Landowners Association, Inc. (the Board). We affirm.
The Petitioners are eight of twelve individual members who
comprise the Board, which manages the Glastonbury Landowners
Association, Inc. (Association), a homeowner's
association near Emigrant, Montana. The O'Connells and
each of the twelve Board members own property within the area
governed by the Association and are therefore Association
members. According to the Association covenants and bylaws,
all property owners in the Glastonbury subdivision may freely
attend Board and Association meetings.
For several years leading up to March 2017, the
O'Connells filed numerous frivolous lawsuits against the
Association and the Board. In March 2017, after a thorough
analysis of their many lawsuits, the District Court declared
the O'Connells vexatious litigants and forbade them from
filing any additional lawsuits against the Association or
Board without prior court approval. While the court's
order prevented more frivolous litigation, the
Association's covenants and bylaws still permitted the
O'Connells to attend Association meetings-and they did.
After the District Court's order, the Petitioners
witnessed the O'Connells' behavior at Association
meetings grow increasingly hostile and threatening. The
O'Connells' combative behavior became so severe that
Petitioners and some other Association members grew fearful
of them; therefore, the Petitioners filed a petition for an
order of protection in October 2017.
The District Court held a hearing on the petition in November
2017. The court limited the hearing to two hours and gave the
Petitioners and the O'Connells each one hour of time to
use as they saw fit. The Petitioners called the Board
President, Dennis Riley; the Board Vice President, Dan Kehoe;
and a member of the Association, Michele McCowan, to testify.
The O'Connells submitted affidavits for themselves in
lieu of testifying in open court, and they called Deputy Tad
Dykstra from the Park County Sheriff's Office; Charles
Barker, a member of the Association; and Charlotte Mizzi, a
member of the Board.
The District Court issued findings of fact, conclusions of
law, and an interim order of protection in favor of the
Petitioners in December 2017. The District Court found that
while the O'Connells were consistently disruptive at
Association meetings before March 2017, after the court
declared them vexatious litigants, their behavior escalated
into open hostility toward Board and Association members. The
court found that at an August 2017 Board meeting, Ms.
O'Connell's behavior-screaming and yelling over other
members while pacing the back of the meeting room-was so
disruptive that Riley, the Board President, felt compelled to
close the meeting early. Although Riley closed the meeting,
Ms. O'Connell continued acting out. Riley lost his
temper, pounded his fist on the table, walked to within ten
feet of Ms. O'Connell, and told her to leave.
During the order of protection hearing, Ms. O'Connell
attempted to characterize Riley's conduct as an assault,
but the District Court found Riley's version of events
credible, especially in light of testimony the O'Connells
elicited from their own witness, Charles Barker. Barker, who
was present at the August 2017 meeting, was not concerned for
Ms. O'Connell's safety when Riley walked toward her,
but he knew Riley was angry and tried to calm him down. The
District Court found Barker's account consistent with
The court found that at a Board meeting in September 2017,
Mr. O'Connell informed the Board he was "an
anti-pacifist" and embraced a motto to "have a plan
to kill every person" he met. He stated he felt rage
because of Riley's actions at the prior meeting and,
"if you come against my wife, you come to my wife again,
you're gonna have to come against me." He further
warned, "I will defend and protect every square inch of
Deputy Dykstra testified Mr. O'Connell's statement
about having a plan to kill every person he met was similar
to a quote from a well-known general. Deputy Dykstra
interpreted the quote as a defensive statement about what Mr.
O'Connell would do if his wife was threatened in the
future. Nevertheless, the court noted that in response to Mr.
O'Connell's threat, the Board passed a motion to hire
a private security guard to keep the peace at meetings. The
court found one Board member, Dan Kehoe, even began reaching
out to Association members he knew had concealed carry
permits to ask them to attend ...