Missoula Mayor John Engen appeared groggy and disengaged during Monday night’s City Council meeting, something out of character for the typically acute city leader.
At times, his articulation was hard to follow and he appeared to nod off at several points. One hour and 20 minutes into the meeting, he apologized, saying he’d had a long day – most of which he spent testifying in court.
The mayor’s role during sessions of City Council is largely parliamentary.
“I will simply apologize,” he told the council. “I have had a very long day and it’s very warm in my office right now and I was nodding off a little bit. It’s not what you all deserve from me. I’m more awake now.”
At times, other council members helped keep the meeting on track. At one point, council member Gwen Jones offered to read a second proclamation after the mayor struggled to read the first off his phone.
Other council members observed the mayor’s grogginess on Monday night.
“I think he is exhausted,” Jones told the Missoula Current. “I know he had a doozy of a day.”
“He had a beyond exhausting day coupled with caring for his mom, heat and smoke,” said council president Bryan von Lossberg. “I should have chaired (the meeting) to help him out.”
Engen, who helped lead the city’s acquisition of its drinking water system, spent much of the day Monday in court testifying over a bad-faith claim made against the utility’s former owner.
The city acquired its drinking water system from Mountain Water Co. and its parent owner, Carlyle, in 2017. The following year, the city opted to move forward with a claim of bad faith against Carlyle, claiming it practiced deceit, profiteering and corporate bullying during the year’s long legal battle over the water system.
The trial was supposed to take place last year but was postponed due to the pandemic.
“He is exhausted. He spent the entire day on the stand in the water bad faith case, just him all day,” said the city’s communication director Ginny Merriam. “He clearly should have had (von Lossberg) run the meeting.”