- Associated Press - Friday, May 9, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A Great Falls legislator who has been critical of Montana Republican Party leaders is being sued by two of his constituents who say he should give up his legislative seat because he is living in Florida.

Republican Rep. Jesse O'Hara, 70, has been living in a retirement community in Cypress Hills, Florida, and plans to move there permanently at the end of the year, Lee Newspapers of Montana reported in a story published Thursday.

Nancy Marten and her neighbor, Brad Opheim, filed the lawsuit after Marten said she tried to contact O'Hara earlier this year only to find he was out of the state. She and her neighbors wanted to ask O'Hara to help them in dealing with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, which had bought property that contained the neighborhood’s sewage lagoon, she said.

“He’s supposed to be working for us,” she said of O'Hara. “We had some legal questions for him. We wanted to straighten out some stuff with Fish and Game.”

O’Hara, who is not running for re-election, said he maintains an apartment in Great Falls and plans to return there for the summer and fall before making a permanent move to Florida. He said he spent part of the summer and fall in Montana last year.

He said he believes the lawsuit is in retaliation for recent letters published in Montana newsletters criticizing Senate President Jeff Essmann of Billings and Art Wittich of Bozeman.

O'Hara wrote that the GOP leaders are political extremists who want to tear down government.

Wittich said O'Hara and other Republicans who occasionally voted with Democrats during the 2013 Legislature aided the minority party in growing government and union control.

“They would be less angry, and more at peace, if they were just honest with themselves and switched parties,” Wittich wrote in an email to Lee Newspapers.

Essmann told The Associated Press on Friday that he had no knowledge of the lawsuit until this week.

“I’ve been trying to ignore Jesse’s comments. I know it’s tough to be accurate when you’re throwing verbal footballs from Florida,” Essmann said.