Two weeks after the Glacier County Commissioners failed to respond to a request by the Cut Bank Pioneer Press and Glacier Reporter newspapers’ to go back and properly notice, discuss and approve the training contract with independent contractor Kate Salois, the newspapers filed an action against the commissioners in Glacier County District Court.
The weekly newspapers, owned by Brian and LeAnne Kavanagh, are asking the court to set aside any discussions or decisions made by Glacier County Commissioners Michael DesRosier and Tom McKay in an illegal meeting held on Feb. 9, which also included Glacier County Treasurer Mary Ann Boggs and independent contractor Kate Salois.
They are further requesting the commissioners hold another meeting in open public session, allowing the public to participate in their decision on whether or not to approve the contract.
The newspapers sought the legal assistance of Freedom of Information (FOI) lawyer Mike Meloy after learning of the illegal meeting held by DesRosier and McKay after reviewing several emails between county officials obtained by a FOI request.
One email, sent by Commissioner Ron Rides At The Door, refers to an “illegal meeting on February 9th…to discuss, negotiate and approve a contract for services.”
Another email, dated Feb. 17, from Glacier County Attorney Carolyn Berkram, advises the commissioners “not to sign the document. It was not drafted by an attorney or approved after being placed on an agenda. I do not approve it.”
Meloy points out in the petition filed on March 16 in Glacier County District Court that DesRosier’s and McKay’s discussion on Feb. 9 “concerning contracting with the former treasurer (Salois) was a matter of significant public interest and was held without first affording the public the right to observe the deliberations and participate in the decision.” Feb. 9 was not one of the four scheduled commissioner meeting days in February.
The petition further states on Feb. 12 the commissioners “approved contracting with Salois, even though no terms were discussed or available to advise the public as to the contractual arrangement. Nonetheless, Ms. Salois was issued a check drawn on the county treasury in the amount of $2,000.”
While the commissioners did give notice they were going to approve “Training Contract Language-Treasurer” on Feb. 24, the petition points out that the minutes of the meeting state the “Commission not only approved language but actually approved entering into the contract. When the County Attorney became aware that the Commission had actually approved the contract, she advised the Commission that the approval was improper and the Commission should place the question of whether to approve the contract at a later meeting, properly noticed, for public examination and observation. The Commission declined to follow the County Attorney’s advice and have been paying Salois county monies since that time.”
The Glacier County Commissioners, through their legal counsel special deputy county attorney Kirk Evenson, have 20 days, or until April 5, to respond to the petition filed by the two newspapers.