Most of us who were watching the selection process for the new election administrator for Cascade County, Terry Thompson, knew it was a rotten kettle of fish. We suspected that the cause of the putrid smell was Commissioner Rae Grulkowski.  Now we have the proof.

Rae Grulkowski’s biased scoring

Thanks to Ann Brust filing an information request with the county, we can see exactly what the scores of each of the county commissioners in the selection process were. It reveals a rogue county commissioner manipulating a government hiring process to hand the job to a person she worked alongside opposing the Big Sky Country National Heritage Area back in 2020. At that time Terry Thompson was CEO of the Great Falls Realtors Association and Grulkowski was one of the main organizers of the opposition, which was steeped in ridiculous conspiracy theories about people losing their property rights if the Heritage Area was established.

Where’s the oversight?

Perhaps even more disconcerting, the county entities which should be acting to curb the corrupt conduct of a local elected official have been sitting on their hands and even covering up for Grulkowski’s outrageous conduct as a county commissioner. We are referring to the county attorney’s office and the county human resource office. Even though they were both engaged in the selection process, they allowed Grulkowski to ignore the law and standard government personnel practices by manipulating her scores to guarantee that the most qualified applicant, former election administrator Democrat Rina Moore, was denied the position and gave it to her former, less qualified, political ally, Republican Terry Thompson.

We commend Commissioners Briggs and Larson for having the political courage to remove Grulkowski from the chair of the county commission and for passing County Ordinance 23-62, which took the election duties away from Grulkowski’s political crony and incompetent administrator Sandra Merchant. But we are baffled by their failure to enforce the provision of the ordinance which prohibited Grulkowski from participating in any decision dealing with the election office, which obviously included hiring new election administrator Terry Thompson. Larson has told people that the ordinance did not apply to Grulkowski, because she had not filed for re-election.  Maybe he thought that, but he was mistaken. (See the language of the ordinance below.)  

“WHEREAS, appointing an Election Administrator to serve at the direction of the Board of Cascade County Commissioners will eliminate the appearance of impropriety as any single Commissioner whose seat appears on the ballot in a given calendar years shall be required to abstain from all decisions concerning the operation and management of the election office during that calendar year until such time as the election for said office is finalized; and” 

We have to wonder why Deputy County Attorney Carrie Anne Haight and Human Resource Officer Jeff Mora, who sat through numerous commission meetings dealing with this hiring decision including the applicant interviews, did not insist that Grulkowski follow the law.  Perhaps we should not be surprised at the apparent dereliction of duties, since neither Haight nor Mora have raised objections as Sandra Merchant filled vacant positions in the Clerk and Recorder’s office with numerous individuals whose sole qualification appeared to be the fact that they had signed an election denier petition with bizarre demands that mail in balloting be eliminated, doing away with electronic vote counting machines, and requiring every Cascade County voter to come in and reregister to vote. Those who did not actually sign the petition were either in personal relationships with those who had or were family members of far right Republican officials like Randy Pinocci.

So, here we are now looking right at the smoking gun, the scoring of the individuals who applied to be the election administrator. There can be little doubt that Rae Grulkowski used this process to advance her own ally and subvert the competitive hiring process for the county which is  required by state law, professional personnel practices, and the county’s own ordinance. She has done so with impunity and those who should have, and could have, raised objections have apparently remained silent. 

Scoring Matrix for Hiring The Cascade County Election Administrator

Grulkowski was moving an agenda to help Terry Thompson and sink Rina Moore

For those readers who don’t like looking at tables, we point out that commissioners Larson and Briggs both ranked Rina Moore as the most qualified and Grulkowski rated her as the least qualified . . .by a large margin.  On the other hand, Larson and Briggs ranked Thompson third and fourth respectively and Grulkowski rated her number one. . .again by a large margin.  Obviously Grulkowski was moving an agenda which resulted in Terry Thompson getting the job.

But it is election season again!

We want to take this opportunity to remind the voters of Cascade County that it is election season. Former City Commissioner Eric Hinebauch is running against Grulkowski in the Republican primary, and Don Ryan is running on the Democratic ticket in the general election. If we can’t count on county officials to restrain this kind of impunity, we have to turn her out at the ballot box.