Last Friday, the Election Protection Committee delivered the following letter to the Cascade County Commission.
We were surprised and disappointed to see that you offered the election administrator position to Terry Thompson. We have already notified you via a letter from Mike Meloy, this selection process is flawed and violates County Ordinance 23-62. Specifically, the ordinance states,
“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”
Clearly, this language applies to Commissioner Grulkowski. Despite the fact that we notified you and the County Attorney that Grulkowski’s continued involvement in the election decision violates Resolution 23-62, no action has been taken to enforce the above provisions of the resolution.
Though it is disturbing enough that Commissioner Grulkowski seems to believe that the rules and law simply do not apply to her, the fact that the County has allowed her to operate with impunity is highly inappropriate. Frankly, it is hard to understand why the County Attorney’s office has allowed this situation to persist.
Now it seems our greatest fears have been realized. Commissioner Grulkowski has not only participated in numerous discussions, debate, and decisions regarding operation of county elections, she also participated in the interview process and the hiring decision for the administration of elections in Cascade County. Moreover, Commissioner Briggs admitted during yesterday’s recorded Zoom session where the candidates were evaluated, that he and Commissioner Larson both rated Rina Moore as their top candidate. We can only infer from his comment that Commissioner Grulkowski is the only Commissioner who ranked any candidate above Rina Moore.
Those of us who watched the interviews were shocked at the final decision to offer the position to Ms. Thompson. Rina Moore clearly had more experience and answered the interview questions more thoroughly and accurately than any other candidate. We also saw that Commissioner Grulkowski was allowed to leave the interview room carrying all of her notes immediately following Ms. Moore’s interview and before the other applicants were interviewed. This action clearly calls the integrity of the selection process into question. We have encouraged Ms. Moore to seek appropriate remedy through the legal system. We are confident she will prevail in that arena.
Our primary concern is that Cascade County’s elections are run efficiently and effectively. Unfortunately, any legal remedy Ms. Moore, or any other applicant may be entitled to, is likely to occur after Ms.Thompson is instated as election administrator and would preclude an opportunity to offer the position to Ms. Moore.
We are writing to insist you retract your offer of employment to Terry Thompson, subtract Commissioner Grulkowski’s scores from the cumulative totals, and make the offer of employment to the applicant who scores the most points based on the ratings of Commissioners Larson and Briggs. Once Ms. Thompson is offered the position, the county will have crossed a line which is likely to result in significant time and expense. We encourage you to act responsibly and avoid this unnecessary liability.”
Stay tuned for updates on this issue.
U.S. House Speaker Thinks God Talks to Him
Speaking to The National Association of Christian Lawmakers, Speaker Mike Johnson explained that he was chosen by God to be Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Donald Trump immediately issued a press release saying God was a loser ( Just kidding. Sometimes it’s hard to take this stuff seriously.)
Seriously. Below are quotes from his speech.
The Lord impressed upon my heart a few weeks before this happened that something was going to occur. And the Lord very specifically told me in my prayers to prepare but to wait. I had this sense that we were going to come to a Red Sea moment in our Republican conference and the country at large.
Look, I’m a Southern Baptist. I don’t want to get too spooky on you, OK? But the Lord speaks to your heart. And he had been speaking to me about this.
And the Lord told me very clearly to prepare. OK, prepare for what? I don’t know. “We’re coming to a Red Sea moment.” “What does that mean, Lord?”
I started praying more about that. And the Lord began to wake me up through this three-week process we were in, in the middle of the night, and to speak to me. And [I began] to write things down, plans and procedures and ideas on how we could pull the conference together. I assumed the Lord was going to choose a new Moses. And “Oh, thank you, Lord: You’re going to allow me to be Aaron to Moses.”
I worked to get Steve Scalise elected. And then Jim Jordan. And Tom Emmer. Thirteen people ran for the post. The Lord kept telling me to wait. And I waited and waited. And it came to the end, and the Lord said, “Now, step forward.” “Me? I’m supposed to be Aaron.”
Aaron, by the way, was Moses’ older brother according to the Hebrew Bible. He is identified as a prophet and the first High Priest of the Isrealites. He lived to be 123 years old. Hmmm, pretty big shoes for Mike Johnson to fill.
Welcome to the Republic of Gilead as described in The Handmaid’s Tale.
Election Deniers are gathering petition signatures to repeal the resolution which removed Sandra Merchant from election administration. Pictured here is a sign at the local Republican Central Committee office on 10th Avenue South. Before getting to the petition effort of the election denier conspiracists, let’s remind ourselves that Sandra Merchant was failing at her responsibilities administering elections here in Cascade County. The County Commission made its decision to remove those duties from Merchant based on poor job performance. . .nothing more. For a detailed account follow this link https://dailymontanan.com/2024/01/14/election-errors-forced-the-cascade-county-commission-to-act/. Despite the facts, the local election conspiracy crowd, primarily housed in the Republican Pachyderm Club, argued that the decision was a power grab by Commissioners Larson and Briggs. They have ranted and raved, pointed fingers and shaken their fists. Now they are circulating a petition to repeal the county ordinance which removed election duties from Sandra Merchant. In order to place their repeal effort on the ballot the sponsors have 90 days from the date the resolution was effective. That date is December 12, 2023. So they will have to turn in their signatures somewhere around March 10th. They must have signatures from 15% of qualified electors in the county. That’s about 5,500 signatures, but that is the number of valid signatures required. They will need to gather many more than the minimum number to make up for invalid signatures that come into the process. The law also requires “The form of the petition must be approved by the county election administrator.” Does that mean Devereaux Biddick, who is the acting election administrator appointed by the County Commissioners on a temporary basis, reviewed and approved the form of the petition? Biddick is an election denier and close political ally of Sandra Merchant. In fact she was hired by Sandra Merchant to work in the elections office shortly after Merchant took office in January 2023. We wonder if her direct supervisors, Commissioner Joe Briggs and Commission Chair Jim Larson had any idea she was working on approving this petition.
ETA: An earlier version of this post indicated the petitioners has 60 days to gather signature. This has been corrected. The petitioners have 90 days to gather signatures.
Legislative Auditors have once again examined the Public Service Commission and, once again, they don’t like what they see. Specifically, the audit found that only 23% of employees at the PSC believed that commissioners behaved with high ethical standards. The auditors found that the shenanigans of various commissioners and consistent promotion of fossil fuels over the last few years have undermined public trust in PSC decision making. Here’s a brief recap of some of the actions of commissioners which led to another bad audit report.
- Commissioner Randy Pinocci was arrested for witness tampering in a private matter. He is currently awaiting trial.
- Commissioners Randy Pinocci and Tony O’Donnell issued a press release saying that there was a frighteningly real possibility of black outs in eastern Montana and called on the legislature to save the coal plants in southeastern Montana. Montana Dakota Utilities said the release was “completely unfounded.”
- Commissioner Jennifer Fielder threatened medical providers in Helena with “political consequences” for refusing to administer a nonclinical remedy for COVID-19.
- Commissioner Randy Pinocci publicly suggested that the City of Missoula be targeted for black outs because he said they do not support coal development.
- Commissioners routinely advocate for coal power even though they are responsible to objectively examine various resources and mechanisms for meeting power needs.
Commission Chairman, James Brown (who just announced he is running for State Auditor https://wtf406.com/2024/01/public-service-commission-chairman-running-for-state-auditor/ ) objected to much of the audit report saying that some steps have been taken to address some of the issues. But clearly many issues remain unresolved.
Responding to Tim Sheehy’s Editorial Rhetoric
U.S. Senate Candidate Tim Sheehy has a semi-autobiographical editorial circulating around the state. Like most puff pieces from politicians, it begins by saying, “I never thought of getting into politics until . . .fill in the blank here.” In Sheehy’s case it’s Afghanistan. It also gives him a chance to highlight his military service while condemning President Biden.
He must have forgotten that Donald Trump had reduced U.S. troops in Afghanistan by 13,100. In November 2020, he ordered that all troops would be evacuated by January 2021. Typical of Trump, he changed his mind and ordered withdrawal of more troops, instead leaving a total U.S. military force of 2,500 facing the Taliban in the strongest military position it had been in since 2001. The truth is U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan was plagued with problems for the 20 years we were there, just like the Russians before us. Pinning it on Joe Biden ignores facts and history. But hey, this is politics.
But back to Sheehy’s editorial. He then goes on to frame his decision to run for Senate in a “call to duty” format with a dollop of family values and business experience. You may have noticed that we didn’t say “private sector” experience. That’s because earnings from his company, Bridger Aerospace, which generates about $5 million a year for Sheehy, is mostly working on government contracts fighting forest fires. He also owns luxury houses in Big Sky, Polson, and Bozeman, in addition to a share of a large ranch outside Martinsdale.
And like most rich people, he has lots of investments. He says his net worth is between $74 and $200 million. (A complaint has been filed against Sheehy for the lack of specific information in his disclosure forms by a group called End Citizens United.) While he is condemning China, he’s investing in Chinese companies. While attacking environmental investment strategies, he is investing in “sustainable” software products to manage carbon emissions. He even removed the words “fighting on the front lines of climate change” from the Bridger Aerospace website after announcing he was running for Senate. https://montanafreepress.org/2023/11/03/taking-a-look-at-tim-sheehys-finances/
Like most rich people, Sheehy had considerable advantages provided by his family. He grew up in a multi-million dollar lake house in Shoreview, Minnesota, a wealthy suburb of St. Paul. He attended a private high school before being accepted to the Naval Academy. It’s hard to say when he became a resident of Montana. In 2016 Sheehy reported the Shoreview house as his residence in campaign reports of his donations to Greg Gianforte.
But probably the most disturbing thing about Sheehy’s editorial is his parroting of Trump’s dark conspiratorial view of America. He writes. “. . .the alternative is to leave these Marxists who weaponize cancerous ideologies like DEI and ESG and don’t represent our values in control—and to me, that’s unacceptable.” Most of us have no idea what DEI and ESG means (DEI- Diversity Equity and Inclusion/ ESG- Environmental, Social, Governance). His demonization and use of the term Marxist to describe his political opponents is straight out of Senator Joe McCarthy’s playbook. Ironically, this kind of red-baiting is fundamentally anti-American.