We’ll miss you, Dona.

We’ll miss you, Dona.

Former Mayor and lifelong activist, Dona Stebbins, has passed away. We certainly cannot improve upon her beautifully written obituary, which we have included in its entirety below. We’ll miss you, Dona.

View the obituary posting here: Obituary for Dona Russelle Stebbins | Croxford Funeral Home

 

“Dona Russelle Stebbins left for the final curtain on April 26, 2024 after a short illness. Born in Billings Montana to Mary Jane Sage and Glenn Wynne, in her Wonder Bread years she was raised in Miles City by her mother and stepfather Dr. Andy Elting , a veterinarian who instilled her with a lifelong love and dedication to animals. Dona graduated from Custer County High School in Miles City in the class of 1965. It was during this time that she hosted the Spinners Sanctum on the radio in Miles City, the beginning of a creative life behind the scenes, on the stage, and on the microphone.

Early on, Dona recognized her talent for singing and performing and set out for California with fellow musician James Huatala, whom she married but ultimately divorced. They returned to Montana, performing in The Smile Band, Brightside, and Dona James and Jayme. In 1977, a skinny guitar player from Wyoming named Grant Stebbins auditioned for the band in Sommers, Montana, and Dona’s life was never the same. Traveling around the region as the Bitterroot Band, Dona and Grant married in 1981.

Grant and Dona’s daughter Kathryn was born in 1983, and they came in off the road to raise her. Dona tended bar for many local bars, most that are now lost to history. Dona then became an instructor with May Technical College. She later transitioned into media sales with Fisher Broadcasting, where she won the Manning Award numerous times. She would also work for Consumer Press and KFBB television. It was during this period that she met her friend of a lifetime, Susan Johnson.

Dona was highly active in community service and non-profit work in Great Falls, serving for years as a member of the executive committee and editor for Neighborhood Housing (Now Neighbor Works). She also began writing grants and acquired funding for Center Stage Community Theatre, including the grant that funded Center Stage Inc. to purchase and renovate the downtown location of the 111 Central building. She was know for being a fierce and fun director. Known for such elaborate productions including Oliver, Wizard of Oz, Cabaret, Man of La Mancha, and Camelot. She was active in the theater directing and acting in over 35 productions alongside Grant and Kate between 1989-2002. She also performed dinner theater at the Jack Club and Times Square for Phillip Peterson Productions during that time. Dona was a constant when it came to local boards, committees, advisory groups, fundraising and activism. She wanted to impact changes at a larger level, and ran unsuccessfully for State House in 1988. Her interest in political activism continued to grow through her work at Center Stage and Neighborhood Housing, leading Dona to run for Mayor of Great Falls. She served two consecutive terms as Mayor from 2006-2010, where she helped finalize the new U.S. district court house, and led the efforts for the Westbank rehabilitation and development to improve access to and open spaces for families and their pets. As mayor, she was a member of the League of Cities and Towns, traveling to Washington D.C. and Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada to represent the interests of Great Falls. She received the Dorothy Richardson award in 2007 for outstanding service for community development and served on the Blue Ribbon Committee to establish guidelines for Great Falls animal ordinances. As both Mayor and a citizen of the city, she believed strongly in shopping locally, and always supported downtown development. In the end, the list of her accomplishments and accolades cannot reasonably be recounted.

In 2010, Dona retired from active public service, spending her time with the ladies who lunch, the Divas, and her family. She raised a duo of corgis (Lulu & Lola), and traveled with Grant far and wide. For the whole of her life, she was a voracious reader, with a never ending list of books queued on her Kindle. She was dedicated to supporting local authors and local bookstores, so hardcopies also line the bookshelves at home. Ultimately, Dona’s impact is vast; she is remembered as a champion for the voiceless and the marginalized. She fought loudly for rights and protections of women from all walks of life, and was an ally and advocate for the LGTBQ+ community. She is remembered by those who knew her as a decent, classy, and brilliant woman. Who was loyal to a fault, and could be picked out of a crowd for her distinctive laugh, colorful embellishments of family history and her excellent penmanship. She could also never turn down someone in need and could never resist buying a new pair of oversized sunglasses where ever she traveled.

Dona is survived by her husband and partner in adventure, Grant; daughters Breann Lamborn (Dean) of Casper, Wyoming, and Kate Barrett (Matt) of Portland, Oregon; her grandchildren Lily Jane and Maximillian; sisters Debi Huatala (James) of Seaford, Delaware and Dian Bowers (Brock) of Elizabeth, Colorado; several nieces and nephews, dear friends, her corgis and two cats.

The family would like to thank everyone who has reached out with love and memories. Dona was dedicated to making real change, so in lieu of flowers, we request that you please make a donation to the organization of your choice in honor our fierce woman. To share your condolences with the family, please visit www.croxfordfuneralhome.com

Pinocci Dodges Two Felonies, Still A Corrupt Asshole

Pinocci Dodges Two Felonies, Still A Corrupt Asshole

We’ve talked about Randy Pinocci a lot on this blog. If you aren’t familiar, suffice it to say he’s Northwestern Energy’s bestest pal, and he really loves raising your utility bills. His greatest hits include napping during public meetings, acting like a slumlord, and most recently committing crimes via text message.

Montana Republicans get arrested a lot. So don’t be embarrassed if you need a refresher on Pinocci’s wrap sheet. Pinnoci initially had a dispute with a tenant, and he received disorderly conduct charges. Pinocci failed to appear in court, ultimately resulting in Pinocci being arrested at Home Depot due to an active warrant.  

In another keen display of believing he’s above the law, Pinocci then tried to compel a witness (who also appears to have been his tenant) to change their statements to police. Pinocci allegedly refused to refund the witnesses deposit, and even stated in writing that “you’re going to have to recant your testimony with the sheriff’s department.” He got two felony counts of witness tampering for that one, but maybe Pinocci’s onto something here. He can seemingly intimidate witnesses in writing, and the county will drop all but the smallest charges. Despite what appears to be literal written evidence of witness tampering, somehow the county was compelled to “take another look” at the case. Pinocci has to pay a mere $200, and he gets a six-month deferred prosecution agreement. As long as he behaves for six months, then the two felony charges will go away. Maybe being a Public Service Commissioner does come with perks? 

Read the full story and see the court documents here: https://dailymontanan.com/2024/04/12/randy-pinocci-pleads-no-contest-to-misdemeanor-felonies-dropped/

 

The Clown Car at The PSC Rolls On

The Clown Car at The PSC Rolls On

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.

Public Service Commission Chairman Running for State Auditor

Public Service Commission Chairman Running for State Auditor

Public Service Commission Chair, James Brown, announced that he is running for State Auditor in the 2024 election cycle.  Last cycle he ran unsuccessfully for the Supreme Court in one of the sleaziest campaigns in recent memory.  In that race, Brown was dogged by allegations that he repeatedly violated the rules prohibiting partisan endorsements in judicial races.  https://montanafreepress.org/2022/05/25/republican-support-stacks-up-in-montana-supreme-court-race/

The court race was not the first time Brown played fast and loose with campaign law.  When he ran for PSC in 2020, there were questions raised about his claiming residence in Dillon. Specifically,  Brown owned a home and operated a law practice in Helena, which is outside his PSC district. But in his candidate filing, he used a Dillon post office box. In Brown’s candidate filing, he lists a Dillon post office box as his mailing address. In his corporate filing for his law practice, he wrote that his home address was in Helena. He argued that he lived in a house in Dillon with his cousin.  But when asked how much time he spent in Dillon by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, he refused to answer, saying it was not “relevant.”

https://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/complaint-filed-against-psc-candidate-disputing-residency/article_b905ad5d-c43e-56b7-b117-115b300681db.html

After winning election to the PSC and being chosen as PSC chair, Brown was caught up in a scandal regarding audit exceptions found at the PSC by legislative auditors. While the allegations in the audit report occurred before Brown was on the commission, he was called to legislative committee hearings to respond to questions from legislators about what was going on at the PSC. He initially refused to provide the name of a fellow commissioner who had booked a $1,400 first class plane ticket to Washington DC. He later identified the commissioner, former chairman Brad Johnson.  (Johnson is currently running for US Senate.) https://montanafreepress.org/2021/06/08/psc-rebuked-for-legislative-audit/

In addition to Brown’s adventures in the electoral arena, he has a long history of activity in the world of dark money in politics.  He was the attorney for a group called the Western Tradition Partnership.  The activities of this group came to light when a box of documents were found in a meth house in Colorado, which detailed a laundry list of political dirty tricks in Montana and was the subject for a PBS documentary titled Dark Money. Brown also served as the lawyer for the Montana Republican Party from 2009 to 2015. (https://www.pbs.org/pov/films/darkmoney/  

https://www.propublica.org/article/documents-found-in-meth-house-bare-inner-workings-of-dark-money-group

For those who think these kinds of things are just politics as usual consider this. Brown was the chair of the Public Service Commission when it approved a 28% rate increase for consumers, siding with NorthWestern Energy over numerous public interest organizations. He now wants the State Auditor’s job regulating the insurance industry in Montana.  Elections really do matter.

More Republican Police Blotter (Can You Believe It?)

More Republican Police Blotter (Can You Believe It?)

On Wednesday,Sept 6th, Public Service Commissioner Randy Pinocci was arrested on a warrant for failing to appear in court to respond to a ticket for disorderly conduct he received in an incident on July 5.

Pinocci was issued the citation for “quarreling, challenging to fight, or fighting, namely by getting in (alleged victim’s) face and bumping chests during an argument and yelling.” In typical Pinocci style, he said he was unfairly accused and pointed out that he is too fat to bump chests with anyone, because his belly is too big.  (Really! Can’t wait to see if he does a reenactment if he goes to trial.)

Not surprisingly, Pinocci says he did nothing wrong and the whole thing is a big mistake.  His lawyer, Ben Reed of Helena, explained that Pinocci failed to appear in court, as requested twice, because he was at scheduled meetings with constituents.  KT

For the full story: https://dailymontanan.com/2023/09/12/pinocci-arrested-released-on-misdemeanor-disputes-validity-of-court-warrant/

Randy would like us all to think that he was so busy doing his job that he couldn’t make a court appearance.  WTF406.com is well acquainted with how hard Pinocci works.  We published this photo of him “representing his constituents” in a hearing before the PSC back in April 2022.