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State Turns Back Investigation Regarding Gravel Purchases

The Roosevelt County attorney has been informed that Montana’s Division of Criminal Investigation will not investigate whether Roosevelt County Commissioner Duane Nygaard had a conflict of interest when he voted in favor of gravel purchases over several years.

The letter from the Division of Criminal Investigation to county attorney Frank Piocos notes ongoing agent caseload as the reason for not taking on the investigation.

“Agent assignments have been dedicated to crimes against person(s) which has unfortunately caused a shortage of investigative resources,” the letter reads.

DCI major case supervisor John Sullivan recommended in the letter that Piocos contacts a neighboring law enforcement agency to inquire if they would assist with an investigation.

The information provided by a group of area taxpayers reflects that Nygaard approved the county purchasing gravel from CoPay Inc., even though Nygaard or his family members were involved with CoPay Inc.

According to the information researched by the taxpayers based on county records, a friend of Nygaard’s obtained the warranty deed for lot S3 T27N R47E SE 1/4 on Sept. 15, 2015. The document was not recorded in the clerk and recorder’s office until July 3, 2019. On Sept. 16, 2015, an agreement to sell gravel was signed by her and the county’s road foreman Ken Norgaard. The agreement included a lease for a minimum of three years. The county approved a check for $25,000 to her in December 2015. She then sold the warranty deed to the children of Nygaard, on Sept. 28, 2015.

Payments from the county to CoPay have included $25,000 on Nov. 25, 2016; $31,212.50 on March 26, 2017; and $27,695 on June 23, 2017. The June 23, 2017, check was deposited and endorsed by Nygaard. There was a $25,000 check to CoPay on March 21, 2019. That check was also deposited and endorsed by Nygaard.

Of those four checks, Nygaard was one of the commissioners who signed off on the claim on three of the checks. He said he regrets signing those claims, but he explained that commissioners stamp a large amount of claims every month and don’t always review each one. When projects cost less than $80,000, department heads don’t need commissioners’ approval as long as the funds are in the department’s budget based on state law.

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