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County Moves On From Interim Attorney

The Roosevelt County commissioners voted by a 2-0 margin to not extend the contract of Janet Christoffersen as the county’s interim county attorney.

Commissioner Gary Macdonald abstained from voting after hearing comments by staff members from the county attorney’s office in support of Christoffersen. She was appointed as interim attorney during a meeting on Feb. 9 for a four-month period.

“It was pretty clear that it was an interim position,” commissioner Gordon Oelkers said during the meeting on Thursday, June 29.

Oelkers explained that the working relationship between commissioners and Christoffersen hasn’t been very good. He said there were some “little issues.”

Deputy County Attorney Thomas Bleicher noted that commissioners didn’t seek the opinion of the county attorney’s staff before the meeting.

“Never once has any of you three come down to ask us,” Bleicher said.

Legal assistant Erica Fyfe added that she has told two of the commissioners how great the office has been working. She noted that it took Christoffersen only six weeks to clear a large caseload that was left on the county attorney’s desk. Fyfe added that Christoffersen has been available seven days of week.

“Janet has been the best mentor I’ve ever had,” Bleicher said. “This is wrong.”

He added that two jury trials are coming up and he is still gaining experience on the job.

“You want to leave me high and dry?” Bleicher said to commissioners. “This is quite frankly absurd in my opinion.”

At one point during the meeting, Fyfe questioned whether commissioner Robert Toavs should be voting on the matter.

After the vote, commissioners agreed to contact the state attorney general’s office in order to give Bleicher authority to sign some legal documents.

Commissioners also agreed to re-advertise the full-time position.

“There is interest out there,” Oelkers said. “Hopefully, something can be done quickly so we can move forward in a positive fashion.”

Christoffersen was appointed after District Judge Katherine Bidegaray ruled that former county attorney Frank Piocos wasn’t an eligible candidate to be elected to the position because he falsely registered as an elector of Roosevelt County. Bidegaray wrote, “Piocos should not have been recognized as an elector at the time of his election to the office of Roosevelt County attorney because he was not a resident of Roosevelt County, Montana.”

Piocos is appealing the ruling to the Montana Supreme Court.

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