County Responds To Attorney’s Complaint
Roosevelt County has filed a legal response to the complaint made by Janet Christoffersen, who has served as the interim county attorney. Christoffersen is seeking a declaration from the court that she remains the Roosevelt County Attorney because commissioners don’t have the authority to remove her from office. She is requesting a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction barring Roosevelt County from any action prohibiting her from performing the duties of Roosevelt County Attorney.
The county’s representation is paid by the Montana Association of Counties through its insurance carrier.
The response notes that Christoffersen knew since mid June that a decision by the commissioners was pending whether to extend her interim four-month appointment. She received notice of the commissioners’ special public meeting held on June 29, but she didn’t attend the meeting.
The response reads, “Having failed to act prior to or even object at the meeting, Christoffersen now seeks to reverse, and undo, what was decided by the parties months ago.”
Regarding Christoffersen’s claim that the community is being harmed without having a prosecutor allowed to perform her duties, the county responds that public interest and safety concerns were protected as the Montana Attorney General accepted the county’s request for assistance in handling criminal matters. In addition, the Attorney General’s office designated Thomas Bleicher as special deputy Roosevelt County Attorney.
The response reads, “Christoffersen’s TRO motion purports to undermine rather than further the community interest and public safety. If granted it would prevent the commissioners from establishing a positive working relationship with a qualified candidate to serve out the remaining term.”
The response states that the parties agreed on a four-month temporary interim appointment. When Christoffersen changed her mind after the fact, it doesn’t make the commissioners’ conduct wrongful.
According to a declaration by Roosevelt County Commissioner Gordon Oelkers, there are currently interested candidates to become the county attorney.
In Christoffersen’s complaint, it’s argued that there’s no legal avenue for commissioners to prohibit her from staying as county attorney. The document states, “under the law, as the appointed county attorney, Christoffersen could only be removed from the position of county attorney upon certain circumstances pursuant to certain processes. Those circumstances do not exist and no process was followed.”
The court documents noted that she was installed as the Roosevelt County Attorney by appointment and not pursuant to a single employer/ employee relationship or as an independent contractor. There was never any contract between the parties, her appointment was done pursuant to governing statues. “Importantly, the Roosevelt County Commission did not hire, employ, or contract with the plaintiff. The Roosevelt County Commission appointed the plaintiff to the position of Roosevelt County Attorney.”
A court hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 6 at 10 a.m.