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Commissioners Table Decision On Attorney

The Roosevelt County Commissioners didn’t make any final decisions regarding the county attorney position during their meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 17.

Action on appointing a part-time county attorney was on the meeting’s agenda.

Commissioner Gary Macdonald made the motion to table a discussion. “There’s too many loose ends,” Macdonald said.

Commissioners received clarification from Judge Michael C. Moses after he ruled in favor of attorney Janet Christoffersen in her request for a preliminary injunction barring the county from any action prohibiting her from performing the duties of county attorney.

Commissioner Gordon Oelkers explained that the judge said commissioners could appoint a full-time county attorney, but a decision to appoint a part-time attorney must be approved by Christoffersen. Commissioners said there’s a larger pool of candidates for the part-time position.

Oelkers said that commissioners need to discuss the matter with Christoffersen before agreeing on a decision.

When asked if there was a definition of part-time in the matter, Oelkers answered, “There is no definition. It’s just not full-time.”

Judge Moses described Christoffersen as a qualified county attorney. “The evidence presented on Sept. 6, 2023, and of record shows she was a good public servant and fulfilled the duties of her office. Janet and the commissioners, for whatever reason, have had a falling out. The reasons given on June 29, 2023, are not compelling, however, the Court noticed in the minutes of the June 29th meeting, there was perhaps something more ‘in the weeds’ that is a problem. There was no evidence presented as to what may have been ‘in the weeds.’” Since the Sept. 6 hearing, Christoffersen has started duties as a deputy county attorney for Morgan County, Utah.

Also during last week’s meeting, commissioners unanimously approved allowing the Montana Association of Counties to act on the county’s behalf in the mill lawsuit with the state.

With the belief that the move will benefit county property taxpayers, commissioners agreed on Tuesday, Oct. 3, to provide the state with 77.89 mills rather than the traditional 95 mills for public education.

Roosevelt County is one of many counties throughout the state that has made such a decision. County leaders note that, because of the high appraisal information, the 95 mill totals is out of line.

Montana Gov. Gianforte’s administration has already filed lawsuits against counties regarding the dispute.

Oelkers said commissioners have heard from many school officials with concerns that the move will cut school funding. Oelkers noted that the amount of funds received by schools will not change.

Commissioners said the reduction of mills will save county taxpayers about a half million dollars and would save state taxpayers about $77 million.

In other business, commissioners approved spending a total of $181,500 for a body scanner at the Roosevelt County jail. The payment will come from COVID funds generated through overtime by the sheriff’s office and health department.

Commissioners voted against hiring a seasonal temporary employee for the road department.

Receiving pay raises were dispatch center employees Erika Boxer and Tristian Ward, road department employee Cody Sietsema, detention center employee Robert Armstrong and library employee Jessica Kierstead.

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