Glacier County has until July 31 to transfer the nearly $3.2 million of Browning Public Schools’ funds or “we will have no choice but to direct our legal counsel to file appropriate motions with the Court.”
On Monday, July 20, Browning Public Schools Superintendent Corrina Guardipee-Hall provided this newspaper a copy of the July 13 letter sent to the Glacier County Commissioners, the Glacier County Attorney and the Glacier County Treasurer requesting “immediate payment” of the $3,196,318.02 “plus any other remaining funds owed the district.”
Glacier County Treasurer Don Wilson “requested that the District accept a check for $1,500,000,” reminded Guardipee-Hall in her letter to county officials.
“We are willing to accept that amount as partial payment, with the expectation that the County will pay the entire balance of $3,196,318.02 plus the calculated interests owed the District from July 1, 2019 to January 15, 2020 in the very near future.”
Her letter specifically states, “The District is not willing to accept $1,500,000 as full payment of the amounts owed to the District by the County.”
Guardipee-Hall reminded Wilson in the letter, “Recall that your initial response to our original request for payment of all District funds in possession of the County was that you would be happy to submit those funds on July 1, 2020.”
Guardipee-Hall’s letter continued, “July 1 has come and gone, and more than $3 million remains unpaid.”
Accompanying Guardipee-Hall’s letter to Wilson was “documentation” compiled by School District No. 9 District Clerk and Business Manager Stacy Edwards.
At the July 20 meeting of the Glacier County Commissioners, Wilson said he has been instructed by Glacier County Attorney Terryl Matt not to transfer the funds due to a discrepancy with “journal entries.”
At the June 25 meeting of the Commissioners, Wilson said he and Chief Financial Officer Chancy Kittson have a “worst case scenario” dollar amount Glacier County owes the Browning School District. When pressed for the “worst case” figure, Kittson said the amount was $1.5 million.
Debra A. Silk, the attorney for the Browning School District, filed an application for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order on Oct. 3, 2019, in Glacier County District Court, to prevent Wilson from “continuing to inappropriately utilize school funding…and specifically from utilizing school district funds to satisfy obligations of Glacier County or to fund County operations.”
One of the exhibits in the case was a letter dated Aug. 23, 2019, from Browning Schools Chairman of the Board, Donna Yellow to Glacier County officials. “Michael DesRosier, as a County Commissioner you came to my office and asked me to schedule a meeting with the Browning Public School Board of Trustees to discuss loaning the County $4,000,000 (million) dollars. This is to inform you that the Browning School District is not permitted to engage in this type of financial transaction in accordance with Montana law.”
According to documents filed by Silk, “It is the belief of the Districts that the County Treasurer has inappropriately utilized school district funds to partially cover the financial obligations of Glacier County and to fund County operations due to a lack of County funds caused by its deficit status.”
Silk pointed out the “recent audit of Glacier County showed the County operating at a cash deficit of approximately $3.9 million as of November 30, 2018.”
Silk also represented East Glacier and Mountain View School Districts in the court case. Wilson transferred funds held by the County to those school districts in early 2020. The legal issue between Glacier County and the Browning Public Schools is still ongoing.