Commissioners table Rides At the Doors’
attorney’s request for ‘waiver’ for $368,000
Glacier County Commissioners Michael DesRosier and Tom McKay tabled the investigation of a “waiver” regarding $368,000 in funds received by fellow County Commissioner Ron Rides At The Door and his business, Sun Roads Farmory, LLC, at the commissioners’ meeting in Browning on March 27. Don Kittson, attorney for Rides At The Door, referred to the $368,000 sum as a “grant” while Sarah Converse, Executive Director of Sweetgrass Development, stated it was a loan.
Sweetgrass Development filed a complaint against Sun Roads Farmory, LLC, and Ronald and Michelle Rides At The Door, in Blackfeet Tribal Court in June 2016. The complaint is scheduled to go to trial on April 5.
Sweetgrass Development is claiming “breach of contract” and that Sun Roads Farmory failed to “make regular payments” on the loan and owes “the entire principal balance plus interest and late fees.”
In the counterclaim filed by Kittson and dated July 25, 2016, several references are made to the “loan” from Sweetgrass Development to Sun Roads Farmory and the Rides At The Doors as well as to a “loan modification agreement” between Sweetgrass and Sun Roads Farmory.
“I’m mystified as to the treatment Mr. Door has received about this grant,” Kittson said, “because it’s a Community Development Block Grant that was given to Glacier County in 2013. Its purpose is to inspire economic development...”
Kittson said he’d worked on many CDBGs in a variety of settings. “There were none with strings attached except for hiring locally and creating jobs…why is this a revolving credit? Why isn’t it an outright grant?” he asked, adding Door has repaid “more than $16,000.” The decline of Door’s business, Kittson said, is a result of several factors, including Montana’s remote location and primitive infrastructure, which required Door to deliver products himself.
“It’s not free money,” Kittson said. “Ron’s more than matched it with his $902,000 investment. He brought employment, and low income people benefited. So we’re not asking for anything free; we just want equal treatment with other grants, so I’d ask the Commissioners to investigate a waiver, and you can blame me for that.”
“My business is hanging in there by a thread, but I’m not giving up,” Rides At The Door said, “but with this lawsuit, I can’t move forward or backward.”
Rides At The Door added he was not speaking as a county commissioner but as a citizen.
“I appreciate your presentation,” DesRosier responded. “The main issue to clarify is that none of this grant came from the Glacier County taxpayers; it’s all federal dollars in a CDBG.”
DesRosier said the county received a letter from the Department of Commerce in 2016 that said the county’s grant requirements had been satisfied.
“It’s a serious matter, but I’m not sure it’s our decision to make so we’ll have to talk with the County Attorney and the Department of Commerce,” DesRosier said. “I look forward to that; there’s lots to digest so I’m going to ask that we table it until we get some advice with the County Attorney.”
Sarah Converse of Sweetgrass spoke briefly in the public comment period. She noted the difference between CDBGs that go to public entities and those that go to private businesses is that the former are true grants while the latter are loans. She said Sweetgrass had followed all state policies and procedures, adding, “that’s all I can say because we’re in litigation.”