Debra A. Silk, the attorney for the Browning School District, as well as the East Glacier and Mountain View Elementary School Districts, filed an application for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order on Oct. 3 to prevent the Glacier County Treasurer 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.”
Silk also applied for “Writ of Mandate” asking the District Court to require Glacier County Treasurer Don Wilson to “immediately” enter into agreements and transfer “all school funds” currently in his control to the three school districts.
Silk filed both documents in Glacier County District Court on Oct. 3.
Included in the exhibits filed is a letter from Browning School Board Chairperson Donna Yellow Owl. The letter, which is addressed to the Glacier County Commissioners and dated Aug. 23, 2019, states, “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.”
In the documents Silk states, “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.”
All three school districts took the proper steps to “prevent further misuse of school district money by the County” by establishing their own investment accounts.
According to Silk, Montana Office of Public Instruction State Superintendent Elsie Arntzen issued her decision to “waive the June 30 deadline in the ARM (Administrative Rules of Montana) 10.10.613…” based on “the unique circumstances” of the school districts. School officials were notified of her decision in a letter dated Sept. 19.
Approximately one week later, on Sept. 26, Glacier County Treasurer Don Wilson responded to the school districts’ requests for transferring funds “asserting no transfer of funds could be made prior to July 1, 2020” and refusing to enter into the requested agreements submitted by the school districts.
Wilson also refused to transfer the school district funds to their own accounts.
According to the documents filed by Silk, “It is the intent of the Districts to remove control of all school funding from the County Treasurer in order to prevent the further potential inappropriate utilization of school funding for county purposes, and out of fear that the County’s mismanagement of funds going back for a period of several years will result in the loss of school funding currently in the possession of the County Treasurer.”
Silk filed affidavits by the board chairs of all three districts (Brian Gallup, Donna Yellow Owl and Jerry Hofer) in support of the “facts asserted” in the documents.