Update: According to public documents released on May 29, “the Montana Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation received a written request by Glacier County Attorney Terryl Matt on March 22, 2019, for assistance in investigating financial irregularities of Glacier County.”
Glacier County officials were notified last week an investigative subpoena was served by the Montana Department of Justice on Black Mountain Software, Inc. See related story in this week’s issue.
An item on the Browning School Board meeting on May 29 involved considering options available to the District other than having funding move through Glacier County.
“The Cut Bank Pioneer Press mentioned that Glacier County got a loan from the District, which is untrue,” said Browning Superintendent Corrina Guardipee-Hall at the meeting. “It was taken from an invoice from a legal counsel in Bozeman about a call to Bob Denning. I have an email from Bob that says he’s not aware of any loan arrangements with Glacier County.”
The Browning School District received a subpoena from Great Falls attorney Lawrence Anderson, who represents Jeff Gottlob, Elaine Mitchell, James Childress, et al, in a class action lawsuit against the county. Anderson was seeking documents related to the “loan” listed on County’s attorney’s invoice. (Pictured at right.)
According to Guardipee-Hall, “Our lawyers said on receipt of the subpoena that the District will not provide it (documentation) because no such documents exist. We have never loaned money to Glacier County ever, so we have nothing. I don’t know why they did this, but it caused hard feelings with the Tribal Council.”
She explained the District is in talks with the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council (BTBC) over waiving Tribal Employment Rights Organization (TERO) fees for their new construction, and this makes it appear the District has sufficient funds not to need the waiver. She has reached out to the BTBC to clarify the situation, she said.
“There was no loan to Glacier County,” Board member Brian Gallup said. “The Commissioners said they never borrowed money from us, and I agree with Corrina. The audit was clear; the line items matched with Glacier County so we would be pulling our money for a political reason, and we need to support Glacier County and the community.”
“I’m not against the county or the paper,” Board Chair Donna Yellow Owl said. “My concern is the feud between them, and it’s drawing us in so I have to ask what’s best for the District. This has been on the table for eight or 10 years. Is it time for the District to manage our own funds? That’s the reason I put it on the agenda for the Board to discuss.”
Some members said they need more information to make a decision. “Are we only pulling investment money?” Gallup asked. “What money is it?”
“I have the same concerns,” James Evans said. “The work load, more people and how much money? I want more information.”
“The reason the Commissioners said they want to keep us in is that the District is an asset to the County,” Vice Chair Wendy Bremner said. “The problem is it’s a political fight – we’re all aware of the fight with groups in Cut Bank. Pulling our money is part of their political agenda. I don’t know the reason for the Cut Bank Pioneer Press article except as political grandstanding…We had problems with County money before Mary Ann Boggs [was treasurer].”
“There have been no loans to Glacier County whatsoever,” Yellow Owl concluded.
While the agenda did not call for a vote on any new proposals, members did not appear inclined to alter their relationship with Glacier County.
Glacier County’s financial records under investigation
County Attorney Terryl Matt asks for assistance from Department of Criminal Investigation
On May 29, Lewis and Clark District Court Judge Kathy Seeley issued an investigative subpoena requiring Black Mountain Software to produce all of Glacier County’s financial records. The subpoena was issued two months after Glacier County Attorney Terryl Matt requested the Montana Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigations (DCI), provide “assistance in investigating financial irregularities of Glacier County.”
The investigative subpoena seeks access to Glacier County’s accounting, Budget Preparation, Payroll, Assessor, School Ledger, Tax, Document Indexing and Cloud Hosting applications and records.
Black Mountain Software has 10 days from the date it was issued the subpoena, which was May 30, to produce electronic “read-only” access to the Department of Justice.
According to information in the affidavit submitted to the District Court by Mary Cochenour, Assistant Attorney General, there is “reason to believe” that a person or persons may have committed the following offenses:
•Official Misconduct, a misdemeanor, and violation of MCA 45-7-401.
•Expenditures Limited to Appropriations, a violation of MCA 7-6-4005.
•Procedure to Transfer Funds, a violation of MCA 7-6-613.
Cochenour provided a number of “facts” which are grounds for the subpoena, including:
• Glacier County Attorney Terryl Matt’s March 22 request for assistance. The request came after discussions between DCI Bureau Chief John Strandell and Matt about “the financial deficit of Glacier County and the possibility that Glacier County was using school district money to offset deficit spending of county funds.”
•Statements from interviews conducted by DCI Agent John Komora with Robert Denning of Denning, Downey & Associations. According to the affidavit, “Denning stated that Glacier County has a negative cash balance and explained when a government like a county has a negative cash balance it indicates the county is actually borrowing money from some other sources. Denning stated it appears that Glacier County has been borrowing from the schools since 2015, and continues to do so.”
• Komora’s investigation, included information and findings from the audit report issued by Andersen Bros., the auditing firm that performed Glacier County’s FY 2015 and 2016 audits. Also cited was information from three Glacier County Cash Reports, showing Glacier County funds with deficits totaling between $5.7 and $6.7 million.
• Statements by Denning that he “provided Glacier County Commissioners suggestions on how to solve their deficit problems but that they have not implemented those suggestions.”
Agent Komora believes that “Black Mountain Software, Inc., accounting records will help establish whether Glacier County officials failed to perform their duties, resulting is (in) a county cash deficit of approximately $6,000,000.”