Archive for the ‘Missoula’ Category

by jhwygirl

Had a coworker say to me this morning as work begun “What’s with Jon Krakauer? Why does he hate UM?” Tone and history told me where they were on the University of Montana – City of Missoula – Mayor John Engen – President Engstrom rape “thing”: The “It’s over!” “Why bring this up again?” “Jordan Johnson was innocent!” “No one ever proved anything!” crowd.

Whatever. I’ll continue to call bs on the matter if anyone discusses to any great degree – and it’s likely they do so just to get a rise out of me. I’m OK with it. I have a decent memory, and I deal with facts. Google is easily accessible. The #truth was revealed in the Department of Justice report; the statutes of limitations haven’t expired; Montana’s current Attorney General Tim Fox has stated he feels the matter has been resolved; both the previous Governor Brian Schweitzer and the current Governor Steve Bullock have done nothing, either, to press for justice; and – the real kicker here that everyone seems to forget – the rapists walk free. Those are facts, but apparently there are many here that feel comfortable to ignore the reality.

It’s not like this isn’t free and open information – the Missoulian did fine reporting on the matter, and I still thank Gwen Florio for her fearless journalism, along with the editor and publisher that stood behind reporting on the matter while there was some huge advertising and Griz Nation backlash.

I wonder how the vicitims feel? I think of them. Do you think Freddie Van Valkenburg does? Or the ever-so-efficient, John Engen-endorsed Missoula County Attorney Kirsten B. Pabst? I doubt it.

Does Montana Attorney General Tim Fox – who was hot on the campaign pulpit on the issue of sexual predators – think about the gang rape that happened? That President Engstrom’s own “independent” investigator – a former Montana Supreme Court Justice – also found and placed in her report?

Does Fox think about the other sexual assaults? The 5 year old victim? I do.

Krakauer may be facing an unfriendly welcome here in Missoula when (and if) he comes to sign books. Or speak. But it sure isn’t going to be from me. I’m glad he took the rape issue on. I’m glad it’s the rape issue here. I hope he continues to push for the University papers. I hope he finds the alleged connections that are there between the former Governor’s office and his cronies and friends that came to the Board of Regents, and the weave of politics behind the whole sordid mess.

But getting back to my cowoker…..

I said that I wouldn’t be so sure that he hates the University of Montana – that maybe Krakauer loves Montana and just looks for any excuse to come here to write. (I was in a jolly mood this morning – and as I mentioned above, all parties know where I stand on the rape matter. Plus I added my own little sprinkle of sarcasm.)

The reply was that “Well, he hates the Two Cups of Tea guy too.”

And I love pink ponies and rainbows.

Addendum: One of my favorite posts from the University of Montana rape scandal is this from Patrick Duganz, as it epitomizes the head-in-the-sand Good-Ole-Boy’s Club and seemingly socially acceptable rape and sexual assault is (or was, depending on who you ask) here in Missoula: Rape is not “knuckleheaded,” Rape is a felony.

Advertisements

by jhwygirl

By now most of you are aware of Missoula County sheriff candidate Democrat TJ McDermott’s violation of Montana campaign finance laws.

It wasn’t until I read that Missoulian story that I realized how much breaking of the law that was occurring. Yikes. An officer of the law sheriff taking cash value favors and gifts like that from lawyers? If that doesn’t raise a few troubling questions…then there’s the matter of who the firm is: Shouldn’t Datsopoulos Macdonald & Lind know better?

KGVO has the morning radio talk show Talk Back from about 8:15 to 9 a.m. daily. I can’t always catch it, but I try. I usually do catch at least a few minutes of it each day. Today I caught most of it, and KGVO’s Peter Christian and John King had interim Political Practices Commissioner Jonathan Motl on the show, from the airport he was preparing to fly out of.

Today’s (October 9th’s) podcast isn’t up yet, but check back, because I should think that anyone interested in campaign finance would want to hear what he had to say. Motl spoke specifically about his two decisions – one being Clark v. Datsopoulos Macdonald Lind PC and TJ McDermott and the other being Clark v. TJ McDermott.

One of the best take-away’s from that aspect of the show – and in regards, specifically, to Datsopoulos Macdonald and Lind’s role in campaign law violations – was his equation with what Datsopoulos Macdonald and Lind did to what Western Traditions Partnership did for a long list of state GOP legislative candidates a few years back.

The other aspect of the show went into what (I’m going to paraphrase here because the podcast isn’t up) he viewed as what was fairly uniquely Missoula’s less-than-thorough approach to political campaign finance laws. KGVO’s John King has that story up, and again – if you’re interested in Montana campaign finance (if not Missoula) – you should take the time to listen to October 9th’s podcast once it gets up.

KGVO must of caught up later with Molly Howard, a shareholder with Datsopoulos Macdonald and Lind – and Peter Christian posted the response from the law firm. And, you know, after having read the news stories and both findings from Motl (links above), I don’t think Datsopoulos recognizes the seriousness of their violation of state finance law. Howard frames the violation of campaign finance laws simple errors in the “reporting of in-kind contributions” – along with changes in how Motl is defining those in-kind campaign contributions.

Thing is, when I read Motl’s decision involving Datsopoulos, et.al.’s violations, he lays it out pretty clearly that it isn’t merely the failure to report the donations, but the fact that what they are doing requires them to register as a political committee, first.

During this whole investigation, TJ McDermott has already returned some cash back to Datsopoulos, Datsopoulos has yet to register as a political committee.

McDermott frames it as a bookkeeping error, while already having returned money (that’s more than just a failure to report) and Datsopoulos Macdonald and Lind calls it a “reporting error” when it really is a failure to register as a political committee and then, on top of that, error in reporting the donations that the currently non-existing political committee made.

Downplaying violations of state campaign finance laws isn’t a very honorable or responsible thing. All parties should be straight-up owning up to it. As I see it, both McDermott and Datsopoulos Macdonald and Lind seem to fail to recognize the severity of their violation of law.

By JC

Talking over the latest revelation with my German SO — after reading today’s news report in the Missoulian on the alleged deliberate homicide of German national Diren Dede — about German Consul Peter Rosen putting the Governor and prosecutors on notice that he expects that the law will be fully applied and he trusts that:

“justice will be done by not letting go unpunished the shooting of an unarmed juvenile … German penal law also applies for crimes committed against German nationals abroad, enabling German state prosecutors to open investigations in such cases.”

…it became painfully obvious that if Markus Kaarma’s charges for deliberate homicide hold, then why hasn’t his wife Janelle Pflager been charged as an accomplice or co-conspirator? The charging document contains enough evidence to implicate her, as she assisted in baiting the garage trap for the next burgler, set the motion detector and video surveillance system, took a photo on her phone camera once the surveillance had been tripped, and accompanied her husband out to the garage to shoot Diren Dede. It’s called “premeditation.”

My SO mentioned that in Germany they already are wondering why Pflager hasn’t been charged, and that as the German Consul noted, Germans can and will take the matters in their own hands and charge Pflager, and in case of an acquittal, Kaarma.

It would behoove Missoula prosecutors and city officials to look at the severity of this injustice and once Kaarma gets arraigned on Monday, May 12th in Missoula District Court, to assure that “justice will be done” and charge Pflager. If not, Montana’s reputation as a tourist destination to Europeans will definitely suffer when there is a trial in Germany for Kaarma and/or Pflager. Governor Bullock seems little concerned about the international attention such a trial might bring:

In response to a question, Bullock said he doesn’t believe international news coverage of the shooting will hurt Montana tourism, which last year experienced a record year. 

Unfortunately, that isn’t what Germans are thinking about Montana at the present. They already are dumbfounded that Pflager’s being an accomplice has been ignored by prosecutors and the press. Sad that our press and Governor need to look to the financial impact to the state when considering how to respond, or whom to charge. Or what the impact of an ugly extradition proceedings and foreign trial with all the accompanying media attention might have on their bottom line.

Of course, we only need to look at the impact of letting the actions of Grizzly football players dictate public relations for the University of Montana to know that no one will ever admit that the huge decline in students and associated budget cuts are a result of prosecutorial misconduct. Why would reactions to a murder trial be any different?

Castle Doctrine? There are real castles in Germany, and none of them are being used to justify the murder of unarmed teenagers, even if they are trespassing. Justice should be swift and merciful.

by jhwygirl

BuzzFeed’s Katie J. M. Baker has published a damned fine and thorough assessment of Kirsten Pabst’s candidacy for Missoula County Attorney.

Ms. Baker puts together a pretty long list of issues that should make any Missoula resident rule Pabst out of the running for the next County Attorney – to replace the faultering and uncooperative Fred Van Valkenburg.

I especially love that Katie J.M Baker used Pabst’s blog posts. While Pabst has been critical of not only the media, but of anonymous bloggers like me, Pabst was so committed to her blog words that she’d delete them in two or three days. Apparently there are people out there who know that game. Who’d of thought of that???

And for those of you still fans of Mr. Van Valkenburg, consider his words on Pabst – who is openly criticizing Van Valkenburg’s leadership:

As chief criminal deputy, Pabst was free to establish any policy she thought she was appropriate in the criminal division, he said. “She was an integral part of the management of this office for over five years.”

Missoula’s once again in the national news over the University of Montana & Missoula’s rape scandal – this time via Kirstin Pabst’s candidacy.

If Missoula is wanting to put the rape scandal behind us, putting Pabst in as chief of the county attorney’s office is NOT the way to go about it.

by Pete Talbot

Some of our city’s development leaders are troubled by a lack of a Missoula “economic identity,” according to a story on the Front Page of Sunday’s Missoulian.

This concern is driven, in part, by a report from the Montana Policy Institute ranking Missoula near the bottom of Montana cities for “business friendliness.”

Of course, the Montana Policy Institute won’t be happy with Missoula until the Clark Fork is running thick with pollutants, we have 1960’s tipi-burner air quality and corporate taxes are back to zero, or less.

The Montana Policy Institute is a far-right “think tank” out of Bozeman funded by, well, no one knows who funds it since its donors are kept secret.

I’m not all that sure that the institute is still in existence.  It’s mostly-blank page on the Internet says, “this website is not updated frequently.”  So, if you want more information, forget about it. There is this on the site: the Montana Policy Institute’s noble goal of “free-market think(ing), dedicated solely to providing policy solutions that promote the liberty, prosperity, and quality of life for all Montanans.” In other words, roll back regulations and taxes.

I applaud Missoula’s economic developers for building partnerships: start ups and entrepreneurs joining with technology resources and government assistance, and linking up with our excellent university and city schools.

We have our economic fits-and-starts here, and it we’d all be happier if our kids could find gainful employment and stay in town. Let’s work on that but not in the way promoted by the Montana Policy Institute.

Most folks aren’t getting rich in Missoula, but we’ve been buffered from the radical boom-and-bust cycle better than many Montana cities precisely because of our diverse economy.  Please keep that in mind and build on it (also, support for a big hike in the minimum wage would be in everyone’s best interest, something you can be sure the Montana Policy Institute is against).

So let’s not pander to the institute’s short-sighted, free-market, non-sustainable model.  We have more going for us than that, and the Missoulian, for credibility, shouldn’t be quoting the Montana Policy Institute anymore.

by Pete Talbot

I’m not sure why folks band together in moments of crisis, an example being the response of everyone: neighbors, strangers, passers-by; coming together to search for avalanche victims in the lower Rattlesnake.

These same folks might call the cops on you if you’re playing your music too loud or parked in the wrong spot, but during times of crisis …

To a lesser extent, watching folks pitch in to dig out stuck cars, and the sidewalks and driveways of elderly friends and neighbors, well, it gives this old cynic a warm feeling (despite the -20 windchill).

It’s one of those times when right-wing tea baggers, left-wing pinkos, rednecks and hippies come together for the common good.

So I won’t evoke class warfare during this blizzard, lizard.  I’ll just say that this weekend Montanans, particularly Missoulians, have made me proud.

by jhwygirl

The City of Missoula’s attempts to criminalize homelessness has reached a ridiculous crescendo. Downtown is a mess and don’t you know, it’s all the homeless’ fault. Not the drunks – served at downtown bars – who smash up downtown businesses. Not the drunks assaulting innocent pedestrians on their way home from the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival – nope..it’s those darn homeless.

Of latest debate is the ability of people to – yeah, get this – sit downtown. Because, you know, no one should be coming to Missoula Montana and have the audacity to sit. In downtown! Of all places!

Dan Cederberg, a member of Mayor Engen’s downtown advisory committee, is quoted in this Missoulian article covering today’s committee meetings as saying that ‘the council has heard plenty of testimony that many people who sit downtown also end up harassing and intimidating people, so the act is a “gateway” to poor behavior. He said the result is a public safety issue the city must address.’

Sitting is a “gateway” to poor behavior?

Liberals and Progressives? Please phone home because your city is lost.

I’ll tell you what is “gateway” behavior to a poor downtown lacking growth: Public officials and downtown businesses and commerce organizations standing by (because, you know, sitting is bad) with nary a whisper while one of the largest and most historic pieces of commerce real estate not only in Missoula but in western Montana is eyed as a viable site for the county public library.

Let that sink in: the county friggin’ library. A non-tax paying entity taking up one of the largest contiguous parcels of downtown Missoula. A block and a half off of riverfront, and on the main bridged street through downtown?

And before the Friends of the Library come out and whine about me hating all books, I’ll pray that ya’all believe me when I say I’m a big fan of libraries and book reading. Frankly, more people should do it. Newspapers too. Everyone should read and do it often. As often as possible.

And I’m even OK if you sit while doing it!

Yeah – downtown Missoula is turning into a tax-free haven – let’s not forget the University either.

Please grow the hell up and quit blaming everyone but yourselves people.

Two Items of Interest

by jhwygirl

There’s a petition out there demanding that Missoula County stop trivializing rape cases. Signatures are up to 6,878 as I type this, and they come from all over the world.

So there’s that. And yea, go ahead and say that 99.99% of these people have no business interjecting into our business. Whatever. But there’s our entry onto the world’s stage people. Keep cheering on Van Valkenburg’s lawsuit. Just keep going.

Secondly, Eric Hines – a University of Montana adjunct professor of political science – has tackled the question of whether the USDOJ has jurisdiction over Fred Van Valkenburg’s office. I recommend everyone read it. It’s titled, interestingly enough: Does the DOJ have the right to investigate the Missoula County Attorney? Yes, or Why Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg is wrong.

by jhwygirl

Lizard has had two posts now calling out local democrats – Thanks for Nothing, Democrats and Rape Culture, Missoula Democrats, and Criminalizing Poverty – on their lack of acting with principles most often associated with the Democratic Party.

Lizard points out in his first post that the overwhelmingly progressive city council (yeah, they run as nonpartisans but we all know they’re democrats) are working to criminalize homelessness. He points out that the Board of County Commissioners (all democrats) is suing the feds, saying they’ve no jurisdiction over our county attorney, the illustrious Fred Van Valkenburg, and then Liz points out that oVan Valkenburg – a democrat, himself – chose to not only ignore a county initiative that decriminalized marijuana, but that he actually notched up prosecutions of possession!

A comment from former Poverello Director and State Representative Ellie Hill (HD94 – Missoula) takes us to Lizard’s second post where he takes on former Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir’s recent editorial in support of Van Valkenburg and Missoula County’s lawsuit against the feds. Now, admittedly Muir’s politics are unknown since he wasn’t an elected official – but he is standing not only in support of the very Tea Partyesque lawsuit, he’s also referring to the USDOJ as “ultra-liberal.” Liz then continues on to call out Ms. Hill’s apparent change in positions on her advocacy for the homeless, citing quotes by Hill in Missoulian reporter Keila Szpaller’s blog, Missoula Red Tape.

For good measure, Lizard closes out his post with reference to former US Representative Pat Williams’ ‘knucklehead” comment about rapists at the University of Montana, finely documented by the truly lustrous architect of words, Patrick Duganz.

Yes, it’s hard to find what many might refer to as “true progressives” or “good democrats” here in Missoula these days. Wagons are circled, that’s for sure. That “speak no ill” rule certainly applies in state democrat politics.

A few days ago a friend pointed out to me that Ravalli County – a conservative Tea Party bastion – sure knows how to address incompetence, even when it involves what is an elected office. That person was right. With unproven allegations of malfeasance, Ravalli Board of County Commissioners had County Treasurer Valerie Stamey escorted from the building by the county sheriff. They then hired an outside audit firm, brought in a interim treasurer and also a retired judge to independently oversee the investigation. Stamey remains on paid leave as the investigation continues.

Compare that to Missoula County Board of County Commissioners. With serious allegations made by the USDOJ who have quite clearly said that County Attorney Van Valkenburg has “put women’s safety at risk,” Van Valkenenburg apparently still has access to his office! There are not only allegations of violations of state and federal law, there is significant documentation by the USDOJ that civil rights were violated – that’s the kind of stuff that exposes the county to millions of dollars in lawsuits.

Instead, the county steams forward not by addressing the allegations, but on the hope of a now disgraced county attorney who thinks that the feds don’t have jurisdiction over civil rights violations.

This situation is no longer about who has jurisdiction over who – it’s over who violated civil rights and who is going to continue to maintain the status quo.

With documented allegations of civil rights violations and the failure of the Board of County Commissioners to act, it’s not going to be just Fred Van Valkenburg and Missoula County’s name on the lawsuits that have an easy in to being filed. His enablers will also be on the hook, should they fail to act.

And – dare I suggest – that may include the State of Montana, since there are documented allegations of state law in that 20 page document also. I’ve only heard crickets out of Helena, so far.

Missoula was worried about the cost of implementing the USDOJ’s recommendations? They might start to think about those civil rights lawsuits. That stuff can be real real expensive.

Look – Van Valkenburg poked at the dragon. The dragon bit back in a big way. In doing so, the dragon shined a big light on civil rights violations. If anyone things things are going to get easier, they’re dreaming.

Not only that – Van Valkenburg can’t defend himself or the county from these allegations. Consider that. Van Valkenburg had to hire outside council to sue the feds…he and the county sure can’t defend themselves against the civil rights violations that are now on their way down the pike.

by jhwygirl

The Missoula Police Department are investigating a sexual assault on campus. A 19-year old woman has apparently reported a rape, and an 18-year old, known to the woman, is being questioned.

The article is brief, I’m sure because so little is known. That’s not to denigrate the Missoulian, and I’m glad for their reporting, however brief.

What struck me was was last sentence:

Welsh wouldn’t identify whose dorm room it was and said he didn’t know if alcohol played a role in the assault.

I don’t know – it seemed out of place Did public information office offer the statement? Was he asked?

No does mean no.

So was that statement in the context of ‘maybe the guy was drunk, which is why it happened’ as if it were some degree of a mitigating factor? An excuse for why this happened?

Or was it more in the sense of ‘the female might of been drinking,’ so anything she says might not be true?

Perhaps alcohol played a factor because xanax or rohypnol was dropped in the drink?

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me – but if there isn’t much known about the case, maybe alcohol shouldn’t be mentioned until it’s known whether – indeed – alcohol did play a factor. And if it did, it should be mentioned in its full contact.

Because, you know, the mere presence of alcohol isn’t an excuse to rape someone.

And without context, mentioning alcohol perpetuates the myth that it is.

by jhwygirl

I am still stuck at page 17 of the damning USDOJ report serving as all but an indictment of Fred Van Valkenburg, pretty much because I can’t see fit to stomach more shirking of duties and violations of basic civil rights by Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg’s criminal department. More than a few things have stuck with me. I’ve also had some time to read the comments at the Missoulian, too, and feel like firing off on two items this rain-soaked evening.

First off, it appears from the comments to the Missoulian article there is still a large contingent of people out there that seem to hold on to Van Valkenburg’s dream that the USDOJ does not hold authority over his office. Many of these people don’t even address the veracity of the USDOJ report – confirming that rape nation and rape apologists and rape culture thrive here in Missoula.

Scary disgusting stuff, really.

Less disturbing in the comments – but still troubling – is the apparent lack of reading comprehension skills among this group of people. It’s not like they had to read to page 12 or anything. The USDOJ summarily dismisses Van Valkenburg’s whining about the USDOJ’s lack of authority over his office quite thoroughly beginning right there on page one. In the end, the mere fact that Van Valkenburg’s office has taken federal monies suffices here – which I might add illustrates yet another legal inadequacy of Fred Van Valkenburg: contractual law.

Oh, I may as well throw in one more legal inadequacy here – the ability to select competent counsel, since he’s dropped $50K into outside counsel to fight the feds on this point.

I look forward to the Federal District Court’s summary judgement here on this point. A summary judgement is, shall we say, a pretty embarrassing way to lose a case?

The second thing I want to take on this evening is what the title suggests – Van Valkenburg’s office’s role in the USDOJ’s investigation and subsequent settlement with the City of Missoula Police. Here, again, the USDOJ lays out repeated situations where the police investigated and documented only to have their work fall into the black cave that we now know is Van Valkenburg’s County Attorney’s Office.

City police apparently got so frustrated with their work going no where, that they created a summary sheet with a spot for the county attorney’s office to provide feedback. Frequently, these weren’t even returned – and when they were, they usually contained only two words: “insufficient evidence.”

That occurred, btw, on a case where the rapist confessed.

Missoula Police are well-trained. Many would say, too much so. This aspect does, though, bode well – or should – for victims of violent crime. Missoulians certainly are getting their tax dollar’s worth in this aspect. But if Van Valkenburg’s tutelage is failing victims of sexual assault, it’s surely failing us in prosecution of other victims of violent crimes as well.

Van Valkenburg has made much of his complaint that the feds want him to have his own staff investigator. Here, too, the USDOJ makes hay of Van Valkenburg’s claims, pointing out that his office fails to coordinate with the police. While they also fail to coordinate with the police, his office also fails to tell the police where further evidence might be obtained to make a case more easily prosecuted. They’re not telling him to hire his own investigator – they’re telling him he should work together with his law enforcement colleagues.

Which is kinda what the police were looking for when they created a summary sheet and a blank section looking for feedback.

City of Missoula Police referred 85 cases to to the county attorney’s office for prosecution between 2008 and 2012. Charges were only filed on 14. Now, think about that: In an unknown number of reported sexual assaults, the well-trained Missoula Police investigated and came to the conclusion that they had sufficient evidence to file charges on 85 cases, yet the county attorney’s office eliminated 83% of them, without even any feedback to police in 29 of those..

Would that shatter any police officer’s work ethic if 83% of your efforts on just sexual assault crimes were shot down by the county attorney’s office?

From page 9:

In addition, Missoula County Attorney’s Office’s approach to sexual violence in Missoula has had significant, detrimental impacts on the law enforcement community’s overall response to sexual assault. The work of Missoula Police detectives is compromised by the fact that, even if the expend the resources to conduct a comprehensive investigation, the County Attorney’s Office often will not even charge the case. One woman reported that the Missoula Police detective in her case informed her that because “no one had a limb cut off and there was no video of the incident,” prosecutors “wouldn’t see this [the rape} as anything more than a girl getting drunk at a party.” whether or not the detective’s characterization was correct, the County Attorney’s actions over time left this detective – and many others like him – with the understanding that non-stranger sexual assault of women, and especially drug-facilitated sexual assault, mut involve physical force or overwhelming and irrefutable evidence to be considered a crime worthy of prosecution.

Mother Jones reporter and Montana native Dana Liebelson quotes a statement emailed to her by Van Valkenburg: “I think that everything the DOJ is saying about our office is false. These people are as unethical as any I have ever seen. They obviously have a political agenda they want to push and the truth does not matter to them.”

Really Fred? you want to go down whining like an 8 year old? Everyone’s picking on you?

If we’re to believe Van Valkenburg, confessed rapists lie, rape victims lie, and yes, even the Missoula Police lie.

I’m not buying it, and I’m not sorry that I don’t. And neither should you.

by jhwygirl

I’ve still yet to finish off the USDOJ investigative report into the Missoula County Attorney’s Office, but I am now on page 17. The problem I’ve had in finishing it isn’t time, but that my blood pressure goes up so much I have to get up and punch a wall or two, and then go for a walk. But I”m scaring the neighbors now with all my gesticulations as I power walk Misdemeanor Meadows, so clearly it’s time to fire off a post.

The USDOJ’s report is lots of things. It’s damning. It’s infuriating. It’s disgusting. It’s heartbreaking, It’s sickening. It’s maddening. The adjectives and the feelings are endless. But lessons need to be learned, and actions must be taken.

As I read the USDOJ’s report of sexual assault after sexual assault. Of gang rape. Or rapes unreported because victims already knew of the humiliation that would be handed down by Missoula County criminal prosecutors…I ponder the concept of justice and whether any semblance of it is, at all, reachable.

Does exposing Van Valkenburg’s leadership of the Missoula County’s Attorney’s office suffice? Certainly not – and especially if you attempt to think of it in the perspective of a sexual assault victim.

The statute of limitations for sexual assault in Montana is 10 years. If the victim is less than 18, then the 10 year timeline begins when the victim turns 18. I’ll further point out that having the victim testify is not always needed to prosecute rape.

The USDOJ report lays out violations of not only civil rights and equal protection under our U.S. Constitution, it lays out violations of the same in the Montana Constitution, along with Montana law. As I mentioned above, I’ve only gotten to page 17, but that does mean that I’ve read of at least two specific violations of Montana Code by the Missoula County Attorney’s Office.

Page 10 refers to MCA 46-24-104, which requires the prosecutor in any criminal case to consult and coordinate with the victims of criminal acts. Van Valkenburg’s County Attorney’s Office failed to do this to disastrous results.

Page 17 points to violations of MCA 45-5-501(1)(a) which says that a victim who is incapacitated is incapable of consent. Again – and in a town where it’s well-known by women the need to guard their drinks – this was a part of Montana law that Van Valkenburg and his crew of prosecuting criminal attorney’s were apparently unaware of it’s existence in code.

Both of those state law violations applied to multiple cases investigated by the USDOJ, who operated (let us not forget) without the cooperation of Van Valkenburg’s office. All of these violations, aside from Montana’s constitutional guarantees – many of which mirror the U.S. Constitution – went unprosecuted.

I point these out because this is the area which is now under the purview of Montana Attorney General Tim Fox. In this situation, the groundwork has been laid out painfully and publicly by the USDOJ’s office, and I dare suggest that not only is this is something Tim Fox can not ignore, it should now be his job to take on prosecution of these cases.

I’d like that he also review the negotiated plea agreement with the rapist of a 5 year old, too.

Fred Van Valkenburg is out of the office until something like the 24th of the month. I realize Monday is a holiday, but I would certainly hope that Tim Fox can see fit to have a state investigator in Missoula County’s County Attorney’s Office by Tuesday, beginning interviews and investigations into these state violations and unprosecuted cases.

Justice demands it.

Tim Fox focused a large part of his run for office on sexual predators of children, and his office did take swift action on that issue. It’s time for Tim Fox focus on sexual assault victims, many of whom are (or were) students at the University of Montana. Just as the USDOJ’s agreement with the University is being held up as a model for university and college campuses around the United States, Tim Fox’s intervention here into Missoula regarding violations of state laws concerning sexual assault can be a learning experience for communities around the state – and perhaps legislator’s also.

by jhwygirl

In what is either another misguided attempt or act of malfeasance in search of affordable housing, Missoula City Council approved Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) for all residential zones.

I’ve written once about this ADU proposal. My main objection is the negative impact it is going to have on affordable housing. Other issues are just as valid, such as the higher taxes it will bring. Enforcement is a huge issue for many, the city notorious for not wanting to enforce stuff (like fireworks?) Council also didn’t provide much for convincing answers to how they could enforce the “owner occupied” portion of the law – especially when questioned about previous legal opinions to the contrary.

So I see this story in the Missoulian from city government reporter Keila Szpaller and I just shake my head. There is a picture of an advocate for ADU’s – Ms. Brown is quoted as saying “ADUs are not the end of the world. They are not the end of Missoula as we know it. They are another affordable housing option, and as an older individual, I’m looking for those.”

BUT – read the caption under the photo which accompanies the article, and the advocate for affordable housing says she wants to build a cottage to rent out the main house.

I ask you: How is that creating affordable housing? Ms. Brown, who owns a house, is going to build a guest cottage to live in and then she’s going to rent out her university district home. Now – I’m sure this has already been all worked out, but let me explain how this is going to work because now we’ve been given such a clear example.

Occupant of said house – who is likely having trouble keeping up with property taxes, in addition to having a need to downsize – is going to go to the bank and present the finance officer with a plan for how much they are going to rent the main house. Estimating taxes, costs and revenues, they’ll then offer their home as collateral.

Bam! Property values have increased for that lot because of the improvements. So the neighbors next door with a family and two working incomes who were able to afford their 3 bedroom home are now faced with a tidy uptick in their property values. And the cycle goes on.

The comments on Ms. Szpaller’s story don’t miss that, either.

A motion was made to have the ADU proposal go to the voters, but that was struck down. No surprise there – the city had previously taken a city-wide survey to prove how everyone like the idea and the results were that a majority was not in support of the proposal.

In the end, Councilors Jason Wiener, Alex Taft, Cynthia Wolken, Bob Jaffe, Ed Childers, Mike O’Herron, and Marilyn Marler voted for the ADU’s – and Jon Wilkins, Adam Hertz, Caitlin Copple, Dave Strohmaier and Dick Haines voting no.

So THANK YOU Jon, Adam, Caitlin, Dave and Dick for voting no.

The city’s going to get sued. They pretty much know that. The truth is, they don’t really care. The city has insurance coverage for this type of thing, so their cost is minimal as opposed to the organizing of funds that the opponents are going to have to do to hire an attorney.

Sad. It’s really a nasty thing when government – whether it be town, city, county, state or federal – takes the position that “you can’t sue city hall.” They have their staff and insurance pool of attorneys – any individual or group has to then step up and get the job done. I believe that is the case here, illustrated by the city’s previous survey, and Monday’s night failed vote to take it to the voters.

In this case, I have no doubt. Myra Shults has been out in front of this for a while. I may be wrong, but I believe she used to be a Montana Association of Counties (MACo) staff attorney for land use issues. Ms Shults was also up front and center with the gravel pit issue down near Lolo back several years ago.

Ms Shults was successful in that the gravel pit was halted – and without her involvement, I don’t know that it would have happened.

I may even donate some popcorn money to the cause.

by jhwygirl

Was anyone surprised to hear that former Griz football player Trumaine Johnson was arrested on a DUI last night? Probably not. The fact that he’s a NFL cornerback for the St. Louis Rams is whatt made it just a little out of the ordinary.

Only a little.

Reading the Missoulian report, it seems that Trumaine Johnson refused the breathalyzer.

Well now, I thought, “doesn’t he realize we get warrants now in this state when people do that?

But as I read through the Missoulian’s report, it appears the City of Missoula Police merely cited former Griz player Trumaine Johnson for refusing the breath test, along with another citation for driving without headlights and the DUI charge.

Awww, isn’t that nice?

So Johnson will get off with some minor traffic tickets. No evidence for the DUI will make that a tough conviction.

I’m sure it was jet lag.

He was caught at Front and Owen. Which is St. Patrick’s Hospital property, and about 3 blocks from the Emergency Room entrance where blood tests are, I suspect, pretty easy to obtain.

Not only is Johnson getting special treatment from the City of Missoula PD, it looks like the NFL has already decided his fate – they’re gonna hit him up with a little dent in his beer money.

Real leadership failure all the way around. You wonder why we have situations like we have here and in Steubenville and scores of other communities? It’s a systemic failure.

One of those “it takes a village” moments.

by jhwygirl

There is nothing that city council can do that will cause more permanent harm to any semblance of affordable housing in this valley than to approve their current rezoning of the whole city for ADU’s (Accessory Dwelling Units.)

Beyond that truth, the latest back-and-forth on this insane proposal is the question surrounding the city’s plan to require the owner of an ADU to live on premises. Questions have run the gamut of “Can the city even enforce this?” to “How would the city even enforce this?”

The Missoulian’s Keila Szpaller’s latest delves into this issue along with other very real possibilities that any reasonable entity should consider before writing something that they actually intend to enforce.

What I have said to myself over these questions the last two weeks – and this is when I really regret not having a Missoulian account with which to comment – is this: How or Could the city enforce this? They aren’t enforcing their current ordinances on ADU’s! Why would any presume that they would enforce this new everyone-can-have-one rule when they aren’t enforcing their current rules on dwelling units?

And isn’t there an inherent conflict of interest on the council for 2 or more city council people? Councilors who own and/or live in an illegal ADU?

The mere fact that their association with illegal ADU’s has been openly discussed in public meetings is proof enough of the intent of the city to enforce its owner-must-live-on-site rule. To think any different is really rather irrational.

I also can’t help but ponder the silence of affordable housing advocates. The idea that the city council is going to turn every square inch of this city into an “investment property” by doubling the density potential on single-family dwelling zoned neighborhoods is absolutely insane. Depending on the design standards they end up settling on, you can add 10-20% (at least) on top of the value of a lot in what is currently a single-family zoned area.

With a unit already built? Who knows what that’ll pull down. Oh – and you can bet that a potential ADU will be a selling point on those selling who haven’t built one yet. Add on a premium for that!

Will it be good for the city? Property values will increase because instead of buying a single family home, new buyers will be writing proforma’s to show the bank how the rental of an ADU will increase their income. This will increase the amount of property taxes collected. Is that good for the city? I guess it depends on how you look at it.

I am sitting back just shaking my head. But then again, I did that when the bailed out the ballpark. And the affordable housing project for a second time. And when they blessed the sale of our water. And when they seriously considered an Arts Center. And when they accepted an RFP from a developer who said they had to have a prime piece of real estate for free in order to make their proposal work.

Election season can’t come soon enough..

by jhwygirl

SB196 was heard on second reading today on the floor of the senate, having passed state senate judiciary on a 9-3 vote.

In a nutshell, the bill prohibits the use of drones by the government unless a warrant is issued or some other judicial process takes place. It also prohibits the use of information illegally obtained through the use of drones.

The bill, proposed by Glendive’s Sen. Matthew Rosendale, a Republican, received bipartisan support, passing second reading 29-19.

All of Missoula’s senators supported the bill – – except for Sue Malek – See her NO vote?

Who knew the Rattlesnake, East Missoula, Bonner and Clinton people were fine with warrantless government drones?

Crazy, huh?

by jhwygirl

A little over two weeks ago, Missoulian reporter Keila Szpaller brought us the story that the city of Missoula has wrongfully arrested and even jailed people on illegal warrants issued over the past 10 years.

That’s a pretty big deal – and you have to assume she didn’t get much love from anyone in the city for looking into to wrongful arrests. The issue stems in a large part from illegal warrants.

There’s also been the mistaken identity thing – and this past weekend, the Missoulian detailed just that in the arrest of a man 30 years older than the man they should have been arresting.

Which says something about the arresting officers, does it not? I mean – imagine trying to tell them they’ve got the wrong person and they’re not even looking over their paperwork? Good lord!

I know a lot of people don’t give a crap about stuff like this. I’ve been told – when discussing the death penalty and the possibility of killing an innocent person – that “well, they were doing something wrong if they were arrested,” as if the people that get wrongfully arrested somehow had it coming to them. Even if they aren’t guilty of the crime for which the state is putting them to death.

I was very disturbed by Keila’s story. I witnessed a situation just as she writes of last year….and while I considered then and even try now to write something about it, I know it is not in anyone’s best interests that I do it here. Which I why I have much respect for Ms. Spzaller for having written that article. She didn’t make any friends and I highly doubt anyone was overly helpful as she dug for information.

So for me there were layers of disturbing to that story. Aside from the somewhat personal connection to the topic, as a citizen of Missoula it’s pretty disturbing to know that civil rights violations are going on with people being jailed unlawfully. Understanding the lack of places to turn to for assistance makes it even worse. Small towns tend to protect themselves.

What I also found disturbing was the attitudes expressed by city officials concerning such illegal arrest warrants. Spzaller starts off her story with this statement:

City officials say the incidents are rare and that Municipal Court has revised its procedures so it no longer issues bad warrants. The matter is a concern, said Judge Kathleen Jenks, but she knows of only a couple of people wrongfully detained on the invalid warrants.

“Really, there aren’t that many people getting picked up on old, illegal warrants,” Jenks said.

I don’t know who the city officials are that she refers to, but “rare” incidents of illegal arrest are – I’m sorry – a pretty big friggin’ deal.

Now, it’s clear from the article that new Judge Jenks has taken steps to try and keep these illegal arrests from continuing, but to acknowledge “only a couple of people” have been illegally arrested and to be quoted saying that “there aren’t that many people” being arrested on illegal warrants seems a bit flippant to me.

Szpaller speaks with deputy city attorney Carrie Garber:

In the worst-case scenario, a person is arrested on the weekend and remains in custody for two days because they can’t bail out, Garber said. The illegal warrants affect the people who are least able to pay a $50 or $200 bond; many people may not even know their arrest was improper, she said.

Garber said the practice took place for years, and she would not be surprised to find that “hundreds” of people went to jail because of it. When Judge Marie Andersen worked in the court, she started the practice of reviewing files before signing warrants, Garber said.

Garber said she tried unsuccessfully to encourage Louden to change the procedure, and she’s pleased Judge Jenks has done so.

In a worst-case scenario??? The practice took place for years?? She would not be surprised to find hundreds went to jail on illegal arrest warrants?? Louden didn’t give a shit??

Gerber’s boss, apparently, wasn’t giving a crap.

One quote that has really stuck in my craw since reading it back on January 27th, and it was one that came from long time city attorney Jim Nugent:

He isn’t aware of any recent arrests, and no one has sued the city over the matter, Nugent said. People may seek legal recourse if they believe their rights have been violated, but they must show they’ve been harmed, he said.

“They’d have to show damages,” Nugent said. “I don’t think a lot of money would be at issue because what’s their damages?”

“Because what’s their damages?”??? That quote there hearkens back to the conversation I relay above on the death penalty. These illegal arrests don’t mean much because..at some point the person had done something wrong so it doesn’t matter?

They don’t mean anything because these people that we’re arresting illegally don’t have the means to come back and sue us and even if they did, they don’t make a lot of money so whatever damages they incur would be minor?

They don’t mean anything because no one is going to believe them?

If you haven’t read Keila’s article, please do. It’s a worthy read.

Good newspaper writing, at it’s best – serving the public’s best interests, even when it isn’t easy.

by jhwygirl

It’s so bassackwards that I just have to ask: How could cops and fire personnel that live outside of the community be a good thing? And OK thing?

I ask that in the context of the what seems to be the current pressing issue for the City of Missoula right now. And while I say that a little snarky, I actually do think it important that city employees live in the city. Especially department heads and…dare I say it…police and fire.

The Missoulian’s Keila Szpaller went to work immediately after Wednesday’s committee meeting, it seems, as this morning’s paper brought us the news that the majority of the city’s top cops live outside of the city.

Below I’m going to print Bob Jaffe’s listserv committee report, a sort of informal – but still public – discussion on city issues.

I’ll also point out that while Jaffe retells City of Missoula Police Chief Muir comments in committee on Wednesday by saying “Police chief Muir spoke against the proposal telling us he moved to the county for the higher quality of life and likely would not have taken the job as police chief if this rule were in place,” he takes no effort to dispel Muir’s contention.

Jaffe continues, seemingly acknowledging the superior quality of life in the county – which is a little peculiar coming from a city councilor, no? I mean, is it not an odd public introspection of his and his fellow councilor’s work? Bob’s been on council for more than 6 years now, I’m pretty sure.

Anyways……Jaffe’s full report below the fold, to make sure you have the full context. Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

What could get me wanting to try and throw out a few words? A bill seeking to repeal last session’s eminent domain debacle, HB198.

I won’t go into the past gory details on the 2011 eminent domain bill – you can click that link above for that – what I will do is offer a heartfelt THANKS to Sen. Debby Barrett, a Republican out Dillon.

Sen. Barrett has proposed SB180 which is a straight all-out repeal of HB198, which handed eminent domain powers straight to the utility corporations, and eliminating any role of assuring that the taking of private property was for public gain, yet alone fair compensation.

In other words, big business who’s priority is only bigger profits, and not necessarily Montana’s best interests, could crisscross this Montana with whatever form of transmission infrastructure they choose, to deliver their energy from..say…Canada to Colorado…and little old property owner in Dillon Montana is left to deal with the barrage of lawyers from big business.

Thank you? You have to wonder what the hell the people who voted for HB198 were thinking and you can’t really paint the Democrats with the lack of respect for private property rights – plenty of Republicans voted for this crappy bill, including Republicans Sen. Dave Lewis and Reps. Janna Taylor, Wendy Warburton and Duane Ankney.

For the Missoula people that care about private property rights, know that only Sen. Dave Wanzenried and Rep. Ellie Hill voted NO to that bill. Occasional commentor (from way-back) Rep. Mike Miller – a self-described Libertarian, I believe – also voted NO to this bill.

Last week, Sens. Wanzenried, Augare, and Windy Boy signed on as co-sponsors to Sen. Barrett’s bill. I’ll be watching this one closely.

Let’s see who respects private property rights, and who wants to let private corporations do what they will, with only the promise of “fair compensation” from their army of lawyers knocking on our Montana neighbor’s doors.

by jhwygirl

The Missoulian is reporting that County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg is requesting $100,000 to plan for the risk exposure from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into 518 rapes and sexual assaults here in Missoula over the last 4 years. From Dale Bicknell, Chief Administrative Officer for Missoula County:

“We may have some risk here and we’re trying to plan for it.”

Van Valkenburg, you might remember, is refusing to cooperate with the DOJ investigation. He’s also provided all of his correspondence with the DOJ, along with a reply to previous postings here at 4&20 on the matter.

For my part, I remain unconvinced and believe that his behaviour is unproductive. I want his cooperation. Van Valkenburg’s lack of cooperation is disconcerting, to say the least – and comments in the Missoulian do seem to indicate that concern (and more.)

Apparently, even Missoula County officials are feeling the same. From the Missoulian article

Bickell said Van Valkenburg’s stance leaves the county feeling that it might need to protect itself on two fronts.

“One is to cover any costs of outside counsel, should there be some sort of litigation,” he said. In late May, a Justice Department letter to Van Valkenburg said that “we remain hopeful that our offices can work cooperatively so that we can resolve our investigation promptly and, if our investigation leads to findings, avoid unnecessary litigation.”

I supposed the County Commissioners are in a bit of a hard place – Van Valkenburg is an elected official. But instead of just doling out $100K, perhaps they should ask why they should have to do that.

How does his position benefit the victims? Benefit Missoula?

In other words, is Van Valkenberg’s stubbornness going to be one huge taxpayer dollar money suck, and to what purpose? Wouldn’t it be more prudent for Van Valkenberg to cooperate?

Does anyone (but Fred) think that Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg is going to keep the DOJ from its investigation? The DOJ has had UMontana’s cooperation – and they’ve had the City of Missoula Police’s too. That along with interviews gives the DOJ a significant part of the puzzle already.

The interesting little tidbit in the Missoulian story is towards the end where Van Valkenburg referenced the Seattle Police Department as an example of how expensive dealing with the DOJ can become.

The Seattle Police Department? In December, the DOJ released a zillion page investigation which basically said that the Seattle PD violated civil rights by using excessive force 20% of the time. There was also a pattern of racial bias. And corruption.

Seattle is apparently still unwilling to cooperate with the DOJ towards resolution.

And – even without Seattle having been found to have violated civil rights, Van Valkenburg has more than just the commonality of having the DOJ wanting to look at records with the Seattle PD – the person leading the investigation? Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.

The denial going around doesn’t stop with Van Valkenburg and his mysterious clan of email buddies cheering him on – Engstrom is continuing his happy-go-lucky ways, saying in the Missoulian article on the Penn State sanctions: “The situations (at Penn State and UM) are so totally different that it just doesn’t make any sense to compare them.”

“Totally”?

Yeah…well that’s another post.

Van Valkenburg should cooperate. It shows lack of concern for victims. It’s a losing proposition. And it’s costly.

by jhwygirl

Much was a-twitter the last few days on the lack of enforcement of the prohibition on fireworks within city limits. I, myself, gave up calling in fireworks violations last year. I think it was 2010 when the fairly new duplex down the street caught fire late in the evening. The upstairs resident was awakened by his 6 month old golden retriever (thankfully) and they escaped, and the home was saved.

I had called police twice that evening. Later, the fire marshal said they didn’t have enough evidence for any sort of investigation.

No one died, I guess.

It seems each year the Missoulian (I’m protesting putting in links tonight folks) does a perennial story on the complaints on fireworks, how many calls the police got and a nice little pr piece where a city official – elected or paid – stands there and talks about how ‘education is better’ and ‘warnings are usually effective’ statements.

Well, this year Detective Sargent Travis Welsh just told it like it really is – city police aren’t going to enforce the fireworks prohibition ordinance. Here’s Det. Sgt. Welsh on NBC news station KECI:

For those that can’t hit the video, here’s what Det. Sgt. Welsh says:

“Considering the volume of calls and the volume of people who are actually violating the ordinance…it would be a fruitless effort to try to throw everybody in jail for a minor offense.”

Before people going chewing on me for “hysterics”, consider the hysterics put forth by Det. Sgt. Welsh: He says it would be a “fruitless effort to try and throw everybody in jail for a minor offense” when such offense is not a criminal offense.

Per city municipal code, “The penalty for violating any provisions of this chapter shall solely be a fine of up to five hundred and no/100 dollars ($500.00). There shall be no penalty of imprisonment for a violation of any provision of this chapter. (Ord. 2983, 1996)”

What we really have here is a message to all Missoulians that you can do fireworks whenever you want – because we’re not going to enforce them.

Dare I suggest that if the city of police would put two officers on bikes next year – one on the northside, and one in misdemeanor meadows and felony flats – they could hand out $500 tickets, one per half hour and put an end to the onslaught of fireworks real quick.

That is, of course, if anyone wanted that ordinance enforced. Doesn’t seem, though, that anyone cares – keep in mind Det. Sgt. Welsh looked pretty comfortable standing there telling KECI that he wasn’t going to enforce the ordinance because of the sheer number of calls.

Geez – with that logic, it has me wondering what we should try and get away with next…just make sure everyone calls it in to the cops.

It’s not just pets that suffer…and it isn’t just the danger it presents to roofs and backyard party-goers – keep in mind here in Missoula (at least) how many veterans we have. PTSD, folks. I’ve told the story of my encounter with someone who has it…I can’t imagine how hearing $250 worth of rockets go off at midnight would feel for him.

We’ll regulate texting and driving because of the danger it presents, but fireworks? What goes up must come down.

Not like Montana’s burning, either.

by jhwygirl

Because comments can get buried, and in full fairness to Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg, I want to make sure readers see Van Valkenburg’s response to my most recent post on the Department of Justice (DOJ) civil rights investigation of the University of Montana/City of Missoula Police and the Missoula County Attorney’s office.

Van Valkenburg had attempted to comment yesterday evening, but wordpress wasn’t cooperative. I thank him for taking the time to recreate the lost response…along with sending all of his correspondence with the DOJ civil rights division.

Here are the letters, in chronological order:

The first letter from the DOJ to the Missoula County Board of County Commissioners (undated, but referred to as May 1, 2012)

This second letter from the DOJ, dated May 4, 2012 appears to be a response to discussions held in person with Mr. Van Valkenburg upon the initial public announcement of the investigation.

The third letter is Van Valkenburg’s first written response to the DOJ request for information. Dated May 14, 2012.

This forth letter, from the DOJ to Van Valkenburg, is dated May 23, 2012. It responds to Van Valkenburg’s May 14th letter, but erroneously refers to it as the May 4, 2012 letter – that information from Van Valkenburg.

The fifth letter, dated May 25, 2012 is Van Valkenburg’s second response to the DOJ. Van Valkenburg challenges some of the DOJ’s basis’ for the investigation, including their search for information related to the county attorney’s office role as law enforcement officer.

On May 29, 2012, the DOJ reiterates its request for documents in this letter. It includes an attachment listing what they are requesting, and notifies Van Valkenburg that the DOJ will be in Missoula near the first of July to discuss the investigation.

This June 6, 2012 letter from the DOJ is in specific response to Van Valkenburg’s May 25th letter. The DOJ answers Van Valkenburg’s two challenges to their authority over the county prosecutor’s office, and states that they “will not repeat the position that we have articulated in prior correspondence and believe that it adequately advises you of the basis of our jurisdiction.”

In his third letter, dated June 25, 2012, Van Valkenburg responds, informing the DOJ once again that he is still unconvinced of their authority, but note that he and his office “will continue gathering the information you have asked for in previous letters in the event you change course and either provide me with sufficient legal authority for an investigation or you accept my offer to work together cooperatively in the absence of any threats of litigation, we will not be providing such information at this time to you, Ms. Mondino or anyone else in your office.”

by jhwygirl

It started June 1st with Montana Public Radio news director Sally Mauk’s interview of Royce Engstrom. You can download the podcast here or stream it from the Montana Public Radio newsblog.

It’s quite clear from that interview that even now, Engstrom hasn’t been able to separate the facts from his own defensive and inaccurate version of events. Listen as Mauk corrects Engstrom when he attempts to make it sound like the police were aware of the rape and sexual assault by the Saudi student prior to his university-facilitated escape back to his home country.

I also appreciate how Mauk calls out Engstrom when he touts his successful investigations which resulted in a number of students removed from campus – and into our community.

KECI has been touting an upcoming interview with Engstrom.

Tonight, in perusing KGVO’s website (AM 1290 here in Missoula), I find that Peter Christian’s Talk Back will be hosting University of Montana’s Royce Engstrom on Wednesday Morning.

Talk Back is a short half-hour local talk show, done from 8:30 to 10 a.m. every weekday morning. In reading KGVO’s website, Engstrom was invited to “to answer your questions about the campus and a host of recent University related events.”

Lovely. Do make sure to listen and call in on Wednesday morning, Missoula….and Montana. 406-721-1290. I know I’ll be listening.

by jhwygirl

Northern Broadcasting Network’s Aaron Flint of the Flint Report broke the news late yesterday afternoon regarding that the not-so-free-thinking Missoula Independent’s permanent severance of its relationship with long time political columnist George Ochenski was essentially the result of editor Robert Meyerowitz’s decision to not accept Ochenski’s planned column on the Indy’s 21st birthday and the importance of a free press in Montana.

So we have a political opinion columnist wanting to discuss the importance of the free press in Montana being censored by the editor of a newspaper that prominently features the byline of “Free Thinking” under its name “Missoula Independent”?

Now we know that’s another one of the quirky little whimsical things the Indy does. “Free Thinking”

Ha. Funny funny. Hilarious.

Goddess knows – and others – that I am a firm believer in the free press and that lovely thing we call The First Amendment.

So much so – and ya’all know I love them – that even some of my fellow bloggers on this page have expressed their disappointment in my lack of any interest in censoring anonymous commenters that sometimes all-too-frequently grace the pages here at 4&20blackbirds.

It’s perplexing, to say the least, that a newspaper would censor an award-winning political opinion columnist on a column regarding the First Amendment – especially when you consider that the Indy’s President, Matt Gibson spoke quite eloquently and passionately on these very pages about his firm believe in the unequivocal protections of the First Amendment:

I understand the profound concern people have about the pernicious influence of money on politics and policy, but an assault on our first amendment rights to assembly and speech will destroy more than it protects. Without free speech guarantees for corporations, virtually every newspaper will lose constitutional protection for its news reporting and editorial writing. The majority in the Supreme Court decision explicitly warned that the government has no reliable method to discern earnest editorial commentary from corporate advocacy. I don’t want to live in a country or operate any kind of news reporting outfit where every newspaper column or broadcast commentary is potentially actionable because it violates corporate restrictions on political activity.

Trying to silence groups of people who might disagree with you seems fundamentally wrong to me anyway.

On the other hand, I’m strongly in favor of stringent requirements to quickly and reliably report the identities of individuals and corporations engaged in political speech. The people behind public policy campaigns should be easily identifiable and held accountable in the court of public opinion for their openly professed views.

Matt Gibson
President
Independent Publishing, Inc.

I will proudly add that I was the sole person who rated that comment 4 stars. Which will – again – probably get me in a little trouble.

Gibson has a few other comments on JC’s post regarding Missoula city council’s resolution to amend the constitution to eliminate corporate personhood – all on the subject of free speech.

His comments being somewhat ironic considering he takes the time to correct me – rightfully so – on this post by showing his knowledge on the history of bribery in Montana elections.

And so aside from what I have heard over the years from the many reporters that have graced the Indy is Gibson’s (perhaps slight) intolerance for this anonymous blogger right here…Gibson, it seems supports free speech.

Or did.

Without an explanation from the Indy – either editor Robert Meyerowitz or president Matt Gibson (or publisher Lynne Foland) what are readers left to think?

Especially when Montanans – statewide – now have to read that Ochenski was silenced because he wanted to write about the value of the free press. In Montana.

If the Indy thinks they are right, that is one thing – but I again reiterate in what I believe are the interests of a newspaper that I have come to deeply respect over the years: The Missoula Independent has an obligation to its readers to address the departure of its twelve year award winning political commentary columnist George Ochenski.

Right now, they seemed determined to ignore the issue. While virtually all calls to the Indy offices (406-543-6609) went to voice mail today – this mainly due to the fact that the Indy doesn’t have a receptionist – no one that I knew who called got a return phone call. And I certainly hope some of those calls were advertisers like The Good Food Store, Rockin’ Rudy’s, Ten Spoon Winery and Butterfly Herbs calling to hold the Indy to some certain amount of accountability.

Alexis Bonogofsky, a conservation program manager for the National Wildlife Federation and a goat rancher on the Yellowstone who continues to suffer the ill-effects of the Exxon spill on the Yellowstone wrote to the Indy asking about the departure of Ochenski and his column:

Mr. Meyerowitz and Mr. Gibson,

It recently came to my attention that George Ochenski is no longer with the Independent. His column is extremely important, relevant and necessary to all of us in Montana that follow politics.

I am waiting for the Independent to come out and explain why his column has been terminated. I think a man who has produced quality journalism and analysis of Montana state politics for your paper for over a decade deserves as much.

Sincerely,

Alexis Bonogofsky

Gibson wrote back:

Thanks for your note, Alexis. I hope you will find the Indy continuing to publish extremely important, relevant and necessary content from all of our contributors in the future.

Alexis – who should be a reporter for her persistence for an answer – responded:

Thanks for the response but I’m more interested in what happened to his column? Are you no longer going to publish it or address it at all?

Gibson ended the exchange with:

George won’t be writing for the Indy anymore, but that doesn’t mean we won’t have strong content in the future. Beyond that, I think it’s between us and George.

Gibson’s last exchange came just a few minutes before Aaron Flint reports on their censorship of his weekly political column. Perhaps now they may feel a need to state what has transpired.

The reality is that the truth is out there. Gibson knows this as does Meyerowitz. They are newspaper veterans, and to put their heads in the sand on an issue near and dear to a community (maybe I should say “market”) of Missoulians when there are alternative sources for both news and advertisement is, it seems, pretty risky.

Failure to address Ochenski’s departure will hang over the Indy. It will cloud their respectability as a “Free Thinking” newspaper – and it unfairly disrespects a departure that would be better left with the Indy taking a high road and giving its deserving loyal readers (and a columnist who helped in a very big way make the Indy what it is today) the truthful explanation and closure all parties deserve.

by jhwygirl

Any regular reader of this blog knows that I have a deep admiration for George Ochenski, opinion columnist extraordinaire for the Missoula Independent.

For twelve years, the GO has graced the pages of the (not so)Indy(anymore) with his laser analysis of Montana politics. Of national politics. And of everything else that matters.

Ochenski’s analysis and opinion is solid. It’s why we read the Indy. Check this gem out from 2005: Vampire wires: The energy corridors are coming

I mean – How friggin’ spot-on can a columnist get?

So Thursdays are a treat for me. George Ochenski Day. I admit I have on occasion been privvy to a head’s up or two. So perhaps it was that the GO didn’t want to have me get bummed out (or pissed off) any sooner than needed.

To come to find this week’s Indy barren of Ochenski’s column was..well….just plain wrong. The fact that the Indy didn’t have the decency to offer its (maybe now not so) loyal readers an explanation is perplexing.

Twelve years and that’s how its missing primary this-is-why-we-grab-the-Indy column is addressed?

You simply don’t do this to your readers.

I mean – I like the Indy, but I kinda feel like someone pissed in my Wheaties this morning.

~~~~
It’s early and I have to get to work. I certainly don’t want to wake George with what I hope is a temporary departure. Or a mistake at the printers. Or one of George’s fishing trips gone too long.

And quite frankly, given my reaction, maybe I understand why George didn’t let us know. Or at least me.

The Indy, though, should have rerun a column – because the Missoula Independent isn’t independent without Montana’s sole independent political columnist George Ochenski.

by jhwygirl

Missoula Mayor John Engen apologized today in an email to all city employees…only, as Lizard points out, it was more likely born out of being caught than truly giving a shit about impinging on free speech.

And for evidence of that, I point to the last two paragraphs of Sunday’s Missoulian piece. It’s pretty clear that up until darn near press time, Engen was still justifying his position of trying to silence Officer Geoff Curtis:

On Friday, Engen termed Curtis “pretty passionate about his university. It was just one of those situations where it probably was not the most appropriate choice, given what his career choice is.”

While Engen said “there was an offer (to apologize) during a particular meeting. I don’t think we need to do it today.”

Later, he texted the Missoulian to say that “Curtis is a really good young officer and his was a minor mistake born of good intentions.”

Yeah. So he apologized. Only after what was probably a hundred phone calls and him trying to figure out how he could sit through the city council public meeting tonight.

A thanks to councilperson Adam Hertz for first bringing that letter to our attention. Mr. Hertz posted the entire contents of Mayor Engen’s comments here in this comment.

And once again I offer a super huge THANKS to reporter Gwen Florio and the Missoulian for the continued investigation into this sexual assault and rape scandal enveloping the City of Missoula, County Attorney Fred Van Valkenberg’s office and the University of Montana. And extra thanks to her for those last two paragraphs above. That’s attention to detail – and makes a difference even today, imo.

by jhwygirl

The disgusting underbelly of the good old boy’s club – ‘you cover our ass, we’ll cover yours’ mentality – has been pretty much laid bare over this weekend in a series of articles from the Missoulian’s Gwen Florio.

On Saturday we got Emails show UM, city accounts differ on Saudi rape suspect and UM dean implicated 4 football players in gang rape, emails reveal – a lowlight hightlight of that being U. Montana Vice President and thug Jim Foley’s great offense to the term “gang rape” and that the university’s own legal council David Aronofsky had been advised by the National Association of College and University Attorneys that hiding a felon behind the student code of conduct may violate state laws.

Geez – you have to go to law school to know that? Because that’s what many of us have been complaining about for months.

And just to repeat a salient point here – when you deny someone justice, you have violated their civil rights.

Just in case anyone is wondering why the U.S. Justice Department civil rights division is in town.

I also tend to think that Coach Pflugrad won’t be showing up to that office he still has over there at U. Montana.

This morning we get even nastier news that thug Foley sought to use the so-called Student Code of Conduct against the rape victim who had been speaking publicly about the handling of the rape and sexual assault cases at the U.

AT WHAT POINT IS FOLEY GONE? FOR THE SAKE OF THE UNIVERSITY AND ALL STUDENTS ON CAMPUS, I DON’T CARE WHAT IT COST – GET THIS THUG OUT OF THE UNIVERSITY SYSTEM. PERIOD.

The fact that his questions were even friggin’ tolerated among university administration who were part of his emails on this tactic – the story naming then-Dean of Students Charles Coutur, chief council David Aranofsky, and UM’s director of equal opportunity and affirmative action Lucy France – is beyond comprehension.

At this point, if every parent in this state – if every parent of every out of state child – and if every alumni from everywhere hasn’t contacted the Montana Board of Regents to direct them to take a comprehensive investigation and correction of this malfeasance, then they should be now.

Even more disgusting for Missoulians, the every-so-pleasant Mayor John Engen was right in there with U Montana’s Vice President Tim Foley and President Royce Engstrom. Working feverishly to protect the University of Montana image (and those that had violated the rights of sexual assault victims), even after Engstrom & Co. had facilitated the escape of the Saudi rapist – while violating the civil rights of Missoula City Police officer Geoff Curtis.

Progressive Mayor Engen? Calling a cop out on the carpet and sending him to apologize to UM President Royce Engstrom for an email he send while off duty and from his private email account?

And just to repeat a salient point here – the First Amendment which protects free speech is a civil right.

How does an elected official send a police officer – who is charged with enforcing the law and protecting the rights of others – off to apologize for exercising his right to free speech? The pornographic assault on the constitution with just this one incident is simply astounding.

And sure – there will still be those out there defending our illustrious Mayor Engen, because after all, he’s a nice fun guy. Tells lots of great jokes at parties.

Katie J. M. Baker at Jezebel picked up an important piece of information (imo) in her weekend in the U.S.’s new Rape Capitol – and those of you still wishing to give the oh-so-nice Mayor John Engen a pass would do wise to take notice. Because things aren’t going to change here until all of the problem players are held in check.

Ms. Baker refers to Engen’s interview with CNN’s with Erin Burnett, which I had caught live. I was caught off guard with Burnett quizzing Engen on reports that the police were hading out pamphlets on false reporting penalties to rape and assault victims. Engen’s interview had left me upset not only for his inability – even with the justice department in town looking into civil rights violations – to grasp the seriousness of situation, but also his convoluted excuse-making for Chief Muir’s handing out of pamphlets.

Engen also falsely puts forth that Muir didn’t believe in the literature he was handing out. Now – anyone that pays attention here in Missoula knows that Muir did put forth that most rape reports were false until he was corrected by council woman Cynthia Wolken.

Ms. Baker went a digging on that one and spoke with the woman who had brought forth that allegation.

The next few weeks were even more frustrating for Kerry. The detective assigned to her case canceled meetings, failed to call her back, and told Kerry “not to expect much.” After interviewing a tearful Gabe, the detective concluded he was so distraught that he was possibly suicidal. “I was like, great, I’m glad you’re so concerned about his well-being,” Kerry said. When she asked Police Chief Muir why it mattered if she had a boyfriend, he told her that most rape reports are false. After she argued that, in fact, generally accepted data suggests only about six percent are indeed false, Muir emailed her a dubious 2009 report from The Forensic Examiner supporting his claims. “I guess I just didn’t want you to think I was just pulling stuff out of thin air,” he wrote.

Engen defending Police Chief Muir without having the full picture was just a glimpse into his draw-the-wagon’s-up-boys mentality…and it’s even uglier now to look at now that we know the exchange between him and Engstrom…and that he sent a police officer over to apologize for criticizing the university.

Jezebel took a beating in the comments on her post a little – Missoulians and/or UMontana connected people attaching her for coming into “my town” and “my university.” I read Jezebel with too irregularity (I admit) but I do know they don’t give a shit about being criticized. Goddess bless ’em, because this story needs all the attention it can garner.

Even today, in the comments of the Missoulian – with emails of Engen and Engstrom and Foley exposed – there are those that continue to defend the entire group of sycophantic administrators complicit in Missoula and the university’s rape and sexual assault problem.

I know that isn’t what Missoula is about. Goddess help us if it is.




  • Pages

  • Recent Comments

    Miles on A New Shelter for Vets or an E…
    success rate for In… on Thirty years ago ARCO killed A…
    Warrior for the Lord on The Dark Side of Colorado
    Linda Kelley-Miller on The Dark Side of Colorado
    Dan on A New Shelter for Vets or an E…
    Former Prosecutor Se… on Former Chief Deputy County Att…
    JediPeaceFrog on Montana AG Tim Fox and US Rep.…
  • Recent Posts

  • Blog Stats

    • 1,667,015 hits
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 2,738 other followers

  • January 2019
    S M T W T F S
    « Oct    
     12345
    6789101112
    13141516171819
    20212223242526
    2728293031  
  • Categories