A lawsuit challenging the validity of a County Commissioner decision to spend an estimated $47,000 on road repairs in the Eight Mile area was filed in District Court on Monday. Two news organizations, the Bitterroot Star and RC Watchdog, and one individual, Bill LaCroix, have asked the court to void the commissioners’ decision due to insufficient public notice.
Plaintiffs allege in their lawsuit that the public notice for the meeting, which took place on August 29, 2011, was only placed on the commissioners’ agenda that very morning.
“This notice set forth on the same day the decision was made is grossly inadequate and fails to give the proper public notice. Accordingly, the public had no opportunity for citizen participation in making this decision,” writes the Plaintiffs’ Hamilton attorney Dusty Gahagan.
The agenda for August 29th stated: “On site visit 8 Mile Road and Woodchuck- Continued from Friday, August 26th.” Plantiffs point out that the minutes of the August 26th on site road visit do not reflect a motion to continue that meeting.
Petitioners claim that in addition to these constitutional violations the commissioners also violated state law by making decisions of significant public interest, especially a financial decision, without clear indication in the public notice that any decision of that sort would be made.
This is the second lawsuit filed by these news organizations in the last few weeks. They also filed suit over an August 15, 2011 decision by the commissioners to enter into a settlement agreement with Deputy County Attorney Geoffrey Mahar estimated to cost the county a total of about $250,000. Mahar agreed to withdraw Human Rights Complaints which he had filed against County Attorney Bill Fulbright and the County as part of the settlement. The Plaintiffs are asking the court to void that settlement agreement due to insufficient public notice.
The Bitterroot Star, RC Watchdog and the Bitterroot Human Rights Alliance have also asked the Human Rights Bureau to release those complaints. The matter is currently being heard before a Department of Labor hearings officer and a ruling is expected by the end of the month.