I hadn’t realized until I read the Bitterroot Star last week that our commission was protesting the $25 filing fee to object to the Forest Service’s water right applications as a violation of citizens’ rights to participate in government. To quote the Star: “The county claims that to charge a $25 fee to file an objection violates the Montana constitution’s guarantee of the right to know and participate in the actions of governmental agencies.”
Attention, all Bitterroot voters: In early 2011, this commission set up and attended as a quorum a for-profit meeting with American Stewards of Liberty (ASL), the Far-Right, for-profit outfit that promotes the Wise-Use/county-supremacy scheme they dub “coordination.” This for-profit meeting with ASL was on the commissioners’ agenda, and when members of the public showed up and demanded the right to attend, they were told that they could not do so unless they paid the $45 fee the organizer – Suzy Foss – demanded. The public was therefore explicitly denied access to a public meeting by the organizer –Suzy Foss – who unilaterally declared this public meeting a revenue-generating activity. Soon after, the same commission voted in a sweet, taxpayer-funded deal for ASL, to the tune of thousands of dollars.
Bitterroot Human Rights Alliance has had a Freedom of Information Act request on the table since May of 2011, requesting financial records of that event, and to date has not had the satisfaction of an adequate response. The only reason it has been sitting so long is the lack of formal litigation, which as we all know makes justice inaccessible in many important cases such as this.
Given the conflict-of-interest issues arising from current challenges facing this county, such as Legacy Ranch Subdivision, I believe the issue of charging citizens to attend public governmental meetings is still relevant and has standing on several levels, and we should demand the public’s right to know about these conflicts of interest issues consistently emanating from this commission.
Happily, now that this commission has come out in full support against fees for public process, and since the same players, such as Foss and Planning Office Manager Terry Nelson, are intimately involved in the January 2011 ASL meeting as well as the Legacy proposal and the protesting of federal water rights, I’m sure the time is ripe for them to fully cooperate in handing over all relevant documents, including bank statements etc. from Ms. Foss’ private account to assure the public that she did not profit from a PUBLIC meeting with ASL that the public was denied access to.
This commission consistently insists on picking frivolous, money-consuming fights with straw men of their own creation in order to display a frivolous ideology that also has more-earthy conflict-of-interest component. Given the seriousness of such official actions as taking on the Forest Service and approving a new, for-profit town euphemistically dubbed Legacy Ranch Subdivision, we the public have every right to be as informed as possible about these commissioners’ true relationships with Legacy Ranch’s Donald Morton and Territorial Landworks as well as the out-of-state, for-profit organization, American Stewards of Liberty.