I am formally requesting that Commissioners Foss and Stoltz recuse themselves from deliberating about and voting on Legacy Ranch Subdivision.
Commissioners Stoltz and Foss both received maximum contributions from Legacy Ranch developer Donald Morton and his wife, Alexandra Morton, during the 2010 election cycle. They also both received contributions from employees of the Legacy “pitch team,” Territorial Landworks, such as the company’s CEO Jason Rice.
Taken alone, contributions from the Legacy team amounted to almost 10% of total 2010 contributions in Stoltz’s case, and almost 5% in Foss’ case. If one adds in contributions coming from other developers like the Robaks and the Floyds as well as associated favor-seekers who have materially-benefited from this commission’s targeted largesse, that number would swell to over 15% apiece.
Additionally, Alexandra Morton is the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee (RCC) precinct captain for Victor. Terry Nelson is its chair and Lee Foss, almost incidentally, is its treasurer. Nelson was immediately handed a tailor-made government job by his political beneficiaries – Planning Office Administrator – after Foss’ and Stoltz’ election in 2009. This newly-created job, dubbed “Planning Office Administrator,” was given him while the commissioners were in the act of firing a couple dozen county employees who didn’t have such serendipitous political connections. It also serendipitously placed him in a “decider” position on the relaxed rewrite of our subdivision regulations that favored the Legacy developers. Indeed, his office gave preliminary approval for the Legacy team’s proposal – based on the rewrite of county regulations Nelson had a big hand in writing – before public comment even began.
The public can only infer what really went on in RCC “back rooms,” but given the above evidence, if we add in the large amount of money contributed to Foss’ campaign by the RCC that Nelson and Morton (and Foss) must be seen as party to, the total amount of Commissioner Foss’ war chest emanating from developer interests and their allies tops 25%.
While these numbers are significant and concerning in and of themselves, it is the traceable, documented material relationships between the two commissioners and the Legacy developer that is the issue here. Most Bitterrooters want their commissioners to take all relevant facts and issues into consideration when deciding whether or not to approve Legacy Ranch Subdivision. Most Bitterrooters, in other words, believe in Good Government and its associated processes. Recusal when there is such a demonstrable conflict of interest is one such necessary step in that process.
Again, I formally request that Commissioners Foss and Stoltz recuse themselves from deliberating about and voting on Legacy Ranch Subdivision, and I urge others to follow suit.