The Bitterroot Star and KLYQ Radio recently sponsored a candidate forum at which candidates for municipal office in Stevensville were invited to engage in an old fashioned debate. The candidates got a chance to ask questions of each other and answer questions from the audience. The forum was meant to be an educational and informative event for the voting public, not a platform for spreading misrepresentations, unsupported allegations or blatant falsehoods. A candidate can put anything they want in their advertising, but at a publicly sponsored debate falsehoods, unsupported allegations, and misrepresentations are especially inappropriate and no candidate should be surprised at being called out if they try to slip some by.
What caught our ear in the mayoral debate was a glaring contradiction between the candidates over Clayton Floyd’s record when serving on the Town Council. Mayor Mim Mack said that while serving on the Town Council, “Floyd was investigated by the town’s prosecuting attorney for entering the judge’s office and searching the judge’s desk, that he publicly apologized for interfering with then Mayor Lew Barnett’s supervision of the clerk/treasurer, and was also censured and reprimanded for exceeding his authority as a council member and subsequently resigned as councilor.” All this is true. He then asked Floyd how this record makes him a good candidate for Mayor.
Floyd said that he apologized for interfering with then Mayor Barnett’s supervision of the clerk and that he resigned because he didn’t want to be subjected to constant badgering by another council member.
But what about the investigation into rifling through the judge’s desk?
Floyd said, “First of all I was not investigated by the town’s prosecuting attorney.” He goes on to claim that he was accompanied by Town Clerk Roni Kimp and Town Attorney Keithi Worthington when entering the judge’s office. “Certainly if there was anything improper about it they would have brought it to my attention,” said Floyd.
“Could I have done that a little better? Absolutely, with 20/20 hindsight. But there was not an investigation contrary to what’s been stated here,” said Floyd.
However, Mim Mack insisted that an investigation had been conducted.
That’s about the most glaring contradiction possible. They couldn’t both be right. Either someone was making unfounded allegations or someone was in blatant denial. So we looked into it.
After the debate we obtained a copy of the police report related to that investigation. Truth number one: it did happen. You have to wonder how the person being investigated could not know, when he was in fact interviewed by the police chief following a complaint registered by Town Judge Skip Kohn who called it an “egregious breach of my privacy.”
Floyd said the clerk and civil attorney Keithi Worthington were with him. Not true. According to the investigation report, the clerk did accompany Floyd into the judge’s office and help in the “search” but the attorney didn’t and claimed ignorance about their activities.
The clerk refused to answer questions from the investigative officer without an attorney, but volunteered the information that she was looking for a bond receipt book to take it into the front office and do fine payments. Worthington said she did not participate in the incident and had no knowledge about what the two were doing.
Floyd told the investigating officer that he and the clerk went through the judge’s desk looking for a copy of her jury questionnaire because he believed it contained unconstitutional questions. He told the officer that he got the clerk to help him and she looked through the judge’s desk.
The Town’s prosecuting attorney at the time, Jeffrey Hays, advised the Town to install locks on all the entry doors and to adopt an official policy precluding all individuals, except city prosecutor, police department employees and the city judge, from entering without authorization and to provide a second receipt book for the clerk to use to record fine payments.
Denying that this investigation ever occurred reflects poorly on Floyd’s judgment.
It wasn’t his only lapse in judgment. Floyd acknowledged that he was on the council when the water rate hikes were put into place. But he blamed Mim Mack for raising them even higher. Not true. The water rates are still set at the same rate implemented by the previous council of which Floyd was a member. Floyd took a cheap shot when he had the final say, claiming that, under Mim Mack’s tenure, the water project doubled in cost. Not true. On his tenure the $450,000,000 project increased to $472,000,000 due to additional work that was required. That’s pretty far from being doubled.
Mim Mack mentioned a lot of facts and figures during the debate as well. The thing is, his facts check out.
Floyd and some of his supporters seem intent on flooding the town with false claims, unsubstantiated allegations and misrepresentations of law in one of the most vicious bouts of negative campaigning that this town has ever seen.
The Town deserves better.