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Kearns and Sons

Star sues county over $675k settlement

By Michael Howell

The Bitterroot Star filed suit in District Court last Friday asking the Court to set aside the decision made by the County Commissioners on May 12, to settle a lawsuit filed against them by Big Sky Development after meeting in a closed session with the developer’s attorney. The newspaper claims that by excluding the public but allowing the developer’s attorney to attend, the Board of Commissioners violated the state’s open meeting laws. The newspaper claims that the Commissioners made a decision of significant public interest without first affording the public the right to participate in the decision.

On May 12, after going into closed session with the developer’s attorney, the Commissioners opened the meeting and Montana Association of Counties attorney Alan McCormick, recited the settlement agreement that had been arrived at. It requires the County to do the road work requested by the developer to upgrade the road leading to the Sandhill Ridge subdivision and to pay $675,000 in fees and damages. The Board of Commissioners passed a resolution on May 27, enacting a public levy to pay off the settlement agreement. The Commissioners approved the settlement agreement without any discussion amongst the Board and without any public comment.

Besides asking the court to set that decision aside, the newspaper is asking the court to issue an order requiring the Commission to permit the public to participate in the settlement decision before it is made.

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