Feelings Over Facts — Great Falls Far Left Rhetoric From Jasmine Taylor & Jake Sorich

Editors note, the following is an opinion piece by Jeni Dodd.

Jasmine Taylor of the blog WTF 406 apparently has issues with the facts. Taylor opined that E-City Beat✓’s recent article, Library Director And Library Board Chair Spouses/Partners Donated $130,000 To Levy Campaign Committee, was an attack on philanthropy and that it showed ire against the donors to ‘Yes for Libraries’.

The E-City Beat✓ article correctly identified the two folks who together donated the bulk of ‘Yes for Libraries’ PAC funding and their relationships to the library director and library board chair. Hard to argue with the truth, so Taylor tries to reframe it with hyperbolic attacks on E-City Beat✓.

Philanthropy? Why didn’t those donors give $130,000 directly to the library instead? That would have more than covered the $120,000 projected budget shortfall for FY2024. The library had no problem accepting $300,000 last fall from an anonymous donor through the Great Falls Library Foundation to cover a budget shortfall when the library director failed to account for increases in electrical and personnel costs. Increases she claims took her by surprise but there is evidence that she would have known about those costs. But instead of taking that under consideration and planning for those increased costs, she continued spending money with her hiring spree for new library personnel.

Seems to me that if pointed out to them, many folks in Great Falls would note the distinction between pure philanthropy and money spent to support a political agenda. It happens far too often that the side with the most money wields the political influence and that’s what happened in this library levy election. The two donors mentioned funded a ballot issue POLITICAL Action Committee to a push the pro-levy narrative and win an election. So don’t be fooled by Taylor’s attacking E-City Beat✓ as being anti-philanthropic— it’s simply obfuscation.

‘Yes for Libraries’ TV ads used the cuteness factor of children. One ad featured a cute child exclaiming, “learn me to read”— definitely an appeal to emotion. False reporting by local legacy media that the library would close its doors if the levy wasn’t passed undoubtedly duped some voters. I noticed that the library director, the library board and ‘Yes for Libraries’ didn’t step up to correct that misnomer. Of course not, it was a huge gift in their favor.

In fact, what many Great Falls voters failed to grasp, due to the spin by ‘Yes for Libraries’ and local media, is that levy was meant to fund a huge EXPANSION of the library’s mission and services.

The director and board were determined to tread into social services waters when the Montana Code Annotated defines a public library’s purpose as the following — “to give the people of Montana the fullest opportunity to enrich and inform themselves through reading.” Seems a venture into providing social services would therefore be unlawful under the MCA. I would also opine, given the library’s usage and patron numbers, an expansion appeared unwarranted.

So no, dear readers, I’m not going to stop beating the drum on the fact that voters were misled by pro-levy proponents, including the media, about the library levy. It is something we should NEVER forget.

For some time now, I’ve also noticed that Taylor repeatedly attacks the ‘Liberty and Values MT’ organization for their billboards against the library levy, which included both the word “no” and the red strike-through symbol — messaging that no doubt could be perceived as a double negative. But keeping her proper English theme, it seems a bit hypocritical of Taylor to criticize that when she’s used “canvas” and “canvass” interchangeably throughout several of her blog entries about elections. I’ve included a screen shot of one of her headlines as an example. Perhaps she’ll just blame the autocorrect.

Taylor appears to do little to no research or fact checking. Her latest error — incorrectly identifying a new hire at the elections office as Beth Cummings and tying this person, who isn’t Cummings, to one of her Election Protection Committee conspiratorial narratives. In particular, the conspiracy where she equates library levy opposition to being anti-library. It seems Taylor doesn’t have the discernment to understand that those two concepts aren’t the same and can actually co-exist. But not being able to grasp something like that is true of much of the leftist rhetoric these days.

Then there’s Jake Sorich, who is one of the newer hires for the Great Falls Public Library. He’s their communications person and he also has a Substack account where he posts his musings.

His recent effort, ‘Powerful people will start to listen if you raise your voice enough’, is an uninformed piece about local politics. In it, he writes, “Locally, we have seen elected officials repeatedly try to overturn the will of the people for what THEY want. And yes, I’m talking about the local levies. Certain officials have expressed their desire to take the money granted for one organization in a levy the people voted to approve, and dump it into other public entities that had their levy fail. (Even if they disagree, that’s essentially what would have happened no matter what anyone wants you to believe otherwise.)”

Pretty obtuse to not name names. Wonder who and what he’s referring to in his piece.

Could it be Sorich is referring to Great Falls City Commissioner Tryon as the elected official, and his efforts to reexamine the 1993 agreement between the city and the library board which granted the library 7 mills? If so, he needs to do some research before spouting off.

Get a clue — “the people” never voted for that 7 mills; it was never on a ballot. It was voted on by the city commission and the library board. That’s why it is called “7 mills by agreement” in nearly every city and library reference. So much for Sorich’s “overturn of the will of the people.”

Yet regarding the actual overturn of the will of the people that occurred when two county commissioners took election duties away from the Clerk/Recorder AND ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATOR less than a year after the will of the people elected someone to that combined position — crickets from Sorich.

Cascade County To Interview Election Administrator Candidates Tuesday

Cascade County Commissioners will conduct interviews on Tuesday with four candidates for election administrator, a newly-created county position. The candidates are Terry Thompson, Nancy Donovan, Lynn DeRoche and Rina Fontana-Moore. Details of the meeting, including a Zoom link, are found at: https://cascadecountymt.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_02062024-643

Election duties in Cascade County were historically the responsibility of the clerk and recorder, but on December 12 two of the three commissioners, Joe Briggs and Jim Larson, voted to pass Resolution 23-62. Commissioner Rae Grulkowski voted in opposition.

The resolution stripped election duties from that office and from current Clerk and Recorder Sandra Merchant. Merchant took over as clerk and recorder in January 2023 after winning in a close race against Fontana-Moore in November 2022. Fontana-Moore had served as clerk/recorder and election administrator for 16 years. The resolution mentions election-related issues with the current and former clerk and recorder and both Fontana-Moore and Merchant have faced scrutiny and lawsuits during their time in office.

In Montana, the default office to handle election duties is the clerk and recorder. The Montana Code Annotated allows county commissioners to remove election duties from the clerk and recorder and appoint an election administrator. Cascade County joins Yellowstone and a handful of other counties in Montana who have decided to remove election duties from the clerk and recorder, although it appears Cascade County is the only one to do so during someone’s term of office or not at the request of the sitting clerk and recorder.

Resolution 23-62 also appears to seek to restrict Commissioner Rae Grulkowski from voting on election-related decisions, since she is up for re-election this year.

The resolution language states: “…any single Commissioner whose seat appears on the ballot in a given calendar years shall be required to abstain from all decisions concerning the operation and management of the election office during that calendar year until such time as the election for said office is finalized;…”

It is unknown whether Briggs and Larson will cite the resolution as authority to prevent fellow Commissioner Grulkowski from having input into appointing the election administrator.

The upcoming election administrator appointment is the latest chapter in a more than year-long struggle between the left and right political factions in the county. The left, including the Election Protection Committee founded by Fontana Moore’s brother Pete Fontana and former Cascade County Commissioner Jane Weber, have applauded Resolution 23-62. Those on the right feel that Briggs and Larson’s actions have negated the will of voters who elected a combined clerk/ recorder and elections administrator in 2022 and consider the resolution egregious government overreach

Great Falls Public Library’s Partisan Political Agenda?

Opinion by Jeni Dodd

I grew up experiencing a local library as an enchanting place to discover literature, gather
information and explore ideas. A place for informing and educating but also a place
where parents could be assured that their children were safe in that exploration —
physically, mentally and spiritually.

I’ve since learned that although a local library may appear on the outside to be the same
one you spent time in as a child, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Now that we have instant access to books, magazines and other material online from the
comfort of our homes, libraries appear to be struggling for relevance. So libraries are
branching out and sadly, becoming biased, agenda-pushing institutions.

The Great Falls Public Library is no exception to this push toward woke agendas. The
latest examples were on display at the January 23 library board meeting. One agenda
item proposed by Library Director Suzie McIntyre, was a change to the library’s Code of
Ethics, adding the following language from the American Library Association.

We affirm the inherent dignity and rights of every person. We work to recognize and
dismantle systemic and individual biases; to confront inequity and oppression; to
enhance diversity and inclusion; and to advance racial and social justice in our libraries,
communities, profession, and associations through awareness, advocacy, education,
collaboration, services, and allocation of resources and spaces.

I don’t have a problem with that first sentence. But the rest sounds like a political agenda
commercial for the progressive left. The library board passed the addition by a 4-1 vote.
The Great Falls Public Library is a governmental division of the City of Great Falls and
sponsored by our tax dollars. As such it is subject to the provisions of Montana Code
Annotated Title 49, Chapter 3, Part 2 Duties of Government Agencies, Governmental

MCA 49-3-205 states:
49-3-205. Governmental services. (1) All services of every state or local governmental
agency must be performed without discrimination based upon race, color, religion, creed,
political ideas, sex, age, marital status, physical or mental disability, or national origin.
(2) A state or local facility may not be used in the furtherance of any discriminatory
practice, nor may a state or local governmental agency become a party to an
agreement, arrangement, or plan that has the effect of sanctioning discriminatory
(Emphasis added).

Dismantling systemic biases certainly sounds like a political agenda to me. Who decides
what defines systemic bias? The library director? The City of Great Falls? The American
Library Association? The library is also positioning itself to be the arbiter in defining
what is meant by inequity, oppression and diversity.

Will it be considered “oppressive” to not use someone’s pronouns of choice? Will
compelled speech by a government entity like the library, acting dictatorially, become
standard procedure?

The purposed changes to the Library Code of Ethics shows the library wishes to sanction
and promote political ideologies, an apparent violation of the above MCA statute.

Agendas are also introduced through library programing. One of the commenters at the
library board meeting mentioned a recent speaker who presented a Palestinian
perspective behind the long standing Israeli–Palestinian conflict. He asked the board
when the library would invite a speaker to present the opposite viewpoint on the conflict.
Library Director McIntyre answered that the speaker was originally from Great Falls.
Who knows why she thinks that matters? She went on the claim that she “couldn’t find
anyone” to speak on the opposite viewpoint, which I find preposterous. How hard did she
look, really?

Seems to me the library must either provide a public forum for any and all political views
or must refrain entirely from providing a forum for any political views.

But these examples aren’t the library’s first foray into woke world. We’ve also seen it
with Drag Queen Story Hour, which was posted online on the library’s YouTube kid’s

Despite Library Director McIntyre’s claim at a city commission meeting and other
meetings that the library “did not have Drag Queen Story Hour,” the fact is that one of
the “queens” in the video thanked the Great Falls Public Library for having them read for
the library. It seems to me that McIntyre was deceptive through her semantics in
answering the city commission and public’s questions about it.

Men dressed as women reading to children? Does anyone really believe that mockery of
women is an educational or informational activity?

Of course, the library gave no consideration to drags’ anti-female origins — from ancient
Greece where women weren’t allow on stage, so men dressed as women for female roles;
to white men dressed as females in blackface mocking black women; how that all became
the precursor to Drag; on to the present Drag Queen Story Hour and how it depicts
derisive characterizations of women, or worse, a goal to sexualize children.

More telling is that I haven’t seen the Great Falls Public Library celebrate Women’s
History Month during McIntyre’s tenure as library director. Why not? Perhaps honoring
historic females is out of the question if you believe there are as many genders as ice
cream flavors at Baskin-Robbins.

Despite McIntyre’s claim in an email to me that, “The Library is committed to being open
and transparent,”
I’m constantly finding transparency, accountability and truth lacking
from the library director and board.

Even though McIntyre revealed at the January 2 City Commission Work Session that the
library had to borrow $300,000 from the Great Falls Public Library Foundation due to a
budget shortfall, her explanation defies logic.

“We didn’t understand the cash flow issue as well as we should have. We also didn’t quite
understand, when we first did our budget, we didn’t know that electrical cost would triple
and that our union members would mostly get 8% raises,”
McIntyre claimed.

It seems she is implying that the electric rate increase was sprung on her and she was
taken by surprise. That is definitely not the case.

Though Library Director McIntyre might have been in the dark about a potential city
electric rates increase back in December 2023 when she presented her library levy and
budget proposal, she certainly knew by early February 2023.

McIntyre was present at the February 2023 commission meeting where the electrical rate
increases were discussed and voted on. In fact, it was the same meeting where she
presented her case for the library levy resolution. So she had ample time before the levy
passed in June to make necessary budget adjustments, like freezing hiring and budgeting
to cover the increased electric rates. I would argue a competent city department head,
such as library director, should be expected to cover existing expenses before creating
new ones. But she went ahead with her hiring spree.

Regarding union wage increases, according to city documents, McIntyre was also on the
negotiating team for the union agreement covering library workers in July 2023. Thus she
was aware of pay increases then, but still chose to hire more personnel for the library,
including a full-time community engagement director and a part time communication
specialist. Seems to me that if you know at the beginning of July you’d need funds to
cover union wage increases, you would hold off on adding new staff.

When I submitted a formal request to the city for information on the cost of salaries and
benefits for library positions hired since the library levy passed, I receive an email from
the city stating the following:

“HR staff has estimated an hour and a half to compile the requested information. Per the
Commission’s adopted policy there is no charge for the first 30 minutes. Therefore, the
estimate of fees is about $45.”

An hour and a half? The information I requested is something that should be easy and
readily accessible for a library director to find as it should be in her budget. Why would
HR staff, and not the library director, be tasked with fulfilling the request? Does McIntyre
even know what’s in the library’s budget? So much for open and transparent.

A mere 619 vote difference allowed the library levy to pass, a levy which, by the way,
was not for keeping the library doors open, despite reporting from at least one local
mainstream media outlet. Unfortunately, it’s the message most folks heard and some folks
were duped into believing it and, despite citizens like me calling for a correction, the
media took its own sweet time to do so. Not to mention, we all know that a correction
never gets the attention of the original report. The levy proponents certainly gained an
unfair advantage in the election, thanks to the media’s “mistake.” Seems a little bit like
election interference, doesn’t it?

So where was the library director during this? Did she try to correct it? No, McIntyre
stated to me in an email that she “wasn’t aware that he provided inaccurate information
until he contacted me about providing clarification.”

Well, maybe I’m just cynical, but like most of what McIntyre says, I find that impossible
to believe, especially since I’ve had Great Falls folks tell me that they contacted the
library and the library director shortly after the broadcast to complain about the

Curious to research the funding behind YES for libraries, the political committee that
promoted the library levy, I found a total of less than 100 individual donations to the
committee. Yet YES for Libraries raised, if my math is right from adding the numbers on
the Montana Commission of Political Practices database, approximately $151,000.
Here’s the information from the Montana Commission of Political Practices (MT COPP)
Campaign Electronic Reporting System (CERS):

Levy proponents tried to make it look like a grassroots effort with their marketing, but
again, you can’t judge a book by its cover. Minus the Library Foundation’s donation of
$23,195 during the first reporting period, the bulk of the remainder of YES for
Libraries funding of $128,692 came from just three people, as seen on a CERS pdf
screen shot.

The local mainstream media didn’t report that, did they? No, the appearance of a
grassroots effort was important to getting the levy passed. Instead, they aided and abetted
the library levy effort through their lack of investigative journalism and no sense of duty
to present both sides of this levy debate. No fair and balanced reporting to be found on
the library levy here in Great Falls, except for an independent voice or two.

Yes, looks are deceiving. The finest leather-bound, gold-leaf volume can contain lies and
deception, while a tattered and torn paperback can contain facts and truth. We must look
beyond the cover in every instance for facts and truth during these troubling times.

Petition To Repeal County Commission Resolution To Remove Election Duties

Editors note: the following is a press release from Jeni Dodd.

Sign the Petition for Referendum to Repeal Resolution 23-62!

Cascade County Commissioners Briggs and Larson passed the resolution to remove election duties from the Clerk/Recorder, thereby negating the will of the voters who voted for a combined Clerk/Recorder AND ELECTION ADMINISTRATOR in November 2022.

Petition available to sign at Liberty Hall, 721 10th Ave S. (across 8th St S from Arbys).

Sun 1/21 10 am to ? Closing
Mon 1/22 10 am to 6:30 pm
Tue 1/23 9 am to 4 pm
Wed 1/24 10 am to 3 pm
Thu 1/25 9 am to ? Closing
Fri 1/26 10 am to 3 pm
Sat 1/27 10 am to ? Closing
Sun 1/28 10 am to ? Closing

Please pass along. Questions? Contact Jeni Dodd, jeni@jenidodd.com.


Opinion by Jeni Dodd

At the December 15 Cascade County Commissioner special meeting, we learned the latest Banana Republic move by the commission — one that should be memorialized in county history as ‘Bucketgate’.

The special meeting’s agenda revolved around the commission’s previous 2-1 decision to pass Resolution 23-62 on December 13. That resolution removed election duties from Clerk and Recorder Sandra Merchant, who took office in January 2023, and allows the commission to appoint a non-elected elections administration of their liking. Commissioners Joe Briggs and Jim Larson voted in favor, Commissioner Rae Grulkowski against.

Briggs, aka wannabe lord of the Cascade County fiefdom, spearheaded the change to an appointed elections administrator, which he touts as less partisan. Yes, but timing is everything and this change came less than a month before candidate registration opens on January 11 for the June 2024 primary.

Briggs claims he’d been considering idea of an appointed election administrator for some time, but it seems evident that he doubled down on making the change only after Rina Fontana-Moore was ousted from the Clerk/Recorder/election administration position. If she had she won again, I opine there would still be a Clerk and Recorder with election duties.

But back to the special commission meeting and more relevantly, the aforementioned bucket. In a discussion that could be paraphrased as — “we stripped election duties from the clerk and recorder and now we have no plan” — we learned that a county maintenance worker removed a bucket of keys from the elections office. The bucket contained the keys to Expo Park where the voting tabulator machine is stored, and now, there’s no accounting for the keys.

Yep, you read that right. A voting tabulator machine that should be secured under lock and key at all times may not be secure. The keys have been unaccounted for, for days. So how can we be sure the machine hasn’t been, or won’t be, tampered with unless we inspect the machine and immediately change the locks?

Grulkowski raised the question about the keys, asking Briggs and Larson to identify who gave the directive to the maintenance department to take the bucket from the county election office.

“Something that did just land on my ears that is of concern is that there was a directive that the keys be taken from the elections office. I think the intent was to get keys from our former election administrator but they took a bucket of keys including keys for the security of the tabulator machine and I have no idea where they were and I did not know that directive was given. That was by our maintenance department so can I ask, who gave that directive? I was unaware of that,” Grulkowski stated.

Neither fessed up. Larson mumbled something not giving any direction other than asking for keys from the clerk and recorder.

Commissioner Grulkowski went on to state that an email was sent to the recently deposed election administrator (but still Clerk and Recorder) to turn in her keys to the elections office so she had left them at that office. But Grulkowski related that someone from maintenance went to the elections office and asked for all the keys.

“So they [elections office staff] gave them the bucket of keys that they had been trying to pick from whenever they needed something because that’s how it was left for them. There weren’t designated keys…and in there [the bucket] were the keys to ExpoPark, which houses our tabulator machine.”

So the current elections staff doesn’t have access to the tabulator machine and it appears unknown who might have access, now or in the future. Chain of custody for government property appears lax in the fiefdom.

The county maintenance supervisor later joined in on Zoom and stated he had told the maintenance worker only to collect the keys for the election office and the election storage. He claimed he had no idea why the maintenance worker would take the bucket of keys.

We also learned that not only did the county strip election duties from duly elected Clerk and Recorder Merchant, she was asked to give up key/keycard access to the County Annex building.

“I just don’t see where we would do that with any elected official,” said Grulkowski.

Although Briggs and Larson agreed the Clerk and Recorder should continue to have such access to the County Annex, it just seems like it could be yet another Banana Republic move. Why would anyone with the county move to restrict an elected official’s access to a building where much of the county’s business is conducted?

Grulkowski asked about the directive for this action, to which Briggs claimed that “it was nothing that was discussed in my presence; to go to that extreme” Hmm, “to that extreme.” Hmm, “discussed in my presence.”

In past opinion pieces, I’ve called those “wiggle words.” I think you get my drift.

Grulkowski also stated that maintenance staff have keys to the room where live ballots are stored. What? Wait, what? Why would they have access? In case of any emergency? No dice — get election staff to let you in, accompanied of course, or break the door down if need be — but keep our ballots secure. It was yet another mind-blowing revelation.

So how long have these Banana Republic antics been going on? This didn’t start in January. It appears to me it’s “the way we’ve always done it” mentality. Long-standing, questionably ethical and maybe questionably legal, policy decisions which newbies Merchant and Grulkowski didn’t get the memo on. Yep, the fiefdom which has been the status quo for Cascade County for many years — now being revealed in part by a bucket of keys to the kingdom.


Despite opposition that significantly outpaced support during six hours of public testimony, Cascade County Commissioners Joe Briggs and Jim Larson still voted to strip election duties from the Clerk and Recorders Office. Commissioner Rae Grulkowski was the lone no vote on Resolution 23-62, which passed 2-1.

The proposed action didn’t sit well with the majority of speakers at Tuesday’s Cascade County Commission meeting, which was moved Exposition Hall in Expo Park in anticipation of a big crowd wanting to speak on the controversial resolution.

With the resolution’s passage, Cascade County will become another of the handful of Montana counties which have an appointed rather than elected, election administrator. Montana Code Annotated §13-1-301 allocates election duties to the county clerk and recorder, “unless the governing body of the county designates another official or appoints an election administrator.”

The governing body, Cascade County Commissioners, took advantage of this statue in the MCA to propose the resolution removing election duties from the clerk/recorder.

Comments against the resolution included concerns about the financial impacts of adding the new county position of election administrator, lack of cooperation from previous Clerk/Recorder/Elections Administrator Rina Fontana-Moore, her staff and commissioners in the handoff of election duties to Merchant, allegations of hostility and harassment of Merchant by supporters of Fontana-Moore and assertions that Merchant ran the Election Office according to the law while the previous clerk/recorder did not.

However, most resolution opponents expressed one common theme — removal of the election duties from Merchant would disenfranchise the majority of voters who elected her and would negate the will of the people, since the position they voted on was a combined clerk/recorder/election administrator, not just a clerk/recorder.

Supporters of the resolution focused mainly on alleged mistakes made by Merchant, including anomalies in a flood district election which led to a lawsuit. However, County Attorney Josh Racki stated at the beginning of the meeting that his department investigated various claims against Merchant and found no illegalities in Merchant’s actions related to elections.

Former Clerk/Recorder/Election Administrator Fontana-Moore also faced a lawsuit brought by a resident in a flood district in 2020, 13 years after she took office. The judge ordered a new election as it was found Fontana-Moore had sent ballots to all residents of the flood district and not just the landowners, as required by law.

Merchant faced demands to resign beginning early in her term when former County Commissioner Jane Weber; Pete Fontana, brother of former Clerk/Recorder/Election Administrator Rina Fontana-Moore; and local activist Jasmine Taylor formed the Election Protection Committee.

The committee actively solicited on Facebook for citizens to report any election anomalies directly to them and not the county elections office, and also submitted a complaint to the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, who determined it was unsubstantiated.

Today’s county commission action comes on the heels of another recent controversial decision that changed the way the county commission chair position is filled. Commissioners Briggs and Larson voted to change from a 2-year rotation of commissioners serving as chair, to a chair selected by commissioners each year.

Commissioner Grulkowski, current chair, voted against the change.

Grulkowski became chair of the commission in 2023, after winning against Don Ryan in the November 2022 election. Ryan had been appointed in early 2021 to fill in for retiring Commissioner Jane Weber until the next general election. State law then required Ryan run again in 2022 to keep the seat through 2024, the remainder of Weber’s term.

Grulkowski’s win over Ryan in 2022 for commissioner also put her in the chair position due to rotation. Until the change voted in by Commissioners Briggs and Larson, Grulkowski was originally slated to remain chair through 2024.

District Leaves School Board Member In The Dark

Great Falls Public School Trustee Paige Turoski confirmed at the Monday, September 25 school board meeting that she didn’t see the letter from the school district to the county commissioners requesting a transfer of election duties away from the elections office until a member of the public sent it to her a few days before the meeting.

The September 7 letter was the subject of a previous E-City Beat article, The Letter That Speaks Volumes. Signed by Superintendent Tom Moore, Director of Business Operations Brian Patrick, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Gordon Johnson, the letter was sent “on behalf of Great Falls Public Schools to formally request the duties of Cascade County Elections Office be transferred to the jurisdiction of the Cascade County Commissioners.” The letter wasn’t specific to school elections.

“I only found out about this a couple hours ago. It was never brought before the board,” Turoski stated on the afternoon of Friday, September 22.

It became apparent at the board meeting that the other trustees were aware of the letter.

Superintendent Tom Moore apologized at the meeting for excluding Turoski. But this was not an isolated oversight.

Moore admitted that Turoski was not part of his email distribution list that included the other trustees. Turoski was elected as a school trustee back in May 2022.

Turoski also expressed surprise that this action was not brought before the board for a vote as had a similar action earlier this year. A search of board minutes confirm the September 7 letter was not discussed or voted on.

However, board minutes confirm that at the April 3 school board meeting, the board considered and voted on a formal request calling for the Cascade County Elections Office to comply with the a mail ballot election plan for the GFPS Trustee Election.

The September 7 letter sent by Moore, Patrick and Johnson was also deemed a formal request, yet it was not put before the school board for a vote.

The letter states twice that it is a request to transfer responsibilities of the elections office to the county commissioners despite Moore’s claims on Monday that the letter was merely a request to the county commissioners for help with communications with the elections office.

The school district’s request is mentioned early in the letter and reiterated toward the end of the letter. It states, “Great Falls Public Schools believes that transferring the responsibilities of the Elections Office to the Cascade County Commissioners would ensure greater accountability, transparency and competence in the administration of elections….We request that you consider this proposal earnestly and initiate the necessary steps to evaluate the feasibility of such a transition”

The county commissioners’ response was read at the meeting and there was no indication they would fulfill the district’s request in the immediate future. According to the Montana Code Annotated, the school district could run their own elections, rather than request removal of all election duties from the clerk and recorder’s office.

The Letter That Speaks Volumes

A letter from Great Falls Public Schools to the Cascade County Commissioners regarding election administration was recently brought to my attention.

The letter, dated September 7, 2023, is signed by Superintendent Tom Moore; Brian Patrick, Director of Business Operations; and Gordon Johnson, Chairman of the Board of Trustees (GFPS school board).

The letter states “We are writing on behalf of Great Falls Public Schools to formally request the duties of Cascade County Elections Office be transferred to the jurisdiction of the Cascade County Commissioners.” (Emphasis added)

What does this mean exactly? I am awaiting a response from Superintendent Moore. The specific questions I asked him:

1. On what date did GFPS Board of Trustees vote to approve and send this letter?

I asked this because I could find no record in a search of GFPS school board minutes that this letter was approved by the full school board. There’s also no disclaimer on the letter that these three district officials were acting on their own volition to send this letter. In fact, the letter claims to be written on behalf of the school district.

It’s particularly troubling that Johnson signed this letter as board chair, because it implies school board approval when apparently that did not happen.

2. What is the legal justification for GFPS officials and the GFPS Board of Trustees to make such a request?

In other words, where is the authority through the Montana Code Annotated for public school officials to request that a duly elected county official be stripped of part of her duties?

I could find no such authority. Instead, I’d like to know whether the three district officials authoring and sending this letter violated any part of Montana Code Annotated §2-2 Standards of Conduct, specifically §2-2-121. Rules of Conduct for Public Officers and Public Employees, which provides restrictions on public officers and employees political activities on public’s time and dollar. Might this letter be considered a political activity?

3. County commissioners supervise the official conduct of all county officials, but they aren’t election administrators. What does GFPS specifically hope to accomplish through this letter?

It seems possible that Moore, Patrick and Johnson wish to subvert the will of the voters of Cascade County, who elected merchant as Clerk, Recorder AND ELECTION ADMINISTRATOR and are asking the commissioners to appoint another person to serve as election administrator separate from the county clerk and recorder’s office.

Yes, Montana Code Annotated makes this a possibly, in MCA § 13-1-301.Election administrator.


So though it appears legal for county commissioners to do what GFPS is requesting — is it just? We all know that when Merchant was elected, election administration was part of the job. How can these GFPS officials think their request is more valid than the will of Cascade County voters?

There is an opportunity for the public to express their opinions on this action by school officials. The next GFPS school board meeting is 5:30 pm, September 25 in the Aspen Meeting Room at the District Office Building. The District Office Building is located at 1100 4th Street South.

The county commissioners haven’t yet taken action on this request and comments can be shared with them through email or by phone:

Commissioner Briggs: jbriggs@cascadecountymt.gov
(406) 454-6815

Commissioner Larson: jlarson@cascadecountymt.gov
(406) 454-6816

Commissioner Grulkowski: rgrulkowski@cascadecountymt.gov
(406) 454-681

We ARE Paying For The Library Levy Election

Opinion by Jeni Dodd

There are a number of folks out there claiming that the Library Foundation, not the taxpayers, are paying for the library levy election. Not true — Great Falls taxpayers ARE footing the bill for this special election.

I suspect the misconception stems from Library Director McIntyre stating that the library is paying for the election out of the library fund, without explaining how the library fund is funded. Here’s the truth about who is paying for the library levy election. It is NOT the library foundation.

I was at the City Commission meeting on Feb 21 where this was discussed. If anyone wants to see for themselves, it starts at @00:54:40 in the video. https://greatfallsmt.viebit.com/player.php?hash=DRnM1d78NoUA

Commissioner Hinebauch asked Library Director McIntyre who is paying for the June levy election. McIntyre stated, “The library fund.”

Commissioner Tryon then asked for clarification about where the library fund comes from.

Melissa Kinzler, the city’s financial officer, launched into a detailed description of the various sources, all of which are taxpayer-funded.

Then Commissioner Tryon stated, “I guess the answer to that would be that the library fund is a taxpayer-funded fund. It comes from local taxpayers. In other words, it’s not a fund that the library raises independently or through the Library Foundation or some other entity.”

“Correct,” answered McIntyre.

Library Offers Youth Library Cards Without Parental Consent

Opinion by Jeni Dodd

A policy change enacted last fall at the Great Falls Public Library that
has implications for the parental rights of minor library patrons seems to
have flown under the radar for many Great Falls parents.

The library evidently had a policy in place until September 2022 that
those under the age of 18 required a parent or guardian’s signature
before they could get a library card.

But in September 2022, the library board unanimously voted for an
“updated library card policy that does not require parental notification”
library_approved_meeting_minutes_september_27_2022.pdf (greatfallsmt.net)

The policy details are found in the September 2022 Director’s Report:

“IMPROVING LIBRARY CARD ACCESS: As discussed at the last
Board meeting, the Library would like to lower the barriers to Library
use. Later in the agenda, the Board will be voting on a change to Library
Card policy to allow persons age 14 – 17 to obtain cards without
requiring a parent signature
. Your Board packet also contains
information about a proposed project to partner with local school
districts to provide students with Great Falls Public Library digital
resource access Library cards
(Emphasis added)
library_directors_report_september_2022.pdf (greatfallsmt.net)

Yet the GFPL website still states:

“How do I get a card if I am under the age of 18?

Bring your parent or legal guardian down to the Great Falls Public
Library at 301 2 Avenue North and stop at the first floor checkout desk.
Have your parent or legal guardian fill out the library card application.
Have your parent or legal guardian show us a picture id (driver’s license,
military id …) and proof of their current address. If their current address
isn’t on their id, they can just bring in a piece of mail or a bill that does
show their address.”
Get a Library Card | Great Falls, MT Public Library

Why has the library not changed the information on their website to
reflect the policy change the library board voted in? The latest library
policy manual available online, dated November 2021, as well as the
library card application form, also still state that a parent or guardian
must sign for applicants under the age of 18. gfpl_policy_manual_-_all_sections_combined_1.pdf

It’s been eight months since this policy change. Are they hiding the fact
that they changed this policy from parents?

It might be relevant at this time to also point out that library policy cites
Montana law and the Montana Constitution as legal authority to prohibit
disclosure of library patron records, including those of minors, to anyone
without the patron’s permission. Now with this library card policy
change, that means parents additionally might never find out their child
has a library card.

Regarding the proposed partnerships with local school districts
discussed at the same library board meeting, The Electric covered that in
an article. One quote from that piece stands out.

“The library would not provide information to schools about individual
student use of resources but would provide district or school statistical
information about the overall use of resources, according to library
Library proposes digital library card numbers for area students | The Electric (theelectricgf.com)

So it appears parents are once again left out of the loop with Great Falls
Public Library policy, since the library won’t forward individual student
records to the school districts. Did any of the local school districts
approve partnering with the library? I have yet to find that answer.

Unlike local “official” media, who much of the time appear to report as
if they are parroting a spoon-fed narrative, I am committed to dig for the
information that they fail to provide in their reporting.

So why didn’t The Electric include in their article the aforementioned
public library card policy change allowing 14-17 year olds to obtain
library cards without a parent or guardian’s signature, which was
approved at the same meeting as the proposed school district
partnerships The Electric covered? Did The Electric think it was not

Seems like Library Director McIntyre dropped the ball by failing to
ensure the library policy manual, the website and the library card
application are updated—tasks which I would guess are an integral part
of her job.

Perhaps she should spend less time “observing” at the
Cascade County Elections Office, as several volunteers there have
reported to me she’s been doing, and get back to the job she was hired to