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.