Library Director And Library Board Chair Spouses/Partners Donated $130,000 To Levy Campaign Committee

E-City Beat has confirmed that the two largest contributions to the ‘Vote YES for Libraries’ committee, which advocated in favor of the Great Falls Public Library levy in 2023, appear to have come in equal amounts from the spouses/partners of Susan McIntyre, the Library Director, and Whitney Olson, the Chair of the library board.

According to the publicly available Montana Office of Political Practices online campaign reporting site, Brandon Olds contributed $65,000 to the committee, here’s the screenshot:

Mr. Olds is referenced as a co-donor, which indicates either spouse or domestic partner, along with Library Director Susan McIntyre on page 31 of the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation web site donor list PDF, here’s the screenshot:

As Library Director Susan McIntyre is a paid employee of the City of Great Falls.

Douglas Little also contributed $65,000 to the committee, here’s the screenshot:

Mr. Little is referenced as a co-donor, which indicates either spouse or domestic partner, along with Whitney Olson on the United Way donor web page, here’s the screenshot:

As Chair of the library board Whitney Olson is not a paid employee of the City of Great Falls.

Letter To The Editor: U.S. DOJ Event At GF Library

Editors note: the opinions expressed in “Letters to the Editor” do not necessarily reflect the opinions of E-City Beat, our volunteer staff, or contributors. All letters to the editor are welcome and will be considered for publication. Please include your name and city of residence to

The writer of the following letter to the editor wishes to remain anonymous:

The U.S. Attorney General’s office, in conjunction with the Great Falls Public Library, will present a panel discussion “United Against Hate,” February 20 from 3-5 pm in Cordingley Room at the library.

According to event information, “It will be an opportunity for the local community to engage with federal agencies and local law enforcement and increase understanding and reporting of hate crimes. There will be a short presentation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office followed by a panel discussion with federal and local partners during which attendees are welcome to ask questions or comment.”

There is no information on the identity of the local partners or if additional federal partners will be present.

According to event information, “United Against Hate” is an initiative launched by the U.S. Department of Justice focused on improving the prevention of hate crimes and hate incidents by building relationships at the local level.”

 However, the current administration’s Department of Justice and the Attorney General are not without criticism, particularly from House Judiciary Committee members who claim the DOJ/AG weaponized federal law enforcement by targeting, investigating and intimidating U.S. citizens for exercising their free speech and for the agency’s bias in applying the law.

Allegations by committee members range from weaponizing law enforcement against parents speaking out at school board meetings and characterizing traditional Catholics as having ties to “white supremacy,” to slow-walking the criminal investigation of Hunter Biden.

Link to the event here.

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:

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.

Let’s Talk Public Funding Facts, Great Falls

On January 16 at the Great Falls City Commission meeting I proposed an initiative to meet a process deadline which would have then given the City Commission, the library board, and the public three months time (90 days) to review and have a discussion about a 30-year-old agreement between the City and the Great Falls Public Library Board of Trustees. The agreement would have been discussed and reviewed in that three month period and could have been renewed as is, renewed with amendments, or terminated.

Some say the initiative was proposed too suddenly, that there wasn’t enough time given for the commission to vote on opening a 3-month window of opportunity to review the agreement. It seems to me the urgency of considering City budgets in light of the public safety funding for police, fire and courts was important enough to move quickly and open discussion on the library funding agreement.

There was an immediate deadline looming to open that discussion by Commission vote with no final decisions needed until the three month period of review concluded.

The 7 mills of funding in the agreement (current value of which is about $900,000) was not intended to provide taxpayer dollars for the library exclusively in perpetuity without any possibility for review or discussion.

The agreement is up for renewal each and every year and the funding is discretionary, as the library board, City finance personnel, and the city commission have all clearly understood every year during budget time.

My initiative was a request to publicly review that agreement before the FY25 budget is passed and before the automatic renewal of the agreement.

There is an argument that citizens were fully aware of the 7 mill funding agreement and its dollar amount and therefore this agreement should not be reviewed because it is ‘written in stone’ as only for library use, even though it has an annual renewal date and was never voted upon by the citizens of this community.

It follows that if citizens were fully aware and educated about the 7 mill funding agreement, then they also would be fully aware of its annual renewal and would therefore not have assumed it is 7 mills only for library expansion for ever and ever, amen.

The library currently receives 24 mills of City funding (15 more than they received prior to the levy vote in June of last year) 17 mills of which are voted mills, and 7 mills (those in the agreement) having never been voted on by Great Falls voters – they are general fund mills that can and should be used for ANY City priorities and which are not limited to library expansion projects.

Priorities can and do change, especially over a 30 year period.

I have been a regular GFPL patron, library card holder, frequent service user, and supporter of our library and its historical role in our community for many, many years. I value the role of our library and its staff and board.

My concerns are about funding priorities without regard to political or ideological considerations. Period.

I was reelected to the Great Falls City Commission a little over two months ago based on a clear, unambiguous, and repeated platform of public safety and public infrastructure being the top priorities for Great Falls. I will continue to hold those as my top priorities when considering budget issues going forward.

At the very least we should have a full, open and honest public discussion about this issue – and the sooner the better.

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,

Bomb Threats, GGG Reelection Bid, And More

Our regular feature highlighting a few of the latest and most interesting local and national news items from various sources.

Gianforte to run for reelection, from MTN News:
Gianforte announces run for second term as Montana governor (

School bomb threats across Montana, from KRTV:

Great Falls Fire Rescue responds in brutal cold, from ABC/FOX Non-Stop Local:

Israel-Hamas War Comes To Great Falls

Over the past few months I have received quite a few emails in my city commission mailbox from local constituents with the subject line, ‘Reaffirm your commitment to America’s closest ally, Israel.

The content of the email is the same but from many different local folks concerned about the ongoing war in Israel. You can read it in its entirety here.

Here is a paragraph from the email:

“Israel is under constant threat, both from terrorists such as Iran’s proxies Hamas and Hezbollah, and from those who undermine Israel’s right to exist. The attacks of October 7 destroyed any assumptions that Hamas’ had a pragmatic interest in governing Gaza – its sole goal is the elimination of Israel and the Jewish people. As such, calling for a ceasefire gives Hamas credit and authority it no longer deserves. Calls for a ceasefire are not reasonable or realistic, nor is it the only way to guarantee that Palestinian civilians will be protected. Existing efforts to allow for food, water, medicine, and other essential assistance to flow into Gaza and to the people who need them must be bolstered.”

I agree with the sentiments expressed here – especially the point that a ceasefire is not “reasonable or realistic” given the circumstances.

So yes, I reaffirm my personal commitment to Israel and to our Jewish community in Great Falls. But I also recognize the horror of war and its hellish impact on all of the civilians caught in the crossfire.

And certainly I recognize that there are others in Great Falls who hold a different viewpoint from my own concerning calls for a ceasefire. One of them is Eamon Ormseth, who was invited by the Great Falls Public Library to give a presentation on Palestine. You can view the entire one hour talk, given on January 4th, here.

Ormseth is an activist with a group called “Montanans for Palestine” and he organized a rally in Great Falls the day after his talk at the library. The rally was covered by Joe Taylor at the Fairfield Sun Times and here is an excerpt from that reporting:

“I have friends whose friends have been killed in the Israeli airstrike on the church, the orthodox church in Gaza. Another friends’ relatives are sheltering in the catholic church in which Israeli snipers killed two of them, two people in that church recently. And a friend of a friend was just murdered by the Israeli army very close to where I live. So, it’s very personal. I have friends in Palestine and I just don’t see how the United States continues to support such a brutal occupation,” said Ormseth. 

Around 8-10 people were at the rally at the Civic Center and chanted along side Ormseth, “Free Palestine” “Stop the Bombing” and “Cease Fire” were among the chants.

We live in a such a time that even far-flung controversies and wars can reach across the distance and touch us right here in Great Falls, Montana. Interesting times indeed.

Cascade County Courthouse Reopens After Bomb Threat, Judge Puts Hold On Zoning Legislation, And More

Our regular feature highlighting a few of the latest and most interesting local and national news items from various sources.

Bomb threat at Cascade County Courthouse, from the Great Falls Tribune:

Gallatin County District Court Judge Mike Salvagni issues temporary halt to two zoning bills, from MTPR:

Emergency crews respond to fire in Great Falls Fox Farm area, from KRTV:

Cascade County Commissioner Grulkowski Recaps First Year

Editor’s note: as is the case with our ‘letters to the editor’, the following editorial content by Commissioner Grulkowski doesn’t necessarily reflect the views or opinions of E-City Beat, our volunteer staff, or contributors.

As we move into a New Year in Cascade County, I will take an opportunity to reflect on 2023, a year as your newly elected Cascade County Commissioner.  It has not been the experience I had hoped for.  Assuming office nearly a year ago, I was unwelcome.  Having to stumble to find my own resources was a good thing in that I had to stretch my arm outside our local government offices.  This brought quick realization of problems, and solutions.  I pray this community will come together to encourage their Commission Office to begin the journey of getting turned around.  In my opinion, we are currently in trouble.

Recent actions by the body of Commissioners to usurp the obligation of duties as Presiding Officer of the board, was dramatic and confusing to the community.  The majority of other large Montana counties have not changed their selection process in decades and those Commissioners readily work collaboratively to decide which amongst them will serve as Presiding Chair each year.  Cascade County Commissioners chose instead to air animosity in public.  The next recent action of forcibly taking the Elections Department under the Commissioner Office, by way of a resolution was again dramatic and confusing to the community.  The speed at which this took place was also, in my opinion, disrespectful to the Clerk & Recorder Office, Commission Office, and especially, our community.  This decision also lacked fiscal consideration.  Both of these processes were highly politicized, highly agenda motivated by use of media and damaging to the confidence of our community.  One might think this was a Federal government, not a local government.

Three questions and answers to close out 2023:

Number One: Why did I run for the office of County Commissioner?  For the same reasons many of you reading this have said you wanted; to see change.  Your government is not representing you the way you desire.  For me, it began with a County Commissioner being allowed to advance their private mission of pursuing federal designation of my private property – without my knowledge or consent – using taxpayer resources.  Those working files are still in our County electronic folders.  For you, it may be something different.  Our government was intended to have citizens actively involved, serving for a period of time then, passing along the gavel, so to speak.  I saw my opportunity to serve and now I am here.  I expected help from the senior officers, in navigating government structure.  That help is still welcomed yet only comes if I ask.  There is something called Continuity of Government.  This ensures your government will function in the absence of one or more of its key members.  It creates transparency and sharing of government policies, protocol and procedures among staff and Officials.  When it isn’t practiced, your government gets stuck.  That’s where we are in Cascade County.  Three elected Commissioners each bring unique governing abilities to the table.  We all have to partake and we all have to be willing to negotiate how to do that, in public meetings.

Number Two: Why is it that the county commission doesn’t seem to work well together?   There is no relief valve when politics dominates.  I am newly elected, fresh from the constituent pool.  Those elected in this seat prior to me were bureaucrats.  I have a different view of the problems in our government.  It is not as though good relationships deteriorated, they never existed.  I see numerous problems in our County government.  As a business owner, I don’t tolerate inefficiencies and diversion from set policy.  As a Commissioner I recognize obstacles in our processes, predominantly, others wishing to continue to “do things the way they’ve always done them” rather than doing the heavy lifting to change things.  Or, I often get no response at all to my initiatives to make change.  Those behaviors are adversely affecting good employees, and ultimately, our taxpayers.   As often happens when Elected Officials are in office for extended periods of time, they tend to take a position of authority over other Commissioners and county operations, often times neglecting to mentor to ensure continuity of government.  This greatly inhibits equal representation by all duly elected.  I’m concerned about the personal shots being fired at me from other Commissioners; politics at its worst, I suppose.  It certainly isn’t serving the People.  It’s confusing and disrespectful.  

Shortly after taking office, I established regular Commissioner Briefing meetings where I could be caught up on issues concerning the county and commission.  These were very useful but became uncomfortable as our conversations were becoming deliberations and decision-making sessions, without minute recordings.  We ceased holding these update meetings.  The last one held was September 19, 2023.   During our county budgeting season, our former Budget Officer (retired November 2022), offered to return on a temporary basis to assist with budget.  I was pleased with this offer as she was always eager to assist our County and I find her very competent.  Her offer was declined by the other two Commissioners.  On June 27, 2023, I had set up regular Commissioner office budget meetings to become a part of the process.  When 2 Commissioners meet, it is a quorum and Open Meeting Laws apply.  The last budgeting meeting ended with the closing of our FY24 budget in September.  Since then, we have had one Public meeting to appropriate capital expenditures.  Any other means to familiarize myself with government accounting and our County budget has to be sought from alternate means of what is available in a healthy government structure.  In part due to quorum issues, in part due to relationship issues fueled by politics. 

There is a “2 to 1” attitude that also fails our community and is nurtured in our County government.  This attitude overflows into Department Heads and Public creating a slippery slope of eliminating representation and censorship.  This is bad practice and does not allow building of common ground. 

The adage “because we’ve always done it that way” resounds.  I have caused a disruption by questioning operations, researching on my own and asserting laws and policies be followed.  I have been called stupid and accused of holding up government processes without justification for these damning comments.  Perhaps it is because I read each contract and document prior to affixing my signature.  Isn’t this each Officials’ obligation – to remain cognizant of your actions on behalf of those you serve?  Does government ever move quickly?  And, does not the community deserve deliberative actions by government rather than to move quickly as it had done recently with Resolution 23-62:  a matter of significant public interest voted on with just 6 days prior notice and introduction to the Public?

Number Three: What can be done to ease what publicly appears to be a disconnect in the Commission Office and unite our elected leaders towards the common goal?

  • Cascade County currently lacks a Finance Officer.  Budgeting and financial matters is a key function of each County Commissioner.  In the absence of a Chief Financial Officer, these duties have been siloed to one Commissioner.  While I can appreciate their ability and desire to handle our books, it conflicts with Best Practices and Separation of Duties.  The Finance Officer is accountable independently to each Commissioner and, again, budgeting and County fiscal responsibilities are obligations of each County Commissioner.  Allowing “a” Commissioner in this role leads to ostracization of any other Commissioner due to quorum requirements, relationship issues, and unilateral decision-making.
  • Begin conversations toward restructuring our Commission office to include a Chief Administrative Officer (CAO).  Our current structure has no mechanism to keep the Commission from being “stuck” in resolving deep division or other situations impacting progress of our local government.  This “relief valve” allows staff a neutral ground when politics gets in the way.  Many other Montana counties, smaller than Cascade County, incorporate a CAO.  Cascade County continues to grow and our local government structure is being forced to grow with it.  This position would be funded by current vacancy savings in the Commissioner Office, as well as cost savings from tightening up other staffing inefficiencies as earlier mentioned.  This position does not take authority away from Commissioners and accelerates forward movement that is now stifled with quorum issues, hindering decision-making amongst fellow Commissioners and amongst Department Heads.   Where elected Commissioners lack management and/or interpersonal skills, a qualified CAO alleviates discourse.  A Chief Administrative Officer would focus on the Administrative duties; thus, freeing up the Commission to focus on Policy and Legislative duties.  Commissioners have 11 department heads reporting to them.  Do you really think three Commissioners are operating efficiently with constant meetings and remaining “in the weeds”?  How often do you see us in the community visiting our constituents, learning what is important to those we represent?
  • Enforce Cascade County Operations Manual policies within the County to include the Commissioner’s Office and begin creating County-wide Continuity of Government policies.  Yet another benefit provided by a Chief Administrative Officer position as part of their responsibilities.  County policies apply County-wide and are already adopted by the Commission, yet our office is deficient in enforcing these policies.  This office should be setting the standard for the entire County. 
  • Encourage public involvement and attendance in all County Commissioner meetings.  Earlier this year, I introduced a resolution (which was passed), to include public comment opportunities in our Work Sessions.  We have to hear from you.  You have to be part of the decisions we make.  Keep your presence in front of us.  I also encourage public to visit each Commissioner, in their office, regularly.  Office visits allow you the transparency in a government we all wish to strive for.  As we continue to grow, we also must continue to build relationships amongst Officials in our incorporated towns / cities.  I am excited to work with the new leadership of these governments in the next year.  I enjoy interacting with members of our community and also plan to continue attending our Towns’ Council meetings – hope to see you there. 

In conclusion, I thank you for the opportunity to reflect on my first year in office.  It is unfortunate that more time was wasted on politics than on building a strong foundation for our County government functions and processes. 

Help build this foundation in 2024 by attending our meetings, listening to previous meetings at, and calling our office at 406-454-6811 with suggestions to create the government you wish to see.

Festive tidings to all your family and wishes for peace within our County in 2024, and always.

Rae Grulkowski