Opinion Editorial By Tim Ravndal

Broadwater County Officials Continue To Hide The Truth Behind The Curtain

Back in July 2020, Broadwater County citizens witnessed a sliver of truth rise to the surface. When charges were filed against past Commissioner Laura Obert, a coalition of concerned citizens gave a sigh of relief.  It took multiple complaints lodged against elected and appointed officials of Broadwater County, before allegations brought forward criminal charges.  

It appeared that under the appointment of special prosecutor Marty Lambert from Gallatin County, the citizens would see justice and local government accountability. Unfortunately, the system in control of the process continued to shuffle the truth behind the curtain.

Mr. Lambert being somewhat handicapped by the plandemic lockdown, justice was called into question including due process for the people. Court hearings were systematically postponed and remote procedures were held outside of normal public view.  All Local officials remained silent on the matter due to conflict of interest and/or fear of political retaliation from the voters.

Mr. Lambert continued to follow the procedural rules, but regularly ignored calls for a more assertive public process.  With the failure to showcase many of the official citizen complaints lodged against the local government officials the case or the people was hollow.  County Attorney Cory Swanson found himself between a rock and a hard spot.

The law under Title II MCA prohibited him from actively prosecuting any action against the county on behalf of the voters.  Was it his only choice to continually recuse himself from that duty and therefore ignore citizens call for action?  Judge Mike Menahan presiding over the criminal case here in the First Judicial District continually ignored without question, motions for action.  

Case Dismissed On Opinion

Broadwater County and the State of Montana in the case against Ms. Obert was prepared to go to trial with expert witnesses but Judge Menahan failed to hear the call for action.  The judge eventually dismissed the case based on his opinion regarding the merits of the case. At the last hearing on the case, distortion was front and center, including zoom meeting technical issues that brought the case hearing to a close without notice. 

We talked to Mr. Lambert and asked if the State/Broadwater County was going to appeal the case, and his answer was a resounding no! In an agreement with the county officials, fees originally approved for an expert witness in the case, would still need to be paid. The 50/50 agreement for this funding apparently did not provide for forgoing the costs in the event that the case was closed by Judge Menahan with no hearing or trial.   

In the original shuffle of justice in Broadwater County the officials of Broadwater County refused to release the booking photo of Ms. Obert. In that case, the local paper was forced to file suit against the county. Montana law is clear that the photo is public information and is also provided for in the Constitution of Montana under Article II Sections 8 & 9.

Prior to this case, photos were regularly released upon request and within a week after the complaint was filed, the county publicly posted all booking photos.   Judge Menahan again failed to act on any motions in the booking photo case, including failure to even set a scheduling conference to determine the appropriate court proceedings.  

Seven months later, the truth of the matter remains behind the curtain of justice. The question arises that because the original criminal case was settled outside of the annals of judicial prudence, will the citizens receive another slap in the face from the system protecting the system for the system?  

It is hoped that the efforts made by The Broadwater Reporter that was forced to invest thousands of dollars in seeking the truth for the citizens of Broadwater County will be rewarded.  Small communities like Townsend depend on The Broadwater Reporter to bring the truth before the people.  

When elected and appointed officials ignore their duty to the people they work for, the integrity of the system is called into question time and time again. It is hoped that the new laws enacted in the 67th legislature will help bring checks and balance to local government across Montana.  Failure to enforce existing law or provide for enforcement provisions in law that protect the public trust is front and center in Broadwater County.

Tim Ravndal Citizen/Journalist PO Box 287 Townsend Montana 59644

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