Montana government corruption
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Helena, MT In a bill currently before the Montana House of Representatives which would modify the current Montana Public Records Act and Montana Open Meetings Law. The proposed edits mainly concern recorded meeting minutes, specifically if an official recording of a meeting is made the recording constitutes as the official record of that meeting. It must be accompanied by a written record of the date, time, place, names of the public body and who was in attendance, records of votes, substance of what was discussed and a log or time stamp for each agenda item. 
Four states—Alaska, Arkansas, Montana, and North Dakota—have avoided the budget woes plaguing the majority of states and instead are heading into the next fiscal year with budget surpluses. Those four states have all benefited from increased tax revenue: Alaska, Montana, and North Dakota have seen taxes rise as a result of their rich deposits of natural resources while Arkansas saw increases in sales and corporate income tax receipts. They all also use effective budgeting practices.
Montanans in Action's Legistats keeps a updated total of votes by legislators in Montana and gives them grades based on the record. The site provides a lot of detail, so much that visitors can click on a representative to a breakdown by category of spending, and then see each bill that he or she voted on.
The site ranks votes against expensive legislation higher, raising representatives' rankings. The highest ranking senator on the website, Joe Balyeat, comes in at -$366,738,633, having voted to cut spending. The senator in last place, Kim Gillan, voted to spend a lot of tax dollars, scoring $426,657,163.
"This was something new in the career of James McCubbin.
Someone wants the minutes of an open meeting. A Realtor wants a copy of a deed. A reporter wants the transcript of an e-mail exchange between public officials.
But there was McCubbin last spring, filing a records request of his own on behalf of the county - to an agency in the federal government.
And here he is, nearly a year later, still alive to talk about it."
"Missoula County won't hold the Forest Service's feet to the FOIA fire any longer.
Last spring, the county requested, through the Freedom of Information Act, hundreds of thousands of files documenting private negotiations between the U.S. Forest Service and Plum Creek Timber Co. over forest road easements.
For months, the county sparred with Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey to obtain the records it needed to determine the legality of the easement agreements. Citing strong public opposition, Plum Creek pulled out of the negotiations in January, mere weeks before Rey left his job.
And now the county is ready to honor the Forest Service's request to withdraw its demand, Deputy County Attorney James McCubbin said."
"Has the time come to remove the onus for enforcing public information and open meeting laws from the citizen or media complainant and put the burden on government?
The question was raised by the executive director of the Montana Newspaper Association in the organization’s most recent newsletter. The organization sponsored Freedom of Information (FOI) Hot Line is getting an increasing number of calls from media, citizens and even government officials, and usually the questions are “straightforward.” And, the answers are “clear as a bell.”"
"The U.S. Forest Service says it's providing more information that Missoula County requested in connection with road-easement talks that occurred privately between the agency and Plum Creek Timber Co. But the Forest Service also says it's withholding some information exempt from disclosure.
"Missoula County officials concerned about road-easement discussions between Plum Creek Timber Co. and the U.S. Forest Service have received some easement details from the company, which says more information will be provided.
Deputy County Attorney D. James McCubbin said the information, posted Friday on the county's Web site, is relevant to an underlying Freedom of Information Act request the county submitted to the Forest Service this summer. The material Plum Creek supplied includes an easement map and spreadsheet, and is separate from the Forest Service's previous FOIA response."
"Frustrated that the federal government appears to be withholding documents, Missoula County officials on Wednesday filed a formal appeal, requesting information related to an ongoing forest road controversy.
“It looks to me as though they've withheld pretty much as many documents as they've provided,” said James McCubbin, deputy county attorney. “It's very clear that they haven't provided us with what we asked for.”
What Missoula County asked for, in an earlier Freedom of Information Act request, were documents leading up to a road easement deal struck between the U.S. Forest Service and Plum Creek Timber Co."
"The Montana Supreme Court says it would be unfair to release to the public the disciplinary records of a former Billings city attorney whose misconduct resulted in a public censure and license suspension.""
"In Montana, if local government is invited to join the party, plan to be a gracious host.
There will be many more guests and you'll need to entertain them.
That's the strong message sent by State District Judge E. Wayne Phillips of Lewistown in his ruling that the city of Great Falls cannot withhold documents from the public simply because those documents are in draft form.
We loudly applaud his decision."
"In 2007, a MEIC member and a staff member asked to see documents covering the city of Great Falls’ relationship with the Southern Montana Electric Generation & Transmission Cooperative, which wants to build a coal-fired power plant eight miles east of Great Falls.
The MEIC particularly wanted to know what kind of development agreement the city had with SME, since the city has invested $2 million in development costs as a potential part-owner of the power plant. The city is a member of SME, along with five Montana rural electric co-ops.
City representatives refused to release draft documents to the MEIC."
State of Montana
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