by William Skink
A reader of this blog sent me an email with a link to a letter-to-the-editor I had somehow missed.
With the recent scrutiny regarding how the Missoula County Attorney’s office is NOT prosecuting violent individuals who are literally killing people in our community, and considering the history of people surrounding the Mayor enabling and covering up the extent of his alcoholism for years, the letter below is VERY RELEVANT when considering the quality of our leadership in Missoula.
The letter is pasted, in full, below.
When Bradley Layton drove Ginny Merriam’s 1982 Ford F250 up Van Buren Street at high speed (one witness estimated 65 mph) on the wrong side of the road he endangered countless drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. He then careened back and forth over curbs in a failed attempt to turn onto Missoula Avenue. His path through two yards, a number of trees and two steel fences was actually the best thing he did on that alcohol-fueled escapade. Because if he hadn’t crashed, his journey to the other end of Missoula Avenue would likely have taken the lives of children using the bike/pedestrian lanes farther up the street. At least two adults feared for their lives as he sped directly towards them. Yet for some mysterious reason the charges against Mr. Layton were quickly reduced to misdemeanors. This, despite the fact that the arresting officer had written up the charges as felony endangerment. The county attorney has denied that the couple’s close relationship with the mayor’s office influenced the decision to go lightly on Mr. Layton. I’d suggest that Mayor Engen publicly advocate for the felony charges to be reinstated to avoid the appearance of a cozy relationship with the accused.
The Missoulian followed up this letter-to-the-editor with an article about this incident, despite efforts by Layton and his daughter to use their privilege to kill the story. Their privilege? Bradley Layton is the partner of Engen’s Communication Director, Ginny Merriam.
The big, stinking odor wafting from this case is the fact Layton had his felony charges reduced. We are assured, though, by the stand up attorneys at the County Attorney’s office that the reduction of charges happened AFTER Merriam called an attorney friend at the County Attorney’s office:
Bradley Layton was arrested on a felony count of criminal endangerment, but was officially charged only with a misdemeanor, after the felony was declined by county prosecutors. Although the City of Missoula’s communications director called a friend in the county prosecutor’s office the same day the felony charge was initially dropped from her partner’s drunken driving case, she and an official with the prosecutor’s office say no requests for special treatment were made.
Now that this is all coming out for us, the lowly public, to learn about, it appears the County Attorney’s office is changing their tune and WILL charge Layton with a felony:
Layton on Tuesday admitted a long struggle with alcohol and acknowledged that he could have killed someone. If his case is dismissed in Municipal Court and a judge grants county prosecutors’ request to file the felony case against him, he will be charged with felony criminal endangerment and aggravated driving under the influence, a misdemeanor. A conviction on the felony charge carries a maximum penalty of a $50,000 fine and 10 years in prison.
So, Ginny Merriam has a partner who is an alcoholic, and her boss, Mayor Engen, is an alcoholic. Maybe Ginny Merriam needs to get some counseling herself on her obvious role as a co-dependent in the lives of these self-destructive addicts. For a little insight into co-dependency, read this:
They have good intentions. They try to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty, but the caretaking becomes compulsive and defeating. Co-dependents often take on a martyr’s role and become “benefactors” to an individual in need. A wife may cover for her alcoholic husband; a mother may make excuses for a truant child; or a father may “pull some strings” to keep his child from suffering the consequences of delinquent behavior.
The problem is that these repeated rescue attempts allow the needy individual to continue on a destructive course and to become even more dependent on the unhealthy caretaking of the “benefactor.” As this reliance increases, the co-dependent develops a sense of reward and satisfaction from “being needed.” When the caretaking becomes compulsive, the co-dependent feels choiceless and helpless in the relationship, but is unable to break away from the cycle of behavior that causes it.
With this in mind, here is our alcoholic Mayor weighing in on his good friend’s dilemma (Engen and Merriam worked at the Missoulian together and have known each other for 30 years):
Missoula Mayor John Engen on Friday defended Merriam’s respect for ethical boundaries and cited their long professional relationship in City Hall and as former colleagues at the Missoulian.
“Over the course of those 30 years I’ve known her to be a person of remarkable integrity,” Engen said. “I also trust the other people involved here. …I know that even if someone were to ask them to intervene in some way or seek special treatment they’re not going to provide it. I also know that Ginny would never ask that.”
“My conversation with Ginny about this challenging piece of her personal life is that, like any other person who’s trying to navigate a system with which they’re unfamiliar, she called someone she knew within the system to get some insight on what the hell is going on. Ginny Merriam is the last person who would ask someone to do something that would even broach the unethical.”
Mayor Engen cannot speak credibly about this situation. Engen’s alcoholism got so bad a few years ago it required an intervention. How did Engen’s good friend and Communication Director cover for her boss all those years BEFORE that intervention? Obviously she has experience covering for an addict, with her partner being an alcoholic, so covering for an alcoholic boss would seem, I would imagine, almost natural.
In Missoula and around the country we are facing dire situations like a pandemic health crisis, a looming economic depression and a persisting housing crisis. To navigate these difficulties we need competent, focused leaders making difficult decisions about how to use our limited resources for maximum benefit for all Missoulians.
Instead we are led by drunks and their enablers who continue seeing taxpayers as nothing more than little piggy banks to be flipped and shaken for loose change while they use their influence to minimize the consequences for their own reckless behaviors.
Are you ever going to get tired of this, Missoula?