Is It All Just Money, Honey, For Montana Sheriffs And Their Budget To Search And Rescue?

by Travis Mateer

Money is often the boring and predictable motivator in all kinds of crimes and inclinations toward corruption. I say boring because this article and the reason behind a $3.4 million dollar settlement for financially aggrieved Missoula County Sheriff Deputies is not easy to grasp. From the link:

Citing the confines of a shady 42-year-old state law, Missoula County commissioners on Thursday reluctantly approved a $3.4 million settlement stemming from a wage claim brought by current and former deputies of the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department.

According to Erica Grinde, the county’s director of risk and benefits, deputies allege they were entitled to three years’ worth of unpaid wages based upon the earnings of the county sheriff and his additional pay earned through special certification.

“The deputies allege the base amount Missoula County used for the deputies didn’t account for parity pay and certification pay, which was included in the sheriff’s salary,” Grinde said. “The claim alleges that because those factors weren’t included, it decreased the deputies’ earnings.”

Now, if you’re like me, you saw a phrase “parity pay” and immediately recoiled. Like hell am I going to wade through the HR wizardry that compensates our serving and protecting members of law enforcement.

Instead I’ll use the magic of search engines to find this article from 2017 about our then newish Sheriff, T.J. McDermott, and his DOUBLING of overtime pay from his predecessor:

In 2014, the last year under former Sheriff Carl Ibsen, his three captains earned combined overtime pay of approximately $33,000, with roughly half of that paid to then-captain Mike Dominick, then the head of detectives.

The next year, under McDermott, overtime compensation for captains more than doubled, according to records obtained by the Missoulian.

In the note sent to the Missoulian with the results of its records request, Undersheriff Rich Maricelli said captains were historically able to work overtime for on-call coroner activities and special traffic law enforcement activities.

Until 2012, sheriff’s office captains did not qualify for overtime under the county’s policy. That year, Ibsen secured permission from the Missoula County Commissioners to pay overtime to captains and the undersheriff at their normal hourly pay rate.

I added the emphasis to “on-call coroner” because, while I am sympathetic for needing to pay for having staff on-call (I worked without pay to be on-call at a certain shelter, but that’s in the past), I’ve already described the problems that can arise when the Sheriff is also the Coroner.

Problems like a Missoula County Coroner being in the room while Sean Stevenson was removed from life support without his family having been notified. Stuff like that.

When I think about money and over-time pay, I think about the young black man who allegedly sent Sean Stevenson into that coma, Johnny Lee Perry, and how his machete play came in to 911 dispatch around shift-change. I suspect a lot of over-time pay occurred waiting for the helicopter to take his body to the same hospital Sean Stevenson was euthanized in.

I also think about all those search hours in the allegedly EXHAUSTIVE search for Rebekah Barsotti referenced in this September article from the Missoulian:

Mineral County Search and Rescue, Missoula County Search and Rescue (SAR), and members from Kootenai County and Flathead County Search and Rescue began an extensive search in and around the Clark Fork River. Combined, over 2,000 hours have been dedicated to the search, the release said. While Missoula County SAR conducted their search Missoula County Sheriff’s Office Detective Division investigated all other potential leads. 

The search for Barsotti has been extensive in terms of resources and hours spent, Mineral County Sheriff Mike Toth said in the statement.

I had to use EXTENSIVE emphasis in this quote to match the EXTENSIVE bullshit that comes from anything Sheriff Toth says in regards to anything Barsotti-related. It’s that bad.

Circling back to that $3.4 million dollar settlement, a source of mine indicated legal counsel on that nice payday includes Lance Jasper, a lawyer who is also getting serious with the Mineral County Attorney’s Office. Here’s a question that post seemed to generate:

I don’t know about Lance Jasper backing Funke, but public records show who Lance Jasper IS backing.

I see definite support for Missoula County Sheriff candidate, Jeremiah Petersen, so that’s fun. Even MORE fun, though, is how County Treasurer candidate, Jill Betts, references her experience with Walmart in a Monte Turner Q&A. I swear I’m not making this up.

What qualifications do you possess for Treasurer of Mineral County; explain your work experience and how it would benefit this county and its residents.

Betts: I worked for Walmart my entire adult life until deciding to move back home, and I have held many different positions with the company. I moved up quickly, taking on more challenging roles as I moved all over the US. The last position that I held for over 5 years was as a Store Manager. A Walmart Store Manager is solely responsible for a +$80 million budget, over 300 employees, profit and loss, customer satisfaction, and human resources, among other things. I feel that this experience will allow me to manage county tax dollars and motor vehicles very effectively.

I think this is a good place to stop, for now. But don’t worry, this rabbit hole shows no sign of a bottom.

Thanks for reading!

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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1 Response to Is It All Just Money, Honey, For Montana Sheriffs And Their Budget To Search And Rescue?

  1. BB says:

    Read more about Funke and the Flathead Coyote Club scandal here:

    https://www.leagle.com/decision/infdco20170530g09

    Election year is very interesting.

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