Who Took Outgoing Sheriff T.J.’s Money?

by Travis Mateer

When I first saw the headline about $1.5 million dollars being spent by Missoula County to “help” the homeless, I wasn’t thinking about the letter T.J. McDermott sent to County Commissioners all the way back in September. Curious to see where this number came from, I clicked the headline (beneath the picture of the tent and the VRBO ad):

Something about the article seemed to trigger my recollection of accusations McDermott made in writing, serious sounding accusations that someone raided his coffers of “targeted funds” to the tune of over a half million dollars.

What in this article could have done that? Was it the part where the homeless need is used like a threat to extract inevitable funding from somewhere, DESPITE voter intent? Or was it the part right after that, where Commissioner Slotnick shows us the very narrow range of his fiscal imagination as he shames local residents to GIVE MORE? Here, judge for yourself (emphasis mine):

“You reached out with a question and we will do our very best to answer it,” he said. “I really also appreciate what you said about whether the levy passed or failed in this case, obviously it failed, but the problem doesn’t go away. And that’s because the supply of people, the folks who are homeless are experiencing homelessness, that hasn’t changed. We’re on the receiving end, and unfortunately, that’s just the way it is. We are basically attempting to make the situation better. It’s no good for anybody. If we have people living on the street, it’s not good for business owners, homeowners, people walking by, and especially no good for that (homeless) person.”

Slotnick said the only solution he sees is that Missoula residents themselves give generously to local nonprofits that will help the homeless because they are not going away.

While this public shame-game is playing out in conventional media, the accusation from Missoula County’s outgoing Sheriff, T.J. McDermott, has been lurking in the background since September, and includes quite a financial figure. Here’s a screenshot of a portion of the letter:

How often to we hear about collaboration? In fact, just earlier this week, we heard about a SPECIAL DISTRICT being made up between the County and the City specifically to acquire a Federal building. This is happening just months after our Sheriff complained about not being invited to a City Council meeting where inaccurate information was supposedly provided. That doesn’t sound very collaborative, now does it. From the letter:

I think this portion of the letter pairs nicely with the conclusion of the KGVO article. I’ll use a screenshot so you can appreciate the look (highlight emphasis mine):

Since our County Commissioner, Josh Slotnick, is exhibiting a concerning lack of fiscal imagination (strange, considering he’s also a poet), I’ll remind him that a foundation exists, a foundation suddenly in the headlines with a fun little coming-out party where once-upon-a-time subversive music played loudly.

Yes, that’s right, this foundation is one of the biggest in the state of Montana, so maybe there’s an opportunity here. Or competition? Because I think another influential non-profit had a party the same night. Hmmmm…

To answer the question posed in the title of the post, I think Commissioner Slotnick may have been the one to put his hand in McDermott’s cookie jar. But thanks to some serious investigative journalism, I have found a NEW SOURCE OF COOKIES! And let me tell you, not only can a $100 million dollar foundation make pretty cookies, they are also DELICIOUS!

I can’t make pretty cookies like these, but there will be treats for different tiers of support in a letter to be sent out soon. So stay tuned, and 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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