Is Supercharged, Tax Spending Candidate For Justice Of The Peace, Bill Burt, The Funniest Candidate Ever?

by Travis Mateer

While I’ve been amused by some local candidates in the past, the brazen candidacy of former Missoula Sheriff Captain, Bill Burt, is perhaps the most hilarious campaign I’ve ever witnessed, and it’s not even June yet!

One of the key factors fueling the hilarity is Bill’s checkered past, like the time he got drunk with his cousin and broke into a hospital in Butte. I wrote about that incident, along with a more recent incident, in this post welcoming traffickers to Montana.

Today’s post is going to examine how Bill Burt got himself SUPERCHARGED at taxpayer expense and, speaking of costs, it cost me a whole THREE DOLLARS to get access to the article I’ll be quoting from because the corporate overlords at the Missoulian have finally closed all my access loopholes. Maybe the Missoulian business department should send Bill a thank you letter.

The story of the SUPERCHARGED Sheriff vehicle that Bill Burt used to take his boat to the lake is a result of the 2018 Sheriff election where TWO candidates tried dislodging the doughboy of corruption, TJ McDermott, from his perch.

Here’s TJ and Bill shaking hands for the camera:

TJ on the left, Bill to the right

And here’s the story about why $7,000 dollars just HAD to be spent to make Bill’s Sheriff vehicle FASTER:

A Missoula County Sheriff captain’s patrol SUV was upgraded with a supercharger because the vehicle wasn’t fast enough to keep up during a pursuit following a 2016 kidnapping, Sheriff T.J. McDermott said Thursday in response to an election opponent questioning the purchase.

Deputy Travis Wafstet, who is running as an Independent, took to his campaign Facebook page Thursday, calling the supercharger an example of “unnecessary spending” and said the captain later used the patrol vehicle to tow his personal boat to the lake.

The sheriff said the captain had permission to use his patrol SUV to go on the lake trip because he was on call at the time, but that he and the captain agreed afterward not to use it for that reason again.

I’m delighted these Bill Burt stories have been arriving in my inbox from a reader with a good memory because the Missoula dumpster fire is too vast a conflagration for one wily citizen journalist to cover alone, and you better believe I’m staying busy, especially after what I disclosed about the Rebekah Barsotti missing person case last Saturday.

Since last Saturday’s disclosure, along with my call for a Department of Justice investigation into the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department, some interesting things have been happening…and NOT HAPPENING, as it were.

Has Rebekah’s mother, Angela Mastrovito, received the 911 call yet? No, she hasn’t, despite paying a lawyer A LOT of money to obtain basic information from her daughter’s case. What other curious things have NOT happened? Ask Mineral County attorney, Ellen Donahue, about that job she thought she had. For a hint on what might be swirling around in Mineral County, here’s something from Facebook:

What else was happening in March? Was there a criminal case against Rebekah’s estranged husband, David Barsotti? Was one of the jurors sitting in judgement of that case a longtime Rep. for House District 14? Was this also the month Mineral County Sheriff, Mike Toth, decided to WITHDRAW his hat from the political ring? And was March also the month that Bill Burt suddenly retired from his law enforcement career?

Yes, Angela, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE IN MONTANA???

I know it can be easy to dismiss the writing of one citizen journalist “blogger” who professes a Gonzo-style bias when writing about what I’m actually living, day to day, so it was nice to get confirmation from a more conventional reporter in Mineral County that things are looking fucked.

Of course, since Monte Turner isn’t Gonzo like me, he didn’t use any profanity. Here is exactly what he said in a text message to me last week:

Do you see that clear admission from a reporter who lives in Superior, Montana that this has gone from FISHY TO FRAUDULENT? Pretty significant, if you ask me.

I debated whether or not to publicize my communication with Mr. Turner because I had initially considered the exchanges to be just on background, but that was before I evolved my perspective on how close Monte Turner may or may not be to David Barsotti.

So, some questions I would like EVERYONE reading this to consider: what was happening BEFORE July 20th? Did David Barsotti call Monte Turner about Rebekah’s disappearance BEFORE she even went missing? What could David’s development of HAM radio skills mean? After speaking with private investigator, James Terry, these are the kind of questions I am now asking and, if Mr. Terry’s information is accurate, what does all this signify?

If you don’t think investigating the investigators MUST HAPPEN at this point to restore public trust, what kind of evidence would convince you an objective investigation is critically necessary? Because I would have more confidence in a pedophile running a daycare than I would in local law enforcement’s ability to PROTECT and SERVE the public that pays them.

Getting back to Bill Burt, the “liquid expert”, my direct conversation with this candidate/handler-of-grieving-family-members continues to mystify me. Why did Bill spend SO MUCH TIME describing the difficult water conditions to me on the phone regarding this particular section of the Clark Fork river where Rebekah is assumed to have gone in and drowned? My English Major degree has me thinking Shakespearan thoughts like The lady doth protest too much, methinks…

And I’m not the only one who thinks Bill’s role in this stinks.

The conclusion of this post is an absolutely SCATHING email Bill Burt received recently from Angela Mastrovito. I hope readers can appreciate the guts it took to write and send this communication, but don’t take my word for it, read it and judge it for yourself.

Here it is:

Hi Bill –

 I am sending to you a report from Wings of Hope/Northstar K9 Search and Rescue from 2021.   Brad Smith is confident that on August 20, 2021, they located Rebekah.   According to Brad Smith,  you insisted on an attempt using Local SAR divers without the suggestions or assistance from Wings Of Hope.   Brad Smith and Diane Stefanick left the same day of discovery due to the difference of opinion.

You will see from this report that the dogs continued to alert the next day.   On the 23rd of August the remaining representative from Northstar was informed by yourself and TJ McDermott that Rebekah’s case was being returned to Mineral County.   A County without resources.    Basically, it comes down to Missoula decided to abort the recovery  mission.   Turned it back to Sheriff Toth and he informed the team their services were no longer needed.

My question is this –   Why request services from WOH and not accept their assistance in recovery?   Why abort this mission after a single attempt, knowing there was an image?   You have told me multiple times, imaging does not lie.   Is that not true in this case?  Were your attempts to console me because you and TJ McDermott decided to leave Rebekah in the river?   Is that why you are so driven to find Rebekah now?

And what about the August 23, 2021 date returning the case to Mineral County?   We were not informed until September 29, 2021.   The local media was informed September 29, 2021.   That was all a lie.   No wonder, nothing was being “investigated” the month of September.   Missoula wasn’t handling the case after August 23, 2021.   

You had been very concerned about me as a grieving mother, specifically reaching out and maintaining a relationship of sorts after the team left through the end of the year and even into January.   This stopped when you heard that I had hired this team to come out, the efforts to maintain the relationship stopped.   Were your previous attempts driven by guilt instead?

Had we not hired Wings of Hope/Northstar K9 to return in March of 2022, this information would have been buried.   Because we paid for their services the initial report that was never shared with us became accessible.  

Even if Rebekah is in the water, we do not know HOW she got there.   You can say accident all you want to.   I don’t believe it.   Nothing adds up in this case.    Mineral County continues to refuse to release the 911 call.  Our safety has been threatened, being informed the trailer we were staying in was “highly combustible”, our home in VA threatened to be torched, and an extortion attempt in March 2022.   All that for a river accident?   And by someone who knows David Barsotti.   Too many things don’t add up.  The longer Rebekah remains in the water the less chance of recovering her or any evidence.   Her body would have told the story at 4 weeks. 

There is also a file with information that was gathered from a person in the community who captured imaging on August 10, 2021.   This information was submitted to Missoula County Sheriff Office   – Sgt. Ryan Prather.   I did not know about this until Frankie Hallett knew I hired Wings of Hope to come back out in March of 2022.   Frankie Hallett reached out and asked if I had been informed of his information.   I had not. 

We have reached out to DCI, FBI and most recently US Marshall of MT.   

I have attempted to reach out to Missoula County Sheriff Office, Sheriff TJ McDermott and Sgt. Ryan Prather.   No response.   

We are beyond devastated at the lies and the cover up.   By you, by both County Sheriff Departments.

We will keep seeking and searching for Rebekah.   We will keep searching to find out what happened.   We  have lost all faith in you and law enforcement. 

Angela and Gerry Mastrovito

on behalf of Rebekah

and her entire family 

Damn!

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Performing Bill Burt’s Campaign Letter

by Travis Mateer

Yesterday I acquired a copy of Bill Burt’s letter to potential voters and, after reading its lengthy content, I decided it needed something to give it some PUNCH, so I grabbed my guitar and got to work.

If listening to me perform Bill’s letter is too much to ask on a Friday, here are a few of my favorite quotes from the letter, like this one about Bill’s “intimate knowledge” of people:

Being a Butte, Montana native, coming from a very large family, and working as a front-line law enforcement officer, I have intimate knowledge of people who most often will appear in court–many being first time non-violent offenders who may suffer from mental illness, addiction, or other afflictions that have landed them within the criminal justice system.

And here’s Bill claiming familiarity with shit going down ‘on the street’.

As a compassionate judge and knowing conditions ‘on the street’, I promise to diligently find the balance between those who want help to get back on their feet versus those offenders who need more traditional corrections.

I added the emphasis where Bill is able to actually FIND something (unlike his efforts to help Rebekah Barsotti’s family). The other point of emphasis is where Bill uses strategically sanitary language to describe kicking some bad-guy ass, cop-style. At least that’s how I interpret the meaning of TRADITIONAL CORRECTIONS.

For the rest of my interpretive engagement of this content, here’s my performance. Have a GREAT weekend!

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Missoula Sheriff Department Training Games And A Right-Wing Witch Hunt Makes This Citizen Journalist A Little Puzzled

by Travis Mateer

National media attention can be a powerful thing, especially when labeling things RIGHT-WING. A local headline this week highlights the fear this potential labeling generates: Missoula Sheriff drops Oath Keeper affiliated training. From the link (emphasis mine):

The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office canceled two upcoming training sessions for detention facility staff that had featured a self-described Oath Keeper and “constitutional sheriff” as the trainer.

In an email on Monday to the Missoulian, Missoula County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Jeannette Smith said Missoula will no longer hold two sessions scheduled for May 31 and September 19 with Richard “Rick” Whitehead. The decision came after Reuters published a story on May 6 focused on U.S. police trainers with far-right ties instructing hundreds of law enforcement officers in the country. The story highlighted Whitehead, an Idaho-based police training consultant.

See? Everything would have been just fine if Reuters hadn’t published a story about FAR-RIGHT TIES amongst U.S. police trainers.

I’m sure glad Reuters came along and inspired such quick, preemptive action, as communicated by MCSO spokeswoman, Jeannette Smith. Otherwise, can you imagine what would have happened if our Sheriff Deputies got trained by this guy? I bet they might be more prone to shoot black dudes in the back.

Reading further in the Missoulian article, the training ALREADY administered probably means we’re too late.

When asked if Whitehead’s values reflect that of the Missoula sheriff’s office, Smith did not answer. 

“Missoula County Detention Facility personnel have attended trainings offered by Richard Whitehead & Associates LLC following a program change in July 2021,” Smith said in an email. “In light of the recent article, Missoula County Detention Facility will no longer attend training presented by Richard Whitehead & Associates LLC.”

Whitehead posted twice in September 2021 on his Facebook page about visits and trainings in Missoula. He also posted in April and May of 2021 welcoming the Missoula Detention Facility to his Officer in Training model, which he also refers to as the “common sense model.”

Smith confirmed the trainings were only for jail staff — no sheriff’s deputies attended

The emphasis is where I’d ask Jeannette a follow up question, and it would go like this: Hey, Jeannette, isn’t that guy who wants to be Sheriff pretty involved in leading the Detention Facility?

When I didn’t get a comment, I’d screen-shot my email and write-up a post answering my own question that, yes, Jeremiah Petersen HAS BEEN quite involved at the Detention Facility.

Here’s some official context from Petersen’s announcement for the office of Sheriff:

“I understand the level of commitment and leadership that it takes to maintain the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office as one of the premier law enforcement agencies in the northwest,” Petersen said in the release. 

“TJ has done an excellent job moving the Sheriff’s Office in a positive direction and I intend to keep the momentum he has built over his last two terms moving forward in the next four years,” he added.

Petersen has been a member of the sheriff’s department for 20 years. He has worked as a patrol sergeant, captain of operations at the Missoula County Detention Facility, a member of anti-drug trafficking teams, and on the local mental health crisis intervention team.

I gotta say, the combination of working in a leadership position at the jail, along with “anti” drug trafficking teams and local mental health crisis teams, certainly makes it seem like he’s got the skills to take over for TJ McDermott and his boys.

What leaves me puzzled is how little love Missoula gets from the right-wing scaremongers. Take the Montana Human Rights Network, for example. Travis McAdam has been hitting this topic hard, but despite that, I think this cancellation is more than enough to appease them.

I sent Travis McAdam an email heads up about a REAL right-winger who is a REAL danger, and hopefully he takes it seriously. Because I sometimes get the feeling too many people in this state aren’t taking any of this shit seriously, and that needs to change.

Thanks for reading!

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Networking And Beasting In The Boom Days Of Zoom

by Travis Mateer

While I’m not really clear what a publisher of a corporate appendage like the Missoulian actually does, I do appreciate some of Jim Strauss’ tweets, like this one:

Networking in ANY community is very important, and Missoula is no different. Where else can one go to get access to influencers?

Turns out, you can go to the Zootown Arts Community Center. Isn’t that where I have my art studio, you ask? Yes it is. Which is why I am VERY excited to tell readers about the opportunity (May 20-21) to BEAST YOUR BIZ!

I’m not exactly sure how one “beasts” one’s “biz”, but I know someone who does, and that’s the CEO of United Way of Missoula County, Susan Hey Patrick.

Yes, SHP is going to be present this May 20th and 21st to dispense how to BEAST your BIZ. If you aren’t aware of SHP bonafides, here’s some stuff from her bio:

Prior to joining the nonprofit sector, she was a reporter for a daily newspaper and a corporate communications writer for a Fortune 500 company.

Susan is a past president of the board of directors of City Club Missoula, and a past president and current member of Missoula Sunrise Rotary. She is also on the boards of the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce and the Glacier National Park Conservancy. She is a Montana Ambassador, appointed by the governor to serve as an ambassador for economic development in Montana.

In 2015, Susan chaired a citizens’ committee that worked successfully to pass two bonds totaling $158 million – the largest in Montana history – to improve the facilities and technology at all Missoula County Public Schools.

Reporter, corporate writer, bond peddler. That’s some good shit. And let’s not forget Susan’s role in the 10 Year Plan To End Homelessness.

While the BEASTING goes on later this month at the ZACC, the BOOM making our Zoom Town ZOOM is a clear and present concern for the tourism pushers, who have conjured a new term to create some sympathy-cover for the crisis they’ve helped exacerbate: destination stewardship.

Ridiculous. From the link:

On Monday, City Club Missoula hosted a panel discussion on “Destination Stewardship: How can we keep from “loving Montana to death?” The four guests – all of whom are associated with the tourism industry – said the sudden growth in the numbers of tourists coming to Montana have them scrambling to try to figure out what to do.

Some said that in just a few short years, they’ve had to reverse their focus from pushing for more visitation to trying to advocate for values that are now under threat.

“Today, many (of us) are evolving toward destination stewardship, and (these) organizations begin with a community-first mindset: support creating a thriving tourism economy while protecting and supporting destination assets,” said Racene Friede, Glacier Country Tourism CEO. “This strategy is all about protecting the very qualities that make Western Montana, first and foremost, a wonderful place to live, with the added benefit of being a wonderful place to visit.”

I really enjoy the work done in the realm of language. It’s not just funny to me, but a nearly endless stream of material to chew up and spit out.

Thanks for reading!

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Some Non-Missoula News From Missoula Media

by Travis Mateer

If you’ve been scanning local headlines in Missoula over the years, like I have, you might have noticed the creep of NON-Missoula news into the headlines.

While this phenomenon can be attributed to the decimation of local news reporting via corporate consolidation, some stories (and the timing) almost make you think something else is going on.

Last Saturday, while I was helping bring attention to new developments in the Rebekah Barsotti missing person case, the Missoulian front-paged a panel on missing INDIGENOUS women happening in New Mexico.

For some reason, the mother of Rebekah Barsotti had something to say about that.

Another story that caught my eye comes from good ‘ol Gomer, truly my favorite reporter in Missoula.

One of the things I like about Martin “Gomer” Kidston is how his misleading impressions fall apart with just a little scrutiny and web-clicking. For example, in the following article, titled Missoula Gives nets $1.2M for area non-profits in annual event, the misleading impression begins with the idea of AREA non-profits.

By describing the non-profits that benefitted from Missoula Gives as AREA non-profits, an expectation is created that they are LOCAL non-profits.

But are they?

Read the following excerpt and think about what the language conveys:

Among this year’s new nonprofits, Friends of the Children used the event to bring attention to its organization.

“We opened our doors in Missoula last year and this was a fantastic way for us to not only raise much needed funds, but it has helped us share our work with a great audience and gain new donors to our organization,” said Ben Davis, Executive Director of Friends of the Children.

The emphasis is the language which makes one think Friends of the Children is a new Missoula non-profit, but it’s not. It’s a well-established PORTLAND non-profit started by this dude:

Yeah, I get a total FRIENDS OF THE CHILDREN vibe when I look at this guy. Then, as I poke around their website, I see some excitement over getting the message out through Ellen DeGeneres:

Personally, I don’t like how Gomer is local-washing this Portland non-profit, but not-liking Gomer’s poorly executed propaganda pieces is SOP for me, and probably what got me blocked by him on Twitter.

I do appreciate Gomer’s role, though, because now I’m curious about this new organization opening its doors in Missoula.

Kinda makes me think of the Dream Center.

Anyway, thanks for reading!

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