Northern News Headlines
$350 million rainy day fund would be returned to Mt taxpayers
Steps required by 2013 Leg. to get some budget increases
Sen. Tester's letter this week to VA head says it's unacceptable
Dept. of Trans. says it increases chance of accidents up to 500%
Influenza epidemic update report scheduled for release Friday
Sen. Daines told AP it would be different than current pipeline
DEQ & EPA to soon look into causes of pipeline break into Yell.
U.S. DOJ agreement stipulates sexual assault procedures
Starting at 7 PM on Northern News Network sponsored by Avitus
Settlement stems from 2010 primary election campaign
Oil recovery in Yellowstone upstream from Glendive is over
Due to lack of support Sec'y of State pulls bill from hopper
GOP's too, Wed. evening at 7PM sponsored by Avitus Group
To see where the state spends your money online since 2013
GOP controlled House and Senate to set final estimate
YouTube interview part of strategy to reach internet audience
Mt economic outlook good except business in rural counties
Bridger Pipeline crews isolate and cap broken pipe segment
Police could not subpoena e-mails or notebooks
Contends Arco coverup lasting 40 years in pollution at smelter
Reviving oversight of aging pipeline network questions
Schweitzer dropped it after 2009 to save money during recession
900,000 tons a year = $70 million economic impact for area
Bullock declares Dawson & Richland Cos. disasterb areas
Influenza vaccine not as effective in current flu season
RSS Feed 25 Latest Articles

Print View

Share    

 

 

 

“We continue to believe that we can accomplish more by working together on cost-effective, common-sense reform measures, rather than engaging in expensive and time-consuming litigation,” Cotter said.

Cotter wrote the commissioners on Feb. 26 – the same day the commissioners met with Van Valkenburg and expressed their concern that the “community has lost faith” in the office following a critical Feb. 14 report by the DOJ.

That document outlined deficiencies in Missoula County prosecutors’ handling of sexual assault cases, including a 17 percent prosecution rate of sexual assault cases.

In the letter, Cotter describes the success the DOJ has had with the University of Montana and the Missoula Police Department following similar reports on their work with victims of sexual assault.

The DOJ launched investigations into UM, the city and county in 2012. Both Missoula police and the UM Office of Public Safety entered into agreements with the Justice Department in May 2013, agreeing to changes in their handling of sexual assault reports.

“In contrast, the county attorney has refused to cooperate with our investigation from the outset,” Cotter wrote. “We have met with the county attorney several times and taken measures to address his expressed concerns regarding our investigation.”

The standoff between the DOJ and Van Valkenburg became even more entrenched at the beginning of the year, when Van Valkenburg sent a letter to the DOJ – rejecting their proposed settlement agreement and giving them two weeks to enter into “an amicable agreement” before he filed suit against the DOJ. When the Justice Department remained silent, Van Valkenburg filed for declaratory judgment in Missoula’s U.S. District Court, asking a federal judge to rule on whether the DOJ has jurisdiction over his office.

And the county commissioners furnished Van Valkenburg in his endeavors – releasing $50,000 of county funds for him to hire outside counsel to pursue the lawsuit.

Cotter wrote in his letter that the cost of litigation will “ultimately far outstrip the cost of reform.”

“We believe that the quickest and most effective way to protect women and improve the county attorney’s handling of sexual assault is a cooperative agreement,” Cotter wrote.

***

Commission Chair Jean Curtiss said Wednesday that her office is in the process of crafting a response to Cotter’s request, but said it’s not the commissioners’ responsibility to direct the affairs of another publicly elected official.

Instead, she said the DOJ should contact Montana Attorney General Tim Fox to work out an agreement, although that’s not likely.

“Between Fred and Mr. Cotter … I don’t think either one of them wants to settle,” Curtiss said.

In February, it also came to light the DOJ had entered into an agreement with former Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock, who is now governor, in 2012. Outlined in two letters, the agreement stipulated that the DOJ would share the findings of its investigations with the office.

During last week’s meeting with Van Valkenburg, Commissioner Michele Landquist said commissioners should have known about the agreement before releasing the funds Van Valkenburg requested to file suit against the DOJ.

“I can’t honestly say, knowing this, that I do support you going forward with any declaratory action,” she said at the meeting.

She said she saw the agreement as the attorney general giving the Justice Department the authority to investigate the County Attorney’s Office.

But Van Valkenburg, who has maintained that he has the support of both Bullock and Fox, said he didn’t see the letters as anything “of great consequence.”

Further, he denied attempting to mislead the commissioners by not providing them with copies of the agreement between

Landquist wouldn’t respond to questions Wednesday, but said in an email to the Missoulian that “this is a matter we take very seriously and we are working on our reply.

Share    

Comments

There are currently no comments, be the first to post one.

Post Comment

Name (required)

Email (required)

Website

CAPTCHA image
Enter the code shown above in the box below