Ravalli pols fight ‘til death or election 

A power struggle between the Ravalli County commissioners and the county clerk and recorder is not over. On Tuesday the commissioners voted, without discussion, to move the county’s finance/budget/accounting functions under the supervision of Don Klepper, the chief executive officer of the county.

But that move made it much harder to get a county warrant signed. Shortly after the decision, Ravalli County Clerk and Recorder Betty Lund delivered a memo to the commissioners, asking for a clarification of how she is to now perform her duties. She also issued a warning: “At this time, until the above question is resolved, all warrants drawn on the Treasurer’s account will be signed by me personally upon presentation of the proper documentation with the approval of two county commissioners. My signature plate will not be available.”

The financial changes have been opposed by Lund and Treasurer Mary Kay Browning since they were proposed two weeks ago. Both women believe they have been doing an excellent job of serving the taxpayers, given the size of their staffs and the complexity of their jobs.

“This is a slap in the face,” Lund said on Tuesday. “It says the 28 years I’ve served the county are nothing.”

Klepper had criticized Lund and Browning for not filing tax liens and collecting back taxes in accordance with Montana statutes. The two officials said the tax laws are archaic and difficult to implement and they had developed an alternate system of contract payments to ensure back taxes were collected.

However, a recent Montana Supreme Court decision in a similar case in Missoula County made it clear that the taxes could not be collected unless the statutes were precisely followed.

“There was a real question about the county’s ability to collect back taxes under the present system,” said the commissioners attorney, Jim Mickelson. “The county is not in compliance with state law.”

On Monday, Lund told the commissioners she wants to be relieved of her position as elections administrator to allow her to spend more time with her clerk and recorder duties. The commissioners have not taken any action on the request but Lund is adamant that she will not continue.

“There’s a rumor running around the courthouse that I am going to run for county commissioner,” Lund said, “and I’m not denying it.”

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