Exercise your right to know - Vote for Susan Monahan

Exercise your right to know - Vote for Susan Monahan

It is time for more transparency on the Seeley Lake Rural Fire District Board. Voters have the opportunity to make this change May 2 by voting Susan Monahan for Seeley Lake Rural Fire District Board of Trustees.

Attending nearly every Fire District Board meeting since 2014, I’ve watched the board have less and less discussion under the current leadership, including the two incumbents running against Monahan. Meetings usually are shorter than 30 minutes with actual board discussion less than 15 minutes. This leaves the perception a lot of District business happens outside meetings.

In the last few years, the District started providing the board packet at their meeting. While this was a step in the right direction, having the packet available on their website with the agenda ahead of the meeting would allow the public to review the information prior to the meeting and promote more active community involvement.

I’ve observed several occasions where information discussed was excluded from the public packet. In Montana, all documents provided to taxpayer-funded Districts are public information unless protected by patient privacy rights, a matter of personnel action or deal with an active lawsuit.

Since 2020, the board received several letters addressed to the Trustees that were sent to the current chair with me cc’d. These were not included as correspondence at the meeting.

On one occasion a trustee told me after the meeting that they hadn’t seen a letter addressed to the board threatening a lawsuit. The entire board and the public deserve to know and discuss concerns and issues that may affect services or the budget.

In 2021 the board established a committee to research running a tax levy. After several months a member of the public asked for an update. They were told the committee decided not to pursue the levy because it was not feasible.

That is not how open government is supposed to work! Committees are established to research and report back to the entire board. Then, in open session with an opportunity for public comment, the board should vote on whether and how to proceed.

My final example was the board’s decision to give the Chief a raise at their July 2022 meeting. While still in closed session following the Chief’s performance review, the board discussed AND voted on his raise. Only after the meeting reconvened and I requested the vote be in public did the board revote. This deprived the public of their right to witness the discussion and provide public comment.

Our current Fire Board is operating more like a private business than a public agency with elected officials.

Susan Monahan has served on the Libby School Board and worked as a journalist for more than 10 years. She understands Montana’s open meeting laws and the Freedom of Information Act. I believe she will work to protect your rights to observe the business of the Fire District in an open, transparent forum and actively participate if you choose. Vote Monahan May 2!

Andi Bourne

Seeley Lake, MT

 

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