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Commissioners discuss Cascade County print shop operations

Posted at 2:28 PM, Feb 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-14 11:05:50-05

On Wednesday, February 7, 2024, Cascade County commissioners conducted a special meeting during which a variety of agenda items were discussed, including contracts, resolutions, and public hearings.

One of the resolutions mentioned in Wednesday’s meeting is whether to separate print shop operations from the Office of the Clerk & Recorder and establish these operations under the Board of County Commissioners.

Commissioner Rae Grulkowski argued that these operations should remain under the responsibility of the Clerk and Recorder.

“The history of the print shop in the Clerk and Recorder Office is more stable than with elections. The Clerk and Recorder has had the print shop duties [at least] since 2000. So, this would go back [to] be retained by the Clerk and Recorder, not the Elections Department,” Grulkowski said. "As stated in here, the elections department of the duty that the print shop must be prepared for, but the print shop was not active in the elections last year. And they've also the print shop has to be responsible also for treasurer, for the clerk of courts and for many throughout the county.”

This resolution is a continuance of Resolution 23-62, stripping the election duties from Sandra Merchant, former Elections Administrator. Commissioner Joe Briggs presented the new resolution, in the action stating that the under Montana Code, the Clerk and Recorder does not have a statutory right to support or accommodate print shop operations for the Elections Office.

“It was kind of presumed by myself anyway. That the print shop would be moving with the Elections…" Briggs stated via Zoom.

The resolution was passed 2-1, putting further control into the hands of the Board of County Commissioners.

Grulkowski argued before the vote, "We don’t need anything more in the Commission Office until we assess what we got, manage what we have, and then we can put something in place.”

Grulkowski is a known ally to Sandra Merchant, presenting a case of her ability to operate elections. Commissioner Briggs has argued in past meetings, Montana has important races in the 2024 Election year, where a spotlight will be on a smooth election process.

Another resolution on the agenda was one presented by Cascade County Attorney Josh Racki, that would add a fee to public records and information requests, due to high demand. The Commission voted to table that resolution, effectively immediately, for more discussion at its March 5th meeting. The Commission has been scrutinized over the decision to remove Merchant of election duties as its an elected position. The public has said in numerous variations, "their voice is being taken away." The Commission will look to come to a vote on adding a fee to the public's right to know, stating it is premature to vote without more conversation.