NewsMontana and Regional News


Roosevelt County Attorney forced to leave office because he doesn't live there

Frank Piocos
Posted at 10:10 AM, Feb 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-12 12:04:47-05

Voters in Roosevelt County elected a new County Attorney last November, but less than three months later he's already being removed from office.

It turns out, Frank Piocos doesn't actually live in the county.

Piocos once worked in Yellowstone County as a public defender. He says he's worked on criminal cases for 23 years.

But that career was upended last Friday, when a judge determined he can no longer serve because he doesn't live in Roosevelt County.

Darla Downs, who filed the complaint as a private citizen, said, "I just decided right is right and it needed to be done."

Downs is the publisher of the Northern Plains Independent in Wolf Point.

She filed a complaint alleging Piocos falsely registered as an elector when he provided a Roosevelt County address that wasn't his residence.

Roosevelt County Attorney forced to leave office because he doesn't live there

"I wasn't filing on, you know, that he's doing a bad job or he didn't do the things that I wanted him to do on other cases," Downs said. "It was strictly a residency issue."

The court agreed.

According to court documents, Piocos was actually living in Valley County, at least at the time he was elected.

Piocos was appointed to the position in February of 2021, after County Attorney Austin Knudsen left to become Montana's Attorney General.

Piocos was then elected in November to stay in the position.

MTN contacted Piocos who did want to speak on camera.

"I disagree with the judge's ruling," Piocos said on the phone. "But I respect the decision and I will not appeal."

He went on to say, "It was my intent and declaration to make Roosevelt County my residence."

"We'll know either to extend this interim position or run a special election," said Roosevelt County Commissioner Gordon Oelkers.

Commissioners have now decided to hire an interim County Attorney and hold a special election to let the voters decide a permanent replacement.

"We have to keep the speedy trial thing going," Oelkers said. "There's 13 cases that are going to come to our attorney's office."

It's a mistake corrected, thanks to watchdog journalism, and a private citizen who did the right thing.

"What frustrates me about the whole thing is that a private person is the one that has to bring the court case," Downs said.