MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Supreme Court race could soon set a new fundraising record, as new reports show a state political party has contributed to the nonpartisan race for the first time in decades.
The Missoulian reports District Judge Dirk Sandefur and former University of Montana law professor Kristen Juras are competing for a Supreme Court seat to replace a retiring justice. Campaign finance reports filed Monday show funding raised by the candidates or from groups spending to influence the race is just under the $1.6 million record set in 2014.
The reports also say the Montana Democratic Party has spent more than $60,000 in advertising to support Sandefur.
Juras condemned the party’s contribution, saying Democrats are politicizing the race.
Sandefur denied that he would be influenced by the party’s support.
9 more tribes seek NV voting sites; $117K in legal expenses
RENO, Nev. (AP) — The state of Nevada and two counties could end up paying well over $100,000 in legal expenses as they continue to wage a legal battle with two tribes over alleged violations of the U.S. Voting Rights Act.
A federal judge ordered Washoe and Mineral counties earlier this month to establish new early voting and Election Day voting sites on two Paiute reservations after concluding Native Americans were being denied equal access to the polls.
Nine additional tribes followed with a similar request last week in federal court in Reno.
Lawyers for the Pyramid Lake and Walker River Paiute tribes also filed a request for $117,000 in lawyer fees and expenses incurred to date.
That’s 10 times as much as the tribes said it would have cost to comply with their lawsuit in the first place.
Glacier National Park plans for major construction projects
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Construction is underway in Glacier National Park now that the busy tourist season has winded down.
The Missoulian reports that the park’s current projects include a new bridge being built over Avalanche Creek and the rehabilitation of the St. Mary Entrance Station on the park’s east side.
The final phase of rehabilitation for the park’s 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road is scheduled to start next spring. The project will focus on repairing the first 14 miles at the West Entrance, which welcomes the most people to the park each year.
The Many Glacier Hotel is also set to get some improvements next spring. Park spokeswoman Lauren Alley says a new double-helix staircase will be installed in the 101-year-old hotel to replace an original staircase that was removed decades ago.
Kennewick child rape suspect flees court ahead of verdict
TRI-CITIES, Wash. (AP) — A judge has issued a nationwide arrest warrant for a 79-year-old Montana man who fled from court in Kennewick just before a jury found him guilty of raping a young boy for several years.
The Tri-City Herald reports that William George Nicol left the Benton County Justice Center on Friday during a court recess. He was later convicted of child rape and child molestation charges.
Court documents say the boy told a relative in 2015 he had been sexually abused by Nicol.
Nicol denied the allegations in court, saying the boy was lying.
The Plains, Montana man had been out of custody after posting $10,000 bail during trial. He reportedly told his attorney he was going to use the restroom before he left court and didn’t return.
Former state employee files wrongful discharge lawsuit
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A former auditor for the Montana’s health department has filed a wrongful discharge lawsuit against the state.
Carol Bondy alleges that she was fired last year in retaliation for reporting the apparent misuse of state and federal funds by agencies receiving grants or contracts.
Bondy says when Department of Public Health and Human Services officials failed to act on her concerns, she reported them to the federal government.
DPHHS officials declined to comment on the lawsuit, which was filed Oct. 18.
Agency spokesman Jon Ebelt noted, however, that an unemployment benefits hearing determined Bondy was fired for misconduct.
The hearing found Bondy knew that another employee had emailed data containing childcare providers’ personal information to a state legislator without authorization.
The hearing also found Bondy refused a request for information from her supervisor.
Both employees were fired.
National group spends $528K to defeat brain research measure
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The National Education Association is spending $528,000 to defeat a ballot initiative in Montana’s election Nov. 8.
Campaign finance reports released this week show the national group made two contributions totaling more than a half-million dollars to a ballot committee called Montanans for Fiscal Responsibility.
The committee was formed to defeat Initiative 181, which would authorize the state to issue $200 million in bonds over the next decade for research into brain injuries and illnesses.
NEA officials did not return queries for comment. Eric Feaver, the head of the state’s largest labor union, the MEA-MFT, says he solicited the contribution from the national group.
Feaver says tying up that much money in state bonds would threaten passage of a state infrastructure bill.
Initiative proponent Randy Gray says the concerns of the opponents are misplaced.