HAMILTON - Three new allegations surfaced Tuesday in the wake of Ravalli County commissioners' decision to ask the state to investigate charges of official misconduct against Clerk and Recorder Betty Lund.
The latest criticisms came from a Ravalli County Planning Board member and a Geographic Information Systems Steering Committee member. They outlined their claims in letters they submitted to commissioners at a Tuesday afternoon meeting.
Lund was unavailable to comment on the accusations. Her attorney, Charles "Bud" Recht, of Hamilton, said he was unaware of the new allegations but said Lund may be willing to discuss them Wednesday.
Harriett Hooper-Gibson, the planning board member who authored one of the letters, described an Aug. 11 incident in which Lund allegedly refused to answer questions at a public meeting of the GIS Steering Committee.
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Gibson alleged Lund would comment only if she was "off the record," the tape recorder was turned off and Ruth Thorning left the room. Lund is the Republican candidate for county commissioner who will face Thorning, a Democrat, in November.
When Rocky Dubose, committee chairman, declined Lund's request, she allegedly refused to speak further. Gibson questioned Tuesday if Lund's behavior might be a violation of state open meetings law.
Dubose said Tuesday that Gibson's recollection of the incident was accurate. At the Aug. 11 meeting, committee members sought answers to the questions why certain staff members were absent and what was going on, he said.
The meeting was one day after Lund allegedly had a confrontation with Dwain Erhart, county director of information services, and Erhart was one of the staff members who didn't come to the meeting.
A day earlier, Lund allegedly threatened to have Erhart arrested for making copies of CD-ROMs that contained public records - county land information - unless he returned the originals and his copies to her office. Erhart made the copies so he could store a set in the information systems department.
The incident prompted county commissioners to ask Chief Administrative Officer Don Klepper to compile a report of all complaints received about Lund's conduct. The 17-page report is at the core of the commissioners' request for a state investigation into Lund's actions.
Lund has reportedly called the incident with Erhart a misunderstanding. At a press conference Monday, she denied most of the allegations in Klepper's report and stated that the attack is politically motivated.
Dubose said Tuesday his main concern is that various departments in the courthouse need to cooperate so the GIS committee can move forward with its project. Lund's actions at the Aug. 11 meeting were inconsistent with her verbal pledge to support the GIS committee's efforts, he said.
Gibson also alleged in her letter that Lund might have tampered with a tape of the GIS committee meeting. On Aug. 15, Gibson said she received a copy of the meeting minutes that Lund transcribed and realized that they didn't reflect everything that had happened.
"I asked Betty to give me the original tape and I would give it to Jack Atthowe," Gibson said. "(Lund) said she had taken it home to transcribe the minutes and it was still there."
Gibson alleges Lund told her that the first part of the tape hissed and she couldn't transcribe it. After listening to the tape, Gibson said she thinks about 45 minutes of the tape were altered so no voices could be heard.
A second allegation that surfaced Tuesday came from Darwin Ernst, a GIS steering committee member, who claims he has battled Lund over access to public records for years. When he has sought to copy GIS information at different times in the past, Lund has allegedly told him she would destroy it before allowing him to have it or that it would cost him $2 million, Ernst said.
Ernst alleges Lund didn't make the GIS committee aware of the existence of more than 25 CD-ROMs that Stewart Title, a new Ravalli County business, was allowed to create from county records to digital form. When committee members asked about the information, Lund denied it existed, Ernst said.
"The clerk and recorder then tried to lock the original discs, which were provided to the county by Stewart Title, in a vault and deny the Information Systems Department the ability to make an in-house copy," Ernst said.
Ernst works for Tekboys, a local company that provides technical expertise for personal computer systems that use GIS technology from Montana counties. He alleges the right to access data in Ravalli County has been limited by Lund. And he contends local title companies have had problems accessing data.
At least two Hamilton title companies recently contacted by the Missoulian declined to comment about their relationship with Lund.
Ernst said he is concerned about the county's liability if some title companies have been denied access while another title company has been given the right to copy dozens of CD-ROMs full of land records.
When asked what they plan to do with the latest complaints against Lund, commissioners said they plan to compiled list of concerns they will send to the state for consideration and these might be included.
The Missoulian learned of a third incident Tuesday that Ravalli County commissioners Jack Atthowe and Alan Thompson confirmed was a concern that also may be forwarded on to the state.
Atthowe said it happened after 5 p.m., last Thursday. He said he had stepped into Commissioner Smut Warren's vacant office to use his telephone for a private call. Atthowe's office is adjacent to Lund's office, and conversations often can be heard through the wall. Atthowe switched phones to gain more privacy, he said.
While inside Warren's office, Atthowe said he heard the main door leading to all three commissioners' offices unlock and saw the janitor and Lund head down the hall toward Atthowe and Thompson's offices. Atthowe said Lund remained down the hall for at least five minutes before leaving.
Atthowe later asked the janitor about the incident. He said the janitor told him that Lund had asked the janitor to unlock the main office because she was concerned Atthowe might be sick.
Atthowe informed fellow commissioners of the incident Friday. They decided to order locking file cabinets for each of their offices, he said.
Reporter Jane Rider can be reached at 363-3300 or at firstname.lastname@example.org