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Adam Carlson Unleashed (Part 1 of 2)

 

Adam Carlson

I sat down last week with past county commissioner Adam Carlson two weeks after stepping down as Musselshell County Commissioner. Adam appeared relaxed and confident as we discussed his time as DES coordinator, then county commissioner.

Adam started off explaining what he witnessed as the DES coordinator and the roadblocks he experienced. "During the year of 2017, I was DES coordinator, I applied for Montana's largest flood mitigation grant up to that time. Bob Goffena, Tom Berry, and Nicole Borner were OK with the application. $840K was the county's responsibility, but by collaborating with various state agencies and funds from other sources, the county was covered. The individual who had problems with the grant was Amy Angel due to the grant's total amount. She accused me of falsifying where the awards would come from. I supplied the different agency granting powers, but Amy contacted different subgroups within the granting authorities, which had nothing to do with our grant or the grants I was pursuing. Amy hindered the grant process and accused me of looking a little too closely into the county's finances. I then filed a grievance complaint against Amy due to the way she was treating me. I then filed a complaint against Tom Berry for threatening my job at a public meeting. Berry accused me of defending Bev Eiselein in one of the mitigation claims. Berry said that "You work for the county and not the taxpayers, the county pays your wages, not the taxpayers"! I wrote an article for the paper talking about flood mitigation. I was chastised by Goffena and Berry for not submitting the article for review before publication. As Public Information Officer for the county, it was my duty to share with the taxpayers what was going on. The federal grant for the project was in jeopardy because the county's audits were not current up to that time. Amy and the commissioners stated that they would get the audits completed in 2017."

"My central campaign platform when I ran for commissioner was to get the county's finances in order! During my first six months as a county commissioner, Nicole and I worked diligently on finances. The county had outstanding fines and fees over annual finance reports. I talked with the auditor in Billings, who was conducting the 2015 audit, I wanted to know why it took so long to get the 2015 audit completed. The main reason being the lack of information provided by Amy. Amy would schedule meetings with the auditor on-site. When the auditors arrived for the planned meeting time, Amy would be on vacation. An additional expense to the county was incurred because of Amy not meeting with the auditors nor providing documentation as requested. When documentation was delivered, it was far more than required, which resulted in the auditors spending additional time finding the information they asked for."

"Questions arose in 2019 about a $10,000 grant that Amy had applied for in 2018, she then told the commissioners that it had been awarded to the sheriff's office. When issues arose, answers were sorely lacking from Amy. Amy continually would obfuscate over the delivery of documents at county commission meetings. Once documentation was provided it was found to be a fraudulent document. The county has regularly applied for a grant for the Victims Advocate held by Paralegal Tami Allen. The county spent an additional $8,000 for an audit review over this one questionable grant. The county's reimbursement was suspended by the state because of unexplained red flags related to the grant document that Amy provided. The investigation/audit determined that the funds were accounted for but that the documentation needed to be tracked better in the accounting system. The $10,000 grant for the sheriff's office was determined not to exist in the end. At that point, the county had decided to put Amy on administrative leave. Tom Berry informed Amy before the official notification, and that is when Amy left the courthouse taking with her the county's laptop computer. The laptop was returned later that day in pieces and she informed the county commissioners that it fell off her car and was run over. The county commissioners decided to investigate Amy and the grant. At the completion of the investigation Amy resigned her position. With Amy's resignation, the county commissioners decided to pursue the audit process for the following years, including 2019. After Amy's departure, some vendors contacted the county because they had been paid twice for the same service. This then led to the county with the assistance of the auditors in implementing a standard accounting system that has more checks and balances."

"So, the different county departments were given the responsibility to manage and account for the individual funds. For example, the county Treasurer had been only doing 2 out of 18 accounting functions during Amy's time. The auditors recommended that all financial responsibilities be shared by the different departments; thereby, they each have the responsibility to be sure that finances are correctly accounted for. Each of the department heads stepped right up without question or complaint. Now that the audits are complete, the county knows our financial situation accurately, and now we can move forward as a county.

"I attended the Republican central committee meeting, which was called to pick someone to replace me as commissioner. Those in attendance listed as the number one requirement for a candidate to fill my job; to straighten out the county's finances! They were asked, if anyone had read the auditor's report; not surprisingly, not one in the room had! If you want the county's finances cleaned up, you should read the auditor's report and see that the county finances are current and up to date."

"Amy was hired by the county commissioners after Shawn Todd had left that position, and he left the county's finances in good accord with proper accounting practices. When I recommended forming a financial advisory board, Shawn Todd volunteered to be a participant on the board. When the process began to institute checks & balances into the system, it was discovered that those checks and balances were already there, they were just not being followed by Amy or past commissioners. I devoted many extra hours trying to come up to speed, understanding county finances, and the study of proper procedures to implement acceptable accounting methods. The county has advertised for a county CFO (chief financial officer), which would oversee the controls being implemented. This would be a part-time position, and we could initially contract this position out as needed. Up to this point in time, the county had violated state laws in reference to accounting practices. But, with the procedures that we have implemented to correct and account for county finances, we are positively moving forward."

"Two things happened in raising the mill levy. The Montana State Assessors Office did a reevaluation of property within the county. Some individual's property taxes went up, and some went down. Some assessments went up because of additional buildings on their property. Some people needed to inform the assessor's office that they did not have some structures claimed. When trying to figure out how many mills to mill, there arose another problem when the county's mills on record differed from the Department of Revenue and the State Office of Administration at a totally different amounts. The commissioners were dependent on what Amy said was available as far as funds. But, it was known that the commissioners were not using the mills available. Those being used were used as Amy directed. As the process with the audits neared completion. The mills that should have been designated to various departments had not gotten the correct allocation, which left an aggregate shortfall in the budget. Now, money has gone into the road department, also more into the fairgrounds for improvements. The audits have given the county latitude to allocate funds to the programs that are in need and reduce some expenditures from other departments. The state recommended that the first year we move forward that we maintain as much cash as possible to reestablish a new baseline. This would result in proper budget management for the future. All this, because the county has had to endure the last five years of no audits!"

"People need patience, people need to be sure their property has been appropriately assessed. The county has an additional 91 mills to access if deemed appropriate. For example, increasing the gravel budget. The larger landowners own a vast bulk of the land in the county, so any increases in mills and they are the ones that take the most substantial hits. Sue Olson commented at the recent republican central committee meeting that we need to hire an engineering firm to help with a gravel permit. She obviously was not aware, unless you followed the minutes of each week's commissioner meetings that Musselshell County is working with WWC to the tune of $10,000 on the permitting process of the two gravel pits in the eastern part of the county. So, my suggestion to individuals running for a county commissioner position is that they should be as well informed as possible if they are to step into someone's shoes!"

END OF PART ONE

 

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