The following letter was forwarded from Mission District Irrigators, and it concerns the Recall of Jerry Johnson and Paul Wadsworth that is currently underway. Be sure to turn your ballots into the Lake County Elections office no later than Tuesday April 15, 2014. Ballots must be delivered to the office by the end of the day on Tuesday April 15th.
TO ALL IRRIGATORS IN THE MISSION IRRIGATION DISTRICT:
Two recent letters were mailed to irrigators that attempted to confuse people about the recall as well as the actions of the commissioners being recalled. Here are the FACTS:
The recall of these individuals is based upon violations of the Montana open meeting laws. Lake County civil attorney Mark Russell investigated and found that illegal violations had in fact occurred, and approved the petitions.
Eligible voters read, studied and asked questions and tried to understand the Compact and Water Use Agreement. They were appalled at what they found. These voters did not seize control of Flathead Joint Board of Control (FJBC), but exercised their constitutional right to vote in new members who believed that the irrigators should have a voice in the deliberations which would affect them.
The illegal meetings in question were held in the summer and fall of 2013, and the actions taken in those meetings by these commissioners served to lay the foundation for the collapse of the FJBC and the Cooperative Management Entity (CME) which managed the daily operations of the irrigation project. While the commissioners intended to use the collapse of the FJBC to support the Flathead Water Compact and Water Use Agreement, they failed to demonstrate leadership by developing any operational plan for their district to ensure the project would transition smoothly without interruption of irrigator water. These same commissioners failed to consider the unintended consequences of their decision, paving the way for the collapse of the CME and the resulting Bureau of Indian Affairs, recent takeover of project operations. This has caused 42 non-tribal employees (that had worked for the FIP for many years) to lose their jobs and pensions, a blatant case of discrimination.
Additionally, after voting to withdraw from the FJBC, these same commissioners raised administrative fees for Mission Irrigation District from $2.65 per acre to $9.00 per acre to cover the significant cost of attorneys they had hired to move their plans forward. Their choice of lawyers also provided a conflict of interest as their attorneys have represented the tribe in numerous cases.
To support their position, these same commissioners claim that dozens of lawsuits have been filed, but this is untrue. Many of the legal actions taken were necessary to defend irrigators from the commissioner’s actions and to protect valuable project water rights from these very commissioners who worked overtime to try to relinquish those rights to the CSKT as part of the water use agreement.
The November 2013 referendum showed irrigator support for the FJBC, yet these commissioners ignored that and have continued to push forward with their agenda, racking up tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills on the backs of hard working irrigators. As of the end of December their attorney and consultant fees had totaled $113,000.00. The Admin Fund of Mission Irrigation District is BROKE. Now these commissioners are attempting to transfer Operation and Maintenance (O&M) monies to the Admin Fund which is illegal (MCA 85-7-2139).
The recent CS&KT lawsuit in Federal court basically says they want all of the water on, under, and running through the reservation. Our fee lands will be next!
At the September 2013 meeting in St. Ignatius, the chairman of the Mission District said: “I’m trying to do what I think is the right decision for me and my farm.” Not so fast. That man is an elected official, and his actions impact all of his constituents. It would seem that he admitted that he is not interested in serving the best interest of those irrigators who he is supposed to serve.
The recall is about holding these men accountable for their action. Please vote for the recall, and remove these men from office before more damage is done under their “leadership.” Remember we are all citizens of Montana, and not citizens of the Flathead Indian Reservation.
A vote for the recall is a vote to reunite irrigators, and to protect your project water rights. Please vote to recall Jerry Johnson and Paul Wadsworth.