Commissioner Bill Carey defends privacy

Here’s the story I wrote about Commissioner Bill Carey’s extended and unexplained absence. Come to find out, there’s no limit on the amount of time a commissioner can be on paid leave.

I’d like to learn more about that topic. Is the same thing true for the Missoula County Attorney? Missoula County Sheriff?

A political scientist said if Missoula County had a charter, it could include guidelines for absences, recalls and removals. I’m wondering if the county has the authority to instate such policies outside the framework of a charter.

Here’s Carey’s letter to the editor about the reason he was gone. In the piece, he asks where the line is drawn for publicly elected officials on personal matters.

In a brief phone conversation today, Carey said the column speaks for itself.The piece doesn’t address whether he sought treatment or if he has moderated his drinking or quit altogether.

“I don’t have any comment on that, and I am busy now,” Carey said.

In my story linked above, public affairs scholars talked about privacy. In brief, if someone wants to live a completely private life, maybe that person shouldn’t be in public office.

Sometimes, I wonder whom elected people lean on for advice in difficult matters, and this situation is one of those times.

Say an elected official doesn’t feel an obligation to constituents to announce a long leave. Does a trusted adviser encourage it?

All for now. Photo editor Kurt Wilson took the picture.

— Keila Szpaller

Happy Friday, saffron greens, more!











I thought I’d shared this photo already. But here it was in the draft queue. It’s new growth in a greenhouse on the PEAS Farm. Thanks, Instagram.

A few items of interest from the inbox and stories of the week are … drum roll … :

– The Zootown Arts Community Center’s “mini” benefit, with tiny treats and little sculptures, is Saturday, April 19. Neat art and story posted here.

– Want to count bikers, skaters, walkers? The Missoula Metropolitan Organization is looking for volunteers to do its annual bicycle and pedestrian count on Saturday, May 3, and Tuesday, May 6. Get more information from Dave Prescott, 552-6672 or (I have a newsletter with more info, but I can’t find a link to it. If you want me to forward it, let me know at

Here’s a story about the claims paid by Missoula County the last few years. It’s big bucks.

If you missed it, the Justice of the Peace race isn’t quiet. One candidate has filed a complaint against another.

All for now. Have an excellent weekend.

– Keila Szpaller


A wandering photo editor; candidate forum; the state of things

This Instagram shot is from photo editor @kurtwilson in Unionville. Follow his “Roadside Wanderings” across Montana at #roadsidehistorymt.

Other cool or important stuff:

– The Missoula County Democrats host forums with Board of County Commissioner candidates and Missoula County Sheriff contenders 7 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, April 8, in Council Chambers.

Missoula City Club hosts State of the Community from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, April 14, at the Doubletree Edgewater. Mayor John Engen, Commissioner Michele Landquist, and University of Montana President Royce Engstrom report on the state of the city, county and campus. The event is free, but reservations are required.

– Boston doctors prescribe bike-share programs to patients. Seriously.

– Keila Szpaller


Think you’re recycling when you drop off glass at Target?

Do you think you’re recycling when you drop off glass at Target in Missoula? Read this story by reporter Dave Erickson, and think again.

Happy Monday, by the way. We’re creeping up to 70 degrees this week. Goodness.

One reason to stay inside – and grab your popcorn? Jan and Harold Hoem made a documentary called “Coal Road to China,” and it shows three times this week.

Got any story ideas burning a hole in your wallet? If they’re about Missoula County government, feel free to send them my way.

The email fire hose has these finds:

Montana ranks No. 6 in the Locavore index, down from No. 3 in 2012.

Diversity Day is Saturday, April 12, in Missoula. “How do YOU make Missoula diverse?”

All for now.

– Keila Szpaller

Missoula city taxes, White Pine Sash, condemnation, more

First, the city of Missoula filed a complaint asking District Court to condemn Mountain Water. This is a big deal.

I’m curious about similar and recent cases in other states. The city of Missoula tried an eminent domain takeover in 1984, and it didn’t work, but a lot has changed.

Can the city show it is more necessary for the public to own the water rights and pipes than for a private and, for now, global investment firm to own them? We’ll see. Read the full complaint here.

Also, there’s no doubt Missoula police need more — and more secure — places to store evidence. In the photo, by Michael Gallacher, you can see the way cops have to stuff evidence in nooks and crannies.

Here’s more about the request for a new special taxing district, the Public Safety and Justice district, and the city taxes people pay.

A couple years ago, the city put together a comparison of municipal taxes in major Montana cities. Missoula was on the higher end, of course, but some of the dollars came from general obligation debt voters approve at the ballot box. I hope the comparison is updated sometime this budget season.

Ready for a sign of spring? Silvers Lagoon was stocked with fish Wednesday morning, according to the city Parks and Recreation Department. Also, I saw two women in Caras Park wearing tank tops. Hooray!

On the White Pine Sash Superfund site, I had this story about the fact that people in Missoula are making note the head of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality was a strong and successful environmental advocate here at home.

I was curious to know the number of comments that had come in. DEQ spokesman Chris Saeger initially declined to release the number, but then agreed to do so. As of Tuesday, the department had received 42 emails and nine letters, he said; the number of comments may reflect a smaller number of individuals, as some people send more than one letter.

I’m glad Saeger agreed to share the information, as it’s clearly public.

Also, in an earlier email, Seager noted that DEQ has in the past proposed cleanup levels that are lower than what zoning allows:

There are numerous examples where DEQ has required cleanup different than the zoning. Two examples are the KRY Site in Kalispell, Mont., and Petroleum Refining Company in Shelby, Mont., where zoning was commercial/industrial, but allowed for some residential use, and the cleanup was performed to commercial/industrial cleanup levels with deed restrictions prohibiting residential use.

More? Missoula is chasing some big bucks for the Russell Street project.

All for now.

— Keila Szpaller


City and county government are one beat

Here’s the deal in the Missoulian newsroom.

We are combining city and county government into one beat. Obviously, many beats overlap, but that’s the plan.

So I’m going to cover some of the items reporter Kim Briggeman used to cover. Kim is still going to cover the community councils and some items are TBD. He’s also going to cover transportation, a new beat, so if you have tips about the airport or Montana Rail Link, send them to

I’m going to tackle this new monster by writing more — and shorter — stories for a while and posting little blurbs here. Please feel free to lend a hand and send story ideas this way, to

This deal means subdivision for lease or rent is on my plate. I’m going to say that again so it begins to sink into my brain. This arrangement means I actually have to try to wrap my head around subdivision for lease or rent. I’m accepting flowers at 500 S. Higgins Ave., the Missoulian newsroom, and I’ll pummel Kim with every bouquet.

If you hadn’t noticed, some world travelers and newspaper consumers say the Missoulian rocks. Thanks, guys.

Enjoy the sun, and thanks to Alexis Jorgensen for the art.

— Keila Szpaller