Broadwater County Commissioner Pleads Not Guilty
The quest for accountability of elected officials continue to hold front and center in Broadwater County. Commissioner Laura Obert appeared in Montana First Judicial Court before Judge Mike Menehan on charges brought forward by special counsel.
Covid-19 has caused many communities to struggle with providing services to the citizens. In Broadwater County Montana there has been a long string of violations of public trust where elected officials violate the rights of the citizens.
In Broadwater County, multiple citizen complaints made their way through the judicial process for several years. Because of Montana law, the Broadwater County attorney was unable to move any of the citizen allegations forward due to conflict of interest provisions.
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox was asked by several elected officials in Broadwater County to move forward under the law to conduct an investigation and appoint a special counsel.
After numerous calls for help, Mr. Fox appointed Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert to look into the case.
Nearly a year on his desk, Mr. Lambert brought forward 2 of the multiple allegations of crimes against the people in Broadwater County.
Because of the Covid-19 Lock Down by Governor Steve Bullock, Judge Menehan utilized the internet capability instead of personally appearing in the Broadwater County Courthouse.
Commissioner Laura Obert appeared for arraignment on June 5th 2020, on the first charge of Felony Theft under 45-6-301MCA. If convicted on this charge, Commissioner Obert is facing a fine up to $50,000.00 or be imprisoned for a term not to exceed 10 years or both.
A second misdemeanor charge of official misconduct was also brought forward under 45-7-401MCA. If convicted on this charge, Commissioner Obert is facing a fine up to $500.00 or be imprisoned in the county jail for up to 6 months or both.
The court has set a trial date for January 2021. Citizens that have been awaiting due process were pleased that this will go to trial. Commissioner Obert’s term in office also ends in January 2021.
Under an agreement reached between the attorneys and accepted by Judge Menehan, Commissioner Obert will be allowed to continue working as a Broadwater County Commissioner. Citizens attending the proceeding showed extreme dismay regarding this decision.
Under provisions of law, the people are innocent until proven guilty. That provision provides for Commissioner Obert to continue in her position working for Broadwater County. Cheryl Campbell, a citizen of Broadwater County, asked if Commissioner Obert was being given leniency because of her position. She commented that if a felony charge against a regular citizen were to be filed in court that person would face full sanctions without question.
Past Commissioner Franklyn Slifka, who provided the justice department claims against Commissioner Obert in the past and alleged multiple repeated violations of the public trust, was surprised the prosecuting attorney did not object to no restrictions of contact on the defendant.
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