Responding to the situation that has arisen in Missoula Justice Court Division One under Justice of the Peace Marie Andersen, the Missoula County Commissioners delivered an official letter to the judge on Thursday morning.

Chief Operating Officer for Missoula County Chris Lounsbury provided a brief description of the issues that prompted an investigation by a private attorney hired by the county.

“The commissioners really did start this investigation from looking at the complaints that they had received from exiting staff, and we’re concerned about the high staff turnover,” said Lounsbury. “We want to make sure that the training, support and supervision that staff needs to be successful to successfully serve the public is there, so they’re looking at potentially doing that through the consolidation of the Justice Court’s administrative positions just to make sure they get that training and support from some of the longer term staff that has been there.”

Lounsbury pointed out one portion of the letter that dealt with justice court funds leaving the courthouse.

The letter states, ‘we have also been made aware that under your direction funds were removed from the Justice Court office and driven to your residence. At your direction, the funds were then left unattended on your porch in an unsecured box.’

“We have an adopted policy related to the fiduciary responsibility for our County Auditor, who is an elected official and also our Clerk and Recorder Treasurer, which is also an elected position that says funding must really be deposited daily and intact so that those auditing and accounting practices can be maintained., so that addresses the issue of making sure county funds never leave the county premises.”

Lounsbury said the county’s only goal with the investigation, the letter and the eventual face-to-face meeting with Judge Andersen is ‘making sure that the staff is able to give her the level of support she needs to be able to her part of the job to serve the public.

Lounsbury said a meeting will be scheduled soon between the three county commissioners and the two Justices of the Peace about combining the two office’s administrative functions.

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