Three of the Gallatin Conservation District’s supervisors forgot to file for re-election when their terms expired in November, then tried to fix the situation by having their two colleagues appoint them to their old positions. At a meeting Dec. 18, supervisors Bill Wright, Sherwin Leep, and Jason Camp, whose terms had expired, were appointed to another four-year term by board chairman John Schutter and vice chairman John Venhuizen. “Most of us have been on that board for quite a number of years,” Leep told the Chronicle. “Our administrator there usually takes care of that for us and she inadvertently overlooked it … kind of a weird little circumstance.” Leep said it was as an honest mistake made by a small group of people, and pointed out that no other candidates had filed for the seats. “It’s not like there’s a large line of people trying to get on this board,” said Leep, who has been with the conservation district since 1985. “It’s not like we’re trying to exclude anyone.”
A conservation district is a locally elected seven-member board that works to preserve soil and stream quality. There are 58 such districts in Montana.
The Dec. 18 vote to appoint the three may have been done not only in the absence of a quorum, but also unnecessarily, as state law allows supervisors to serve until “a successor has been elected and qualified.”
In fiscal year 2014, the Gallatin County Treasurer’s Office billed $183,298 in conservation district taxes from property owners. The Department of Natural Resources paid the Gallatin Conservation District another $71,140.
State Sen. JP Pomnichowski, D-Bozeman, uncovered the forgotten election after having difficulty contacting the supervisors to discuss several legislative proposals, she said.