$3000 Tax Payer Dollars

5360fcca83b0d-image1If you listen close you can hear Senator Dee Brown’s nails on a chalkboard voice cackling about the spending of tax payer dollars.  Well, except in this case since her fellow teacher, Elsie, is spending those dollars.  So just what does $3000 buy Arntzen anyway?

Last week the Lee papers ran a story about the cost of the ‘investigation’ with their usual repetition of details.  But it does raise a few questions. Why does Arntzen need to hire a human resources consultant to review policies and procedures if OPI already has a human resources manager on staff?  And, if the OPI has access to additional human resource support through the Department of Administration why is she paying an outside firm to do the same work she could get for free from DOA?  Questions that wouldn’t need to be asked in any other scenario since it would be logical to use the knowledge of in-house resources.

Jim Kerins’ and CMS have made a living off state government dating back some twenty years now and certainly far more than a measly $3000 dollars.  Having said that, it’s rather strange that CMS would take on this project.  It’s short term, cheap and in one sense, risky.  Kerins’ has managed to thread the political needle for quite some time by taking on projects with the state that don’t result in any kind of political agenda. Until now.  This time his work will either support the allegations of an OPI leader who clearly has a political agenda or find a few misfiled documents.  A failed witch hunt.

Arntzen ran for office on what she portrayed as the sins of past Democratic leadership.  Unfortunately, when she finally walked into the buildings that house OPI for the first time she found no smoking guns or dead rats.  Instead she discovered an underfunded facility and underpaid staff.  Bear in mind, she has some responsibility in that given her voting sam_spade1record and lack of support for both public education and government agencies, to include OPI.

So Kerins’ has taken on a $3000 project that’s set to end next week on the 28th.  We’re all on the edge of our seats wondering what his investigation/review will reveal.  And at this point, Kerins’ is going to have to find something to feed Elsie.  She’s made a spectacle herself and continued missteps are something $3000 won’t cover up.  One thing Kerins’ should remember when he hands Arntzen that smoking gun, his fingerprints will be on it too.


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’


Go West Betsy DeVos, Go West

Yesterday Superintendent Elsie Arntzen  invited the U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos to visit Montana.  Nothing surprising here and nothing new at all.  To Arntzen’s credit it’s something she should be doing.  It’s good for Elsie to take a step with the right foot for once given the past couple of weeks she’s had, even though she’s only been in office a few weeks.  So why would this rise to the level of yet another post?  Click the link, read it, read it twice.  It’ll take a couple of times to sift through the poor writing.

Of its several oddities is her reference to Montana as a ‘frontier’ state and having frontier-school‘frontier schools’.  Do you suppose she’s referencing some old map that shows the region as a frontier or is Elsie trying to lure DeVos out on a long train ride and then a stagecoach trip from Havre to Helena?  Perhaps DeVos will have the good fortune to shoot a few buffalo from the window of the train as it passes a grazing heard.  Or it could be that Arntzen is just trying to personify a mystique from days of old now that Montana has finally broken into the current century with indoor plumbing, electricity, cable TV, and grizzly bear free schools!

So really, Arntzen deserves a gold star for getting her letter out.  She wants to showcase her office and Montana’s ‘frontier’ schools.  Now comes the oddity from yet another email tip.


Tim Tharp, Interim Deputy Superintendent sent out an email to all staff at OPI letting them know he’d be visiting with them soon to understand how they ‘contribute’ to OPI.  Had the transition gone more smoothly over the last month this would seem like a reasonable gesture.  In reality the new administration has no clue about the day to day functions of OPI and now they need to find out just what they are doing.  Tharp intends to ask five simple questions and get to know each OPI employee in just five minutes; sort of like six minute abs.  One can only imagine the questions:  ‘What is your quest?’ ‘What is the wind velocity of an African Swallow?’ ‘If you were a tree, what kind of a tree would you be?’ ‘Hammer or nail?’ ‘X-ray vision or gills?’. How does Arntzen plan to bring Devos up to speed about education in Montana when she truly doesn’t know?  Perhaps that’s really a rhetorical question since it insinuates that DeVos knows something about education as well.  Maybe together using DeVos’ twitter pencil they can figure out the three “R’s” of education.

Fun Family Feud question:  What do Arntzen and DeVos have in common?  Survey says…A vote from Steve Daines!


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’


OPI’s Investigation That Isn’t

First it was an investigation, then it wasn’t, now it is?  This afternoon’s email brought a tip showing that Jim Kerins and CMS have ineed been retained by Elsie Arntzen regarding student proficiency reporting.  Kerins began contacting OPI staff via email yesterday morning to introduce himself as a ‘Human Resources Consultant’ and explain the general objectives of his ‘investigation’.


Are you confused as to what a Human Resources company knows about student medieval-torture-granger1proficiency?  You should be.  Maybe Elsie knows something about them that the rest of us don’t. Nothing to worry about here for the OPI staff though, Kerins assures anonymity through a very complex numbering system based on personal recordings in his office or if they so choose, the Principal’s office.   And then there’s Kerins potential methods of information extraction: the rack, the iron maiden, hot coals, read one of Elsie’s speeches?

In the words of Paul Harvey, ‘Stand by for news’….


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’




The Silence of the Whistleblower

Representative Kirk Wagoner has either found a conscience or is carrying on the work that shooting_rifle_gun__pd_Greg Gianforte proposed when he announced he’d create an office of ‘Government Accountability’.  Two of Wagoner’s seven bills this session are written to increase protections for state employees, also known as ‘whistleblower’ bills.  Seems reasonable until you take a look at his record and then the idea that there’s probably an agenda behind the two bills.

Wagoner earned an unimpressive 14% from the Montana AFL-CIO for the 2015 session.  To earn a 14% he only had to vote ‘Right’ on two bills which really doesn’t point anyone in the direction of a pro-worker representative.   For example, Wagoner voted ‘Wrong’ by voting AGAINST the state employee pay plan when the House held a blast vote to bring it out of committee.  Just twenty minutes later he voted ‘Wrong’ again when he voted FOR Representative Art Wittich’s Right to Work bill in a second House blast vote.  Hardly the indicators of a legislator who’s chief concern is the welfare of the many state employees in his district.

House Bills 202 and 208 provide for protections for state employees who believe they are on to corruption they’ve uncovered in the work place.  By no means is this meant to insinuate that it doesn’t happen.  The problem is that Wagoner was only able to produce one, yes one, former state employee who may, or may not have, lost their job after having ‘blown the whistle’.  Exhibit A,  Carol Bondy ,is currently exercising her right to challenge her firing which she believes took place with out cause.  Bondy also referenced a subordinate who was terminated but is represented by a union and filed a grievance.  It’s important to point out that Wagoner mentioned that employees represented by a union have these protections already but that a small percentage of state employees belong to a union.  No doubt the unions view their over 60% state employee membership as small considering they would much rather be representing 90%.

Of course there’s more to a story like this so here are some dots to try to connect.

Bondy may or may not have passed information on to Representative Tom Bernett and others around the time of the Medicade expansion efforts in the 2105 session.

Tom Bernett was the subject of a 2012 campaign complaint alleging he had illegallyth5 coordinated with American Traditions Partnership.

Bondy is being represented by James Brown. James Brown represented American Traditions Partnership in 2012.

The activities of American Traditions Partnership in 2012 were the basis of SB 289 to reform Montana’s campaign finance laws.  Wagoner, of course,  voted against that bill.

Or maybe none of those dots connect and it’s all just coincidence.

Wagoner’s sudden concern for state employees is a complete departure from his past record and alliances.  It’s unfortunate that a handful of Democrats have been duped into believing his efforts are sincere when in reality this is nothing more than a shot at the Governor and his administration.  It would seem high time for the D’s in the House and Senate to circle the wagons and protect their own.

Finally, there’s an oddity here.  During the 2015 session Wagoner championed gun silencer bills.  In 2017 he’s carrying whistleblower bills.  Can’t wait to see his 2019 theme, if we are all so lucky to be graced once more with his presence.


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’


The Doña Quixote of the 65th Legislative Assembly

don-quijote-de-la-mancha-1024x678There is a knight errant who stalks the halls of the 65th Legislative Assembly wielding a handful of bills that legislative pundits have labeled dead on arrival.  Four of her bills have already been tabled in committee lending credence to the claims made by the doubters of Representative Mary Ann Dunwell (HD 84).  In the vaunted chambers of the “Peoples’ House,” it does not take long to get the impression that Representative Dunwell is the Doña Quixote of the legislature tilting at windmills others give a wide birth: HB 215 revise oil and gas tax laws – tabled in committee; HB 169 raise the minimum wage in Montana – tabled in committee; HB 275 expanded safety standards for workplace health and safety for public employees – tabled in committee; HB 210 revise liquor laws clarifying distance requirements with respect to schools – tabled in committee.  And then there were two.

Doña Quixote has not given up on her last two bills. HB 309 revises housing laws for disabled and criminally convicted individuals.  Doesn’t sound like a real barn burner for the Republican majority but I’m sure the left of left, you know those who helped shut down the Montana Development Center in Boulder last session, love it and it does sound noble.  But let’s be honest it is the proverbial snowball pitched into the realm of the original Great Satan.  And then there was one.

don-quixoteHB 341 has all the earmarks of a special interest bill considering the Doña Dunwell is a state employee.  As such, revising the travel expenses and per diem for state employees seems somewhat self-serving, but let’s peel that back a bit like an onion.  The current rate for in-state and out-of-state travel were set by HB 74 carried by Representative Gay Ann Masolo in 1997. 1997!   Five bucks for breakfast six for lunch and twelve for dinner and if you go beyond the borders of Montana hang onto your hat…eleven for breakfast twelve for lunch and a whopping twenty-three for dinner.  BRING ON THE FEAST!  Are your eyes watering yet?  And then there were none.

Let’s not be too hasty about brushing aside our Doña Quixote. Representative Dunwell might seem a bit naïve bringing bills of this stripe to the legislature especially when her party is the minority, but neither does she deserve derision from those in both parties, but what is particularly galling is snickering from the House of Labor who seemed to have forgotten what it’s like to rise up “in dubious battle.”  Oh don’t get me wrong they haven’t lost the ability to act the martyr but over the last four decades they have forgotten that martyrs suffer in their dying for the cause.  I can already hear the howls from The Gibraltar, “get thee behind me you collective bargaining denier!”   In the meantime, Representative Dunwell, Doña Quixote, fights the fight against incredible odds, aware or not, that the jaded on both sides of the aisle silently curse themselves for their lack of courage in dubious battle.

T-Bone Slim – “Wherever you find injustice, the proper form of politeness is attack.”