Comment on Bozeman Chronicle Article

We were just alerted to the following comment that was posted on the Bozeman Daily Chronicle website in reaction to their article about the finding against the Board of Trustees by the Commissioner for Political Practices and the new interim fire chief at the department:

To Mike Conn, Peggy Foster and Colleen “you’ll rot in hell” Carnine, it must seem longer, but it’s been BARELY 18 months since this cozy crew drove away Chief Astrom and 17 other experienced volunteer fire fighters. Now we find out that the newly appointed Chief’s wife, Phyllis Mather, was involved in the illegal activity that enabled Foster and Carnine to retain their seats on the Board! Peggy Foster claims it’s unfair for her to be held responsible for her illegal activities, but what about the unfairness to District residents and visitors who no longer have the protection of competent volunteer firefighters? Carnine held on to her seat by a handful of votes. Mike Conn was recalled, but he still seems to be pulling the strings. Is there nobody who can convince Conn, Foster and Carnine that it is time for them to move over and let someone who can make peace with the firefighters to take over?

(Note the “you’ll rot in hell” nickname for Carnine is a reference to a comment she purportedly made to a supporter of her recall that was reported in a sworn affidavit.)

You can read the full Chronicle report here.


Violations of the Montana Campaign Practice Act by Two Board Members and Their Supporters

In a decision rendered yesterday by the Commissioner of Political Practices of the State of Montana, BCFD Trustees Jane Lerner and Peggy Foster as well as a group of Trustee supporters led by Dawn Poindexter and DeeDee Rasmus, in their attempts to stop the Trustees from being recalled and to elect Foster and Lerner as Trustees, were found to have violated state campaign laws. The complete (and very long) report can be found here. Following the Commissioner’s investigation, according to the report, the findings were:

Sufficiency Finding No. 1. The Commissioner determines, at FOF No.9, that sufficient facts exist to show that Jane Lerner and Peggy Foster failed to attribute their campaign communication as required by §13-35-225 MCA.

 Sufficiency Finding No. 2.  The Commissioner determines, at FOF No. 6, that sufficient facts exist to show that the group identified in FOF No. 4, including its leaders, Dawn Poindexter and DeeDee Rasmus, failed to attribute its/ their campaign communication as required by §13-35-225 MCA.

Based on the findings, the matter is being referred to Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert who has 30 days to prosecute if he desires. Should he fail to act on the matter within 30 days, it will be returned to the Commissioner for possible prosecution in District Court. The report notes that such findings do not necessarily lead to civil or criminal prosecution as the Commissioner has discretion to, for example, resolve the issue by payment of a negotiated fine.


Special Board Meeting: Reports and Reactions

Here are some snippets from recent reports and comments people have made about the board and fire department. Most of them pertain to today’s special board meeting, but a few are more general comments.

  • The board has collected names of those interested/willing to be considered for interim chief. It was previously reported that John Gilleen would be one of them but the list contained only two candidates: Ted Mather and Mike Conn.
  • The board asked firefighters for their opinions about the candidates. (Not sure when their input was actually requested.) The firefighter responses were kept anonymous and the content was not reported to the public in order that the firefighters feel they could be candid about their opinions. It is refreshing to hear that the board actually thought it was a good idea to get firefighter input. One reason the group of former BCFD firefighters resigned in mass was because when they brought their concerns to the board meetings, they were told they shouldn’t be there and that they were to go through chain of command and were otherwise made to feel their concerns were of little importance. This new attitude on the part of the board is a big step forward.
  • The board met in a closed session to meet with the two candidates; when they returned Peggy Foster made a motion to appoint Ted Mather as interim chief, stating that at this point they needed someone with both management and leadership qualities to fill this role. It wasn’t very clear, but it appeared all voted for Mather, except Colleen Carnine who opposed. The choice of Mather for interim chief is a great relief to Safety Coalition supporters as folks felt that to appoint Conn would have been a big step back to the difficult times that led to his being recalled from the Board by the voters.
  • Gary Andrews resigned as a firefighter about a month ago. He apparently made a comment about it not being right for someone to be  both be a firefighter and a board member. Denny Guentzel had apparently resigned as a firefighter quite some time ago.
  • With Andrews and Guentzel  off the department, Dave McKee’s departure from both the board and apparently the fire department as well,  and Mike Conn’s recall from the board, there are currently no firefighters on the board. This is great news to the ex-firefighters and their supporters, as they had been asking for that change from the beginning of the recent problems and it’s continuation exacerbated the situation considerably. It would still be nice to see that policy implemented into the Department’s by-laws (as requested by the previous firefighters several month’s prior to their resignation) so that the situation could not happen again.
  • Several Safety Coalition supporters who have attended recent Board meetings have been pleasantly surprised that the atmosphere of the meetings has greatly improved since Jane Lerner took over as Board chair. All reports about her performance have been almost glowingly positive.



Special Board Meeting Tomorrow Morning at 9:00 a.m. (Friday)!!

Bridger Canyon Rural Fire District
Special Meeting of the Board of Trustees
Meeting Date: Friday, October 24, 9 am
Meeting Place: Bridger Canyon Fire Dept., Community Room
Call to Order
Approval of Agenda
Public comment will be taken on each Agenda item prior to motion, discussion and action by
the Board
Discussion of additional information regarding potential Interim Chiefs and Appointment of
Interim Chief
Procedure for selecting a Chief
Fire Chief Job Description
Update on guidelines for equipment requested by Medical Officers
Public comment on issues not on agenda, but within the jurisdiction of the Board (3 minute

BCFD Fire Chief Resigns

According to someone who was present at the BCFD Board of Trustees meeting last night, Fire Chief Perry Shane resigned. The reasons given for his resignation revolved around “family matters”. It was also reported to me that at a previous Board meeting (either in June or July) Shane had indicated continual difficulty in performing proper radio communication at emergency scenes.

On August 5th, the Board held a special closed meeting to evaluate the Chief. The only information about the results of the evaluation that was reported in the meeting minutes was that there was to be another evaluation in three months. I believe that previously his evaluations had been scheduled for six month periods, if not longer.

Note: While I believe this information is factual, much of it is based on second hand reports and has not been independently verified. Anyone with additional information to support or contradict what is reported here is encouraged to send an email to I am identifying myself as the author of this post because it was not the collaboration of various Safety Coalition members has all previous posts on this blog have been. It is being posted on the Coalition blog because I believe it might be of interest to members.

Larry Blackwood

Bridger Canyon Fire Board Chairman Officially Recalled

Recount confirms recall of Bridger Canyon Fire District chairman

Posted: Friday, May 16, 2014 11:25 am

The Bridger Canyon Rural Fire District board chairman has been officially recalled after a recount of ballots from the May 6 election.

The recount, conducted by Gallatin County Commissioners on Friday morning, confirmed Mike Conn was recalled 195-194.

“I’m not terribly surprised,” Conn said. “It is what it is. We’ll go from there.”

According to the fire district’s bylaws, the County Commission will appoint Conn’s replacement, who will sit until the next regularly scheduled election. Trustees are elected to three-year terms.

Eight supporters of Conn were at the hour-long recount, which took place in the county courthouse in Bozeman. One person from the opposition attended.

Conn said he would continue to serve as the volunteer fire department’s training officer.

“I’ll stay on at the pleasure of the chief. It’s up to him,” Conn said after the recount.

Voters in the May 6 election decided the fates for each of the board’s five trustees individually. Conn was the only board member to be recalled.

Trustees Colleen Carnine (189 votes for recall, 198 against), Margaret Foster (165 for, 205 against), Dennis Guentzel (149 for, 219 against) and Dave McKee (169 for, 216 against) kept their seats.

During a canvass of the election, the Gallatin County Commission unanimously agreed to recount Conn’s recall because of the one vote margin. After a quiet hour of counting and recounting ballots in the county courthouse, the commission voted unanimously again – this time to accept the results of the recount.

For more than a year, a group of Bridger Canyon residents known as the Bridger Canyon Fire District Safety Coalition campaigned to remove the entire board, alleging violations of the public’s trust and Montana’s open meetings law.

“I’m glad to see that it worked out exactly the same way it was originally counted,” said John Maloney, the coalition’s representative at the recount. Maloney has applied to replace Conn.

“As far as I know the coalition is supporting me, but it is up to the county commissioners to decide,” Maloney said.