GRANITE COUNTY - With formal charges now field against Granite County Commissioner Scott Adler, and his entering a plea of 'Not Guilty' to both counts, a deeper understanding of what went on and why the case is being prosecuted is now available.
The Montana Attorney General's Office filed misdemeanor charges of Official Misconduct and Theft by Embezzlement against Adler February 15, 2018. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of $500.
The Official Misconduct charge also carries a maximum jail sentence of six months. A public servant who has been charged with Official Misconduct may be suspended from office without pay pending final judgment. If convicted, Adler would have to permanently forfeit his office.
Adler made his initial appearance in court February 15, 2018, entering a plea of 'Not Guilty' to both charges.
Along with the charges that were filed against Adler, the Montana Attorney General's Office also released the affidavit Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Varns. Varns employed the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) agent Jeff Vittatoe to investigate the claims made against Adler.
During Vittatoe's initial interview with Adler, Adler once again depicted the incidents of September 6-7, 2018 has he has before. But after that facts differ with other witnesses that Vittatoe interviewed and statements that Adler made both to QSPNLive and in the October 3, 2017 Granite County Commissioner's Meeting.
The Attorney General's Affidavit for the charges that have been filed against Adler can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.
Excerpts from Vittatoe's investigation follow in each section.
Granite County Vehicles
Two county dump trucks were used to haul the millings to Adler’s residence. A county roller, a grader, a water truck and the milling mulcher were used to actually apply the asphalt to Adler’s personal driveway. ~ Vittatoe's Investigation
Vittatoe's investigation confirmed six total vehicles. However, when Adler spoke to QSPNLive and during the October 3, 2017 Granite County Commissioner's meeting, that number fluctuated greatly. In his initial interview with QSPNLive Adler stated there was one county vehicle on the project. October 3,2017 he stated listed off six vehicles that included a tractor, mulcher, water truck, blade (grader), roller and a bulldozer. He made no mention of the two belly (dump) trucks or a tractor.
Furthermore, since the belly trucks need to be filled with the millings to transport them to Adler's residence, a loader was likely employed at the state yard where the millings were kept to put materials into the trucks. That would bring the total number of vehicles involved in the project to nine.
Road Supervisor Paul Alt stated that it was his understanding that the commissioners had agreed to test the grinder and millings on Adler’s driveway. ~ Vittatoe's Investigation
Vittatoe's investigation has two witnesses that clearly conflict with this claim made by Adler and Alt.
According to Kyle Greany, a road department employee, some of the millings had already been applied in three separate areas and were holding up well. ~ Vittatoe's Investigation
Prior Road Supervisor, Mark Teague, stated that all the millings available to the county had previously been used on road surfaces and there was no need for further testing of the millings. He stated he had used the mulcher on the very millings in question and had applied the millings to county roadways successfully. ~ Vittatoe's Investigation
During the October 3, 2017 Granite County Commissioner's Meeting, resident Lawrence Nelson confronted Commissioners Adler and Bill Slaughter on why testing was needed on the millings. When Slaughter stated that a different pile of millings was used, Nelson responded with, "Bill, I watched your loader run it (millings on the north end) through a grizzly and run it up to Maxville. ... I guess I just don't understand why you needed to do a test when it had already been used."
Nelson's statement is the third that supports that the supposed testing was not needed and apparently an excuse for using the materials at Adler's home.
Granite County Commissioner Approval
(Adler) claimed that all three commissioners had agreed on testing the mulcher at his property. He also stated that Mike Kahoe, the Granite County Administrator was also present during the conversation and was taking notes. This is denied by Kahoe who denies hearing any discussion regarding the testing of the millings. ~ Vittatoe's Investigation
When reviewing all of the Granite County Commissioner meetings minutes from May through September 2017, there are no agenda items or meeting minutes that record any discussion of testing millings by any of the commissioners or in any public comment.
During QSPNLive's breaking coverage of the incident in late September 2017, both Slaughter and Adler stated that a discussion outside of a formal meeting - but that was held while thjeir weekly meeting was in session - to try and figure out how and where to "test" the new millings mulcher. Neither mentioned Commissioner Bart Bonney as being part of the discussion, with Adler indicating that Bonney and Granite County Blaine Bradshaw were at the other end of the table discussing another matter.
Bonney flatly denied having any knowledge of the supposed millings test until three days after it been completed.
Bart Bonney, stated he did not know anything about the testing on Adler’s driveway until September 9, 2017 when he was approached by numerous citizens who expressed concern about what had happened at the Adler property. He acknowledged that there had been a discussion about testing the mulcher and millings, but not about the location of the testing. He would never have approved applying the millings to Adler’s personal property. ~ Vittatoe's Investigation
The non-agenda, non-recorded meeting between Adler and Slaughter, where they discussed Granite County business, also appears to be in violation of the Montana Open Meeting Laws, where a meeting is defined as "...the convening of a quorum of the constituent membership of a public agency or association described in 2-3-203, whether corporal or by means of electronic equipment, to hear, discuss, or act upon a matter over which the agency has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power." (MCA 2-3-202)
Estimate For Work Done
Another area of concern for residents was the estimate which Adler presented at the October 3, 2017 meeting for the value of work done at his home.
Adler presented two estimates, acknowledging that he had paid the larger of the two that came from Shadow Asphalt in Missoula, Montana. The amount of the estimate was $1,450 and drew disapproving groans from the crowd of residents gathered at the meeting.
QSPNLive interviewed the owner of Shadow Asphalt Jeremy Ogilvie, who stated that his estimate was based on dimensions provided by Matt Piippo, a friend of Adler's who had requested the quote on Adler's behalf. Ogilvie stated that he had never actually been to the property in the preparation of his estimate for the work that would have had to be done and solely used the dimensions provided him by Piippo.
The estimate was $1,450 ... Agent Vittatoe compared the description of the work on the estimate to the amount of work that had actually been performed on Adler’s property. The amount of work listed on the estimate was greatly understated. Agent Vittatoe measured the driveway and compared the dimensions with the amount listed on the estimate, which was less than one-half the actual measurements of the driveway. ~ Vittatoe's Investigation
Images taken by QSPNLive when initially reporting the story show Adler's driveway being paved from the I-90 frontage road all the way to the garages on the back of Adler's driveway. When estimating this distance using Google Maps, the entire area covered is more than 300 feet in length.
An omnibus hearing on the charges facing Adler is now set for March 15, 2018 at 10 a.m. in the District 3 Court in Philipsburg. A trial date should be set at that hearing.
NOTE - This story originally ran on QSPNLive.com Feb. 18, 2018.