June 5 Montana News Briefs

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Judge to take up veto dispute between Bullock, Stapleton

HELENA (AP) — A Montana judge will hear arguments in a dispute between Gov. Steve Bullock and Secretary of State Corey Stapleton on whether Bullock’s veto of a bison bill was valid. District Judge Mike McMahon will take up the case on Wednesday, five days after another judge issued a temporary restraining order preventing Stapleton from starting the process of codifying the bill into state law. Stapleton, a Republican, is running for governor in next year’s election, while Bullock is a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. On April 29, Bullock vetoed the measure passed by the Republican-led Legislature that would change the definition of wild bison. He says Yellowstone National Park bison could be considered domestic animals under the bill. Stapleton argues the veto is not valid because it wasn’t physically delivered to his office within 10 days.

Exxon Mobil to pay $1M to settle oil spill in Montana river

HELENA (AP) — A judge has approved an agreement for Exxon Mobil Corp. to pay $1.05 million to settle federal pollution violations over a 2011 pipeline break that sent oil into Montana’s Yellowstone River. U.S. District Judge Susan Watters accepted the deal Monday. It resolves the last outstanding federal enforcement case against Exxon after 63,000 gallons (238,474 liters) of crude oil spilled into the river downstream from Yellowstone National Park. Flooding in 2011 scoured the river bottom and exposed the buried pipeline, causing it to break along a stretch of river popular with anglers and boaters. Exxon previously paid $12 million over natural resource damage and $2.6 million for pipeline safety and state pollution violations. The Irving, Texas-based company also spent an estimated $135 million on a monthslong cleanup and repairs.

Billings schools settle athlete suspension lawsuit for $25K

BILLINGS (AP) — The Billings school board has approved a $25,000 settlement in the case of a student who alleged racial discrimination in being suspended from the basketball team for attending a party where underage students were drinking alcohol. The Billings Gazette reports the multiracial West High student was suspended for five games in January 2017. The federal complaint alleged other nonminority athletes were at the party, but were not suspended. Under school policy, a student who enters a function and recognizes illegal activity is taking place can leave without being penalized. School officials said an investigation determined the student spent “an appreciable length of time” at the party and did not notify his coach, as required under school policy. District officials said other students who violated the code of conduct were suspended. The payment is covered by the school district’s insurance.

4 Belgrade students face felony charges for school threat

BELGRADE (AP) — Four Belgrade School District students face felony intimidation charges after a video posted on social media showed one student pointing a gun at the camera as the names of students scrolled by on the screen. The schools in the town just northwest of Bozeman were put on shelter-in-place Tuesday afternoon while the boy and three girls were taken into custody. Belgrade police say a man also faces a charge of tampering with evidence. Police Chief E. J. Clark says the video was made off campus and no guns were found at the school. He didn’t release any further information about the suspects because the case is still being investigated. Belgrade Superintendent Godfrey Saunders says the middle school graduation was rescheduled from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday morning.

Former Billings court clerk pleads guilty to embezzlement

BILLINGS (AP) — A former municipal court clerk in Billings has acknowledged stealing thousands of dollars from the city. The Billings Gazette reports 55-year-old Carolyn Meyer Bishop pleaded guilty Tuesday to theft by embezzlement and is scheduled to be sentenced in July. Investigators say she took more than $10,000 from defendants paying fines to the court between April 2016 and March 2017. In each case, Bishop entered the payment into the clerk’s record keeping system but went back later and voided it. She then closed many of the cases. A plea deal calls for five years of probation, $10,806 in restitution, a principles course and an apology letter to the city and to the court administrator, whose login Bishop used to void payments.

Montana officials say remains of missing Spokane man found

KALISPELL (AP) — Human remains found in northwestern Montana have been identified as those of a Spokane, Washington man who was last seen two years ago. Flathead County officials say a resident found suspected human remains in April north of Kalispell, near the spot where 26-year-old Corey Michael Flannigan’s crashed car was found on May 4, 2017. Officials had searched for Flannigan near the crash site. Sheriff Brian Heino said Tuesday that Flannigan’s remains were found in the woods north of the crashed vehicle and outside the initial search area. The investigation into Flannigan’s death continues.