Oct. 16 Montana News Briefs

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Daines reports raising $1.1M for re-election campaign

HELENA (AP) — Republican Steve Daines is reporting that he raised $1.1 million over the last three months as he seeks a second term as Montana’s junior U.S. senator. Two Democrats competing for their party’s nomination and the chance to take Daines on in next year’s general election each reported raising just a fraction of the incumbent’s haul. Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins reported raising $84,450 between July and September, while political newcomer John Mues reports taking in $82,989 for the quarter and loaning his campaign another $18,400. In the race for Montana’s open U.S. House seat, State Auditor Matt Rosendale led the Republican field in fundraising with nearly $452,000 for the quarter. Among the Democratic candidates, former state legislator Kathleen Williams raised the most with $380,000 over the three-month period.

Ex-tribal chairman agrees to plead guilty to wire fraud

GREAT FALLS (AP) — A former Blackfeet tribal chairman has made a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to reduced charges connected to allegations that he stole from the Montana tribe’s Head Start program. The plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday says Willie Sharp has agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud and to pay restitution. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris scheduled a hearing for Nov. 6. Prosecutors accuse Sharp of illegally approving more than $232,000 in overtime pay for himself, his wife and others in 2014. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Federal prosecutors agreed to recommend a lighter sentence because he’s accepting responsibility. Prosecutors also dropped the charge of theft from a tribal government receiving federal funding as part of the deal.

Missoula couple plans $100M civic events project

MISSOULA (AP) — Montana business owners have announced plans for a $100 million commercial development including a hotel, a civic event center and two restaurants. Nick and Robin Checota have worked with the city of Missoula on an agreement for a parcel at the downtown Riverfront Triangle near the Clark Fork River. Nick Checota says the goal is to finalize investors and contractors and begin construction by summer 2020. Checota says the 10-story hotel and 6,000-capacity civic event center could set the tone for further development on the riverfront. The couple says the center would be able to accommodate traveling Broadway plays, TED Talks and weddings. Missoula City Council is scheduled to discuss the proposal on Oct. 16. The Checotas also own the Top Hat, the Kettlehouse Amphitheater and the Wilma Theater.

Priest removed for inappropriate contact with woman

MISSOULA (AP) — A Missoula priest has been removed from his parish after acknowledging he had inappropriate contact with a woman. The Missoulian reported Tuesday the Rev. Rich Perry was relocated to the Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, California, a retirement community for church leaders accused of misconduct. The Rev. Joseph Carver, the pastor at St. Francis Xavier Parish, said the woman came forward on Oct. 2, Perry was confronted the same day and was relocated to California on Oct. 7. Perry is a former pastor of the church and has been an associate pastor in recent years. Carver says the allegations have not been reported to police because it wasn’t illegal contact. Church officials say none of the allegations involve minors. Perry did not respond to emails from the Missoulian seeking comment.

A Billings man drowned in the Yellowstone River

BILLINGS (AP) — Yellowstone County officials say a Billings man drowned in the Yellowstone River over the weekend. Deputy Coroner Richard Hoffman says 67-year-old James Karls died Sunday. He had been fishing with a child. The Billings Fire Department and Yellowstone County deputies responded to a report of an unconscious man in the water at about 8:15 a.m. Sunday. Efforts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.

Montana city pays $23K for tree damage caused by heavy snow

GREAT FALLS (AP) — Heavy snow in Montana has cost a city tens of thousands of dollars in cleanup work after widespread tree damage. Great Falls Tribune reported Monday that a recordsetting September snowstorm brought more than 19 inches of snow to Great Falls causing trees to bend and break. City officials say the 16-day cleanup effort cost more than $23,000 after eight forestry workers accumulated 130 hours in overtime on top of 557 regular hours. Foresters say that doesn’t include hours and costs of Park and Recreation Division workers who cleaned up trees in city parks and a city-hired contractor who worked 13.5 hours. Foresters say cleanup of downed branches and the trimming of damaged limbs are expected to wrap up Monday, the same day foresters are scheduled to begin leaf pickup.