What Did He Know and When Did He Know It?

Two of the most compelling political battles of the 2019 Montana Legislature have intersected and never the twain shall separate.

In another solid piece of journalism, Leia Larsen of the Montana Free Press continues the coverage that founder John Adams began years ago about the absurd intraparty political battles of the Cascade County Republican Party and the purges they routinely attempt against Republicans who don’t rely on Matt Monforton’s opinion when deciding how to vote. (Gallatin County has fully purged their County GOP party of any rational Republicans.)

Steve Fitzpatrick and Fred Anderson, amongst others, are the target of their ire this session which led to former Kalispell police chief, Republican Frank Garner introducing a bill to fight back against the vindictive Stalinistic purges of the modern Montana Republican party. The party that has lost its way with jingoism, nationalism, ties to white supremacy and electing a racist to the White House.

The Montana Free Press described the bill:

Certain county central committees have become hotbeds for an ideological power struggle among Montana’s Republicans. Great Falls has emerged as ground zero in the fight. Within the Cascade County Central Committee, a group of moderate Republicans has long butted heads with a faction prioritizing loyalty to the party platform. House Bill 318 attempts to address issues springing from that fray, including secret rules, unapproved proxies, and stacking vacant seats with people loyal to committee leadership.

Rep. Frank Garner, R-Kalispell, is carrying the bill. He summarized its benefits Wednesday before the House State Administration Committee.

“It’s a bill, to be clear, to prevent the fraudulent use of the vote of officials that are specifically identified in the Montana code, and one that intends to clearly set expectations for processes in our political central committees,” Garner said.

Fred Anderson is embroiled in his own scandal, that has been widely and well covered from the Billings Gazette (here and here) and here, by Anne Helen Peterson, of Buzzfeed. (Though I wish Ms. Peterson’s article about millennials would have not sparked the characterization that millennials are the #burnoutgeneration, though most of us just might be it still stings as a nickname we don’t deserve.)

Anyway, Fred Anderson was principal of Custer County District High School in Miles City from 1998-2002 and during that time athletic trainer James Eric Jensen:

Ex-Miles City athletic trainer accused of abusing as many as 100 boys

Jensen faces federal charges related to the abuse and state charges for possessing child pornography. He admitted some of the abuse to the Gazette and made more sweeping admissions in documents filed in federal court in an effort to plead guilty. (via Billings Gazette)

The problem for Fred Anderson are two-fold here, first what he knew and when he knew it matters greatly to the determination of how much of the guilt Custer County District High School in Miles City bare and secondly, much less important to real humans and much more important to the political horserace class, how does this affect him politically and ultimately should he resign his seat in the Montana legislature?

There you have it, Fred Anderson, what did he know and when did he know it?

Political brawl among Republicans raises accusations around Miles City sex abuse lawsuit

Anderson told the Great Falls Tribune the district first heard the misconduct allegations in 1998 and that the superintendent subsequently let Jensen go.

A 1998 memo from four administrators, including Anderson, shows that the school “was informed by at least three individuals of situations involving male student-athletes of CCDHS and yourself which would violate the spirit and intent of policies and administrative directives concerning staff/student interactions.”

The memo gave Jensen specific directives: That his athletic training activities be directly supervised by a coach; that he not work with students one-on-one; that he not give “body rub downs” to students without a third person present; that student-athletes not be invited to his house, generally or to stay overnight, without another adult present; and that he stop any “Mentoring Programs” with student-athletes.

Lawyers for the Custer County District High School have said the complaints cited in the memo were vague in nature and that administrators had no clue as to the scope of Jensen’s abuse.

Lawyers for the alleged victims said the memo’s directives are “indicative of abuse of children, particularly when they are read together,” and questioned whether the district would have terminated Jensen’s employment for vague concerns.

How much administrators knew about Jensen’s abuse is central to the suit, given Montana’s mandatory reporting laws.

Montana law requires all school employees who suspect abuse to report it to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services. Anderson told the Tribune he doesn’t know what happened after he told the superintendent.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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Nathan Kosted

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  • I take issue with your comment that “Gallatin County has fully purged their County GOP party of any rational Republicans”. I consider Walt Sales and Bruce Grubbs, both Gallatin County Republican legislators, to be rational Republicans.

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