Ravalli GOP Chair Has Four Jobs…And An Unpleasant Smell Emanates from Them All

I encourage everyone to take a look at an article in the Bitterroot Star recently by Michael Howell, about Terry Nelson [pdf].

Ravalli GOP Chair Terry Nelson Nancy BallanceIt reveals that Nelson is not only the Ravalli county GOP chairman, but is also a county government employee of great significance: He is County Planner, overseeing matters of land use, zoning and the like.  And wouldn’t you know it, he has a third job: as a licensed surveyor, which means he makes money charging property owners to make precise measurements of their holdings.

Lately he is under fire because he was caught “rounding up” some of his calculations, rounding the size of a property that he surveyed for an owner, from 19.83 acres to 20 acres, before bringing the paperwork to the county office so that the property could be recorded.    The county recorder refused to accept the filing.   Why?  Because at 20 acres, the property is taxed at a lower rate.  Thus do Montanans, and especially those who live in the Bitterroot, find our coffers slightly less full when a surveyor says a property is 20 acres, rather than 19 and change.   The unpaid tax amount goes into the property owner’s pocket, with Nelson profiting indirectly (at a minimum).  And this doesn’t factor in irregular circumstance that Nelson effectively regulates aspects of his own profession.  Nelson claims the rounding move is legal.  Based on the Star article, that seems to be a murky assertion at best. The Department of Revenue has a different opinion, as does the woman who is in charge of property filings in Ravalli, and told Nelson to go sharpen his pencil and try again.

Terry Nelson

Terry Nelson

Nelson and people like him are a classic breed that decries “too much regulation,” “lower taxes,” and “less spending,” all with the caveat that none of these creeds should get in the way of an opportunity to suck off the government nipple, and take a government job for the purpose of marketing your own private sector business.

Previously Nelson has teamed up with embattled GOP County Commissioner Suzy Foss to found a group called Voters Opportunity to Educate (VOTE), to gin up local support for the takeover of public lands by invoking the classic anti-government belief in “county supremacy.” The group is now defunct. Previously, it was Foss who made the local Republican Party Chair the head of the county planning board.  Nelson was appointed quietly in a meeting that didn’t follow public notice laws.

And Nelson has one more job I haven’t mentioned: he is the strawman who is running against Greg Gianforte in the GOP primary so that Gianforte can raise twice the campaign contributions.  Having a strawman is not a strategy that is specific to Republicans. Many races have them.  But one could assume that Nelson has a relationship with Gianforte and/or his people–a crowd that is a bit secretive and refuses to answer questions basic about who they are, who they associate with, and what they believe.  They should be known by the company they keep.


10 Comments on "Ravalli GOP Chair Has Four Jobs…And An Unpleasant Smell Emanates from Them All"

  1. Damn.. where was he when I needed my 19.86 acres in Gallatin County “rounded up”. For a decade, the county treated our property like it WAS 20 acres and then 15 years ago they tightened up and we’ve been paying the higher rate ever since.

  2. It’s coffers, not coiffeurs.

  3. Church connected ?

  4. No wonder Montana Oh My gets such strange looks.

  5. This is my first entry into the Cowgirl blog but I feel compelled.
    Here is the rest of the story – Terry Nelson signed an “employment agreement” that stipulated he would not engage in any activity that conflicted with his role as Ravalli County Planning Department Administrator. He is not a planner and does not have the credential as a planner. That is why he is the Ravalli County Planning Department Administrator. A surveyor is not a qualified planner.
    This gets more interesting. Terry Nelson’s running mate is Nikki Sardot. Not withstanding the gambit of allowing Gianforte to raise more money by having a challenge in the primary. Nikki Sardot and her husband, Aldo, were the subject of a lawsuit that my wife and I filed over a violation of Montana’s open meeting law. The Sardots live in Missoula County but the road leading up to their Red Feather Ranch starts in Ravalli County. Ravalli County paid $200,000 dollars to pave their road and provided culverts and other improvements. The District Court allowed the costs and dismissed the case “with prejudice”, meaning do not come back. The Sardot’s appealed to the Ravalli County Attorney, Bill ”HalfBright” Fulbright, to reopen the case and asked for an addition $50,000 to do additional improvements. All this was done in a closed door meeting with the Ravalli County Commissioners. My wife and I filed suit as part of Ravalli County Watchdog. We won and recovered our court cost. Dave Ohnstad, the Ravalli County Road Supervisor lost his job over the issue, he sued the County, won his case and the taxpayers are paying $125,000 as a result.
    Terry Nelson is also the subject of a complaint that his property is out of compliance with not having a legal wastewater disposal system in compliance with county regulations.
    These people are the most pathetic example of outright corruption in Ravalli County Politics.

    • Art Wittich's Hot Tub Time Machine | April 19, 2016 11:42 AM at 11:42 AM |

      At least you’re not up in Sanders County dealing with the Fielders and Tommy “Gun” Rummel. Same crap, different county.

  6. A bit of background!
    The locally published weekly Bitterroot Star
    has twice the sworn net circulation, per issue, of the 5 days a week issued Ravalli Republic
    (which is imo >2/3 published in Missoula County).
    Montana Law requires that County Commissioners award an annual newspaper contract
    to a newspaper published in the County of the Commissioners.

    The Ravalli Republic and the Missoulian are published by The Missoula Group, of Lee Inc, of Davenport Iowa. That is Lee Inc. as modified in 2011 by Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in Delaware, and the Warren Buffet loan later revealed to be a buy-in.

    The practise of most County Commissioners,
    and usually of Ravalli County Commissioners,
    is to award a Contract to the best product/service for the best price.

    Although the Ravalli Republic bid an annual rate way over twice as much as the Bitterroot Star bid rate, the all Republican, Ravalli County Commissioners voted 5-0 to Award the 2016 newspaper classified and display Ad contract to the high bidder with half the sworn net circulation.Then call that newspaper:”Their paper of record!”
    So what to with a budget for County notices during this Election season?
    Shrink them to less than half size display ads in one issue of the small circulation newspaper?
    Please read in the current Bitterroot Star, the short, gently powerful LTE by long time Republican Dave Hurtt, inferring who, favorite of which central group, started the closed primary momentum and lawsuit. A lawsuit not only foolish, but especially a waste of party resource$.


    • Ravalli County commissioners hate honesty in JOurnalism… and the mighty Bitteroot star Newspaper had uncovered many a nefarious goings on by these Goofy republican commissioners they had to correct.

      So they again used the county residents tax money to spend much more than was necessary, on an outside paper they thought they could control the message on.

      Sad! I would want to believe the average montana republican, somewhat moderate and with reason, would want to dump the lot of those fools as commisioners who have mismanaged the population’s money. HOpefully they will this next election for better people, other than Tea Party blowhards, who can’t count!

  7. I sure wish more Montanans would take Thom Hartmann’s advice and get more involved in local politics. Last election had several Republicans running unopposed and I honestly cannot think of more than two counties with ZERO Democrats and I think Independents outnumber both Parties in most of the state. Surely even the GOP can come up with better choices than they have lately? On the other hand maybe that’s WHY there are more Independents all the time. I’ve been too embarrassed to call myself a member of either Party for a long time.

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