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Missoula County judge under fire after report ordered by administrators

Posted at 3:58 PM, Jul 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-19 18:06:00-04

MISSOULA – A report into the day-to-day operations of Judge Marie Andersen and the court she presides over, Missoula County Justice Court 1, has uncovered some concerning details about the department.

The report was put together by an outside firm and was requested by county administrators after they noticed an alarming turnover rate in the department.

“The hard part about high turnover is it really doesn’t serve the public the best, and when you look at a department, especially like justice court or clerk and recorder, treasures or any of those departments which are really public facings,” said Missoula County COO Chris Lounsbury. “They see the public every day, kind of all day long. It’s important that they have staff that’s able to address the needs of the public as best they can.”

The report says that employees working in Justice Court 1 received little to no job specific training, were expected to perform at an unfairly high standard, not allowed to ask for help and were subjected to menial tasks outside their job description, such caring for Anderson’s pets.

Other issues included Anderson being frequently absent and potential privacy violations.

Missoula County has reviewed the report and will begin drafting a letter outlining what Anderson will need to do to create a better-functioning department.

“So the next thing is the commissioners are in the process of drafting a letter that will go to Judge Anderson outlining what they believe are the steps that they need to take,” Lounsbury said. “The way it works is Judge Anderson is an elected official but the commissioners have the responsibility to the staff that’s over there so they will be drafting a letter that kind of seeks to address those main issues related to training and oversight to make sure that the staff has the support they need to help her fulfill her role as an elected official.”

The county believes that while the report might have shed some light on some unnerving court processes, it is all a part of local government’s goal to provide the best services possible.

“While it’s one government, it is broken up among nine different elected officials and they all have their roles and responsibilities that they do and I think for folks to just recognize that we are attempting to provide them the best service we can, no matter where they go in the county,” Lounsbury said. “Whether it’s the clerk and recorder or its the clerk of district courts, the health department. We are kind of we run the depth and the commission takes the concerns that they hear from the staff and the public very seriously.”

Reporting by Connor McCauley for MTN News