County approves Board of Health request for more legal funds

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The Board of Health had requested $7,000 for the remainder of the fiscal year in a letter dated Feb. 14, stating that its $10,000 budget for legal fees had already been exhausted.

The services of Jinnifer Mariman, the special deputy county attorney who represents the Board of Health, have been used more than anticipated due primarily “to EPA funding/complexities, investigation and inquiries,” according to the board’s request.

Much of that activity has surrounded issues with the Cooperative Agreement between the Environmental Protection Agency and Lincoln County, an agreement that supports the administrative and educational activities of the Libby Asbestos Resource Program.

The EPA has been investigating the apparent improper disbursement of grant funds to former special deputy county attorney R. Allen Payne and his legal firm, Doney Crowley Bloomquist Payne UDA.

The renewal of the agreement, in place since April 2012, was also delayed for months in 2017.

While discussing the request at Wednesday’s County Commission meeting, Commissioner Mark Peck noted that changes in the County Attorney’s Office since Mariman’s appointment in May 2017 meant that more legal resources could be made available to the Board of Health when needed.

The appointment of Mariman, of Kalispell firm Moore, Cockrell, Goicoechea and Johnson, resulted from a busy Lincoln County Attorney’s Office having “neither the time nor expertise required to devote to the complex issues involved with the Board of Health,” according to the resolution that instated her.

The resolution also stated Payne’s resignation was a contributing factor.

Since then, Peck said Wednesday, the county’s addition of Deputy County Attorney Josh Nemeth and his experience with civil matters meant “he could be more engaged” than his predecessor with the Board of Health “to help drive future costs down a little bit.”

Peck noted, however, that Nemeth believed it was still important to retain Mariman’s services, which Board of Health Chair Jan Ivers said have been “essential.”

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