Wolf Point Herald

Column: From The Editor's Desk -- Aug. 14

All too often I see DUIs, bar fights, ambulance calls for intoxicated persons who stumbled out of bars and get hurt falling and other alcohol-related incidents in the police blotter.
Some occurrences are more serious than others.
A Wolf Point woman was run down by a car and seriously injured in a recent incident where an altercation with another local woman started in a bar. Wolf Point police said the women had been drinking and the vehicle hitting the woman was not an accident.
Continuing to serve obviously intoxicated people is illegal and is a problem in some Wolf Point bars. All too often, intoxicated bar patrons cause incidents in and outside of drinking establishments.
Wolf Point police tell us it is not considered OK or “politically correct” for bar employees to call police when fights occur. That never-snitch mentality could cost lives.
It’s both a local problem and a problem everywhere else.
Several years ago, while I worked for a newspaper in another state, a woman was killed in a bar that had a reputation for over serving customers and frequent bar fights. It was also a bar where it was not considered “politically correct” for bartenders to call police when fights occur. For that reason, local police were not aware that an intoxicated man was beaten by two other drunks and left the bar making threats to kill the two men. The bartender did not report it and neither did anyone else. The guy returned to the bar with a shotgun. One of the two men jumped him inside the door. The shotgun discharged and pellets struck two patrons sitting at the bar, killing one. Those people had no involvement with the fight and did not know any of the guys involved in it.
There were consequences. The bar was closed down and not by the owner’s choice. The man who brought the shotgun went to prison for manslaughter. He didn’t have a prior criminal record. He had children who would grow up without their dad. He was the assistant public works director for the county he lived in. There was talk of manslaughter charges against the bartender for not calling the police. Unfortunately, charges were not filed against her.
A scenario like that could happen here.
Having worked as a journalist in several states, I know that in some states, bartenders could be charged with manslaughter if they serve an intoxicated individual and that person kills another in a drunk driving crash.
State law mandates that owners of all establishments that sell alcohol [including restaurants], bartenders and servers attend an alcohol education program that teaches legal responsibilities and potential personal liabilities in the event of a lawsuit.
Mike Hughes of the Montana Job Service told The Herald-News that over serving is a common occurrence statewide.
He also said the class addresses potential consequences for bar servers not calling police when they should be called.
Montana is one of 43 states that has a “dram shop law,” which allows for financial liability for bar owners, managers and servers if a customer becomes obviously intoxicated on their premises and subsequently kills or injures someone, or causes property damage. That includes DUI crashes and fights.
The Montana Department of Revenue certifies Hughes and many other community trainers across the state to provide alcohol sales and service training. The classes stress the importance of selling and serving alcohol responsibility, not over serving, and informs servers to protect them from lawsuits.
Servers need to know when it is time to cut off a drunk at a bar.
It is illegal for any licensed establishment in Montana and the licensee’s employees to sell or serve any alcoholic beverage to any intoxicated person.
Roosevelt County Commissioner Gary Macdonald said he wants to see enforcement stepped up in the Wolf Point and
Culbertson areas.
Montana law permits any law enforcement officer to enter a bar or any business that sells alcohol at any time to determine whether the law is being obeyed.
Penalties under Montana law for sales of alcohol to intoxicated persons includes fines of $250 for first offenses, $1,000 for second offenses, a $1,500 fine and 20-day suspension of a liquor license for a third offenses and revocation of the license on a fourth offense.
Montana considers alcoholic beverage licenses a government-issued conditioned privilege.
Hughes said city police officers, sheriff’s deputies and state law enforcement can close down a bar on a temporary basis under the Montana nuisance law.
Maybe it will come to that if some bars don’t start following the law.
I wonder if local bars ever 86 bar fighters. It is a common practice in some places and it reduces the amount of problems. For anyone who is not familiar with the slang term, to 86 a person means to eject and refuse service to a person causing a problem.
The Department of Revenue has a new Disorderly Licensed Premises form available to the public. Anyone who has patronized a bar where there is a fight or violations of drug laws, or minors being served can fill out and submit the form.

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No Local Involvement In Democratic Senate Candidate Selection Process

There is no representation from Roosevelt County and only 14 delegates from eastern Montana who will participate in the selection process for a replacement for Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., who announced Thursday, Aug. 7, that he would withdraw from the U.S. Senate race.
There are 157 names on a list of delegates to a special nominating convention that was provided by the Montana Democratic Party.
Shirley Ball of Nashua is the nearest delegate to Wolf Point on the list. Another is Gene Hartsock of Glasgow. Two delegates hail from Daniels County. They are Julie French and Connie Wittak. There are four from Dawson County, five from Custer County and one from Sidney.
After several requests to the Montana Democratic Party in Helena for a list of delegates, the full roster was provided. An earlier list of “eastern Montana” delegates included people from Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls and Havre.
State Representative Bridget Smith, D-Wolf Point, is one of very few Democrats holding office from eastern Montana.
“We are truly forgotten and I remind the governor of that often,” she said.
“We are also at fault for not being active,” Smith added.
Walsh, 53, announced his withdrawal from the race following accusations of plagiarism. He had been under pressure to withdraw from leading Democrats and some Montana newspapers in the wake of an investigation by the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., where he had obtained his master’s degree in 2007. The New York Times reported in July that portions of Walsh’s thesis had been plagiarized from other sources without attribution.
Gov. Steve Bullock appointed Walsh [then lieutenant governor] to the Senate in February when Sen. Max Baucus resigned to become ambassador to China after serving 35 years in the Senate.
A 33-year military veteran, Walsh held the rank of brigadier general and served as adjutant general of the Montana Army National Guard.
According to a letter from Jim Larson, chair of the Montana Democratic Party, Walsh will continue to serve in the Senate until his appointed term expires in January, 2015.
The special nominating convention will be held Saturday, Aug. 16, at the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds in Helena.
Montana law requires that candidacy vacancies must be filled no later than 76 days prior to the election, which gave the Democrats until Wednesday, Aug. 20 to have a nominee in place.
Republican Rep. Steve Daines, had been heavily favored to win over Walsh. The GOP has not held the seat since 1913.
Possible candidates named by national media to replace Walsh as the Democratic nominee include former lieutenant governor John Bohlinger, former governor Brian Schweitzer and abortion rights activist Nancy Keenan.
Montana Democratic Party executive director Andrea Marcoccio released a prepared statement on Thursday, Aug. 7, that Walsh would submit an official certificate of resignation to Secretary of State Linda McCulloch as soon as possible. She said the selection process for a replacement nominee would be open and transparent to all Montanans and the media.
The Montana Democratic Party has established an e-mail address where the public can offer comments and feedback: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Frontier School Board OKs 13 Out-Of District Students

Frontier School trustees approved 13 out-of-district enrollments during the monthly school board meeting, Monday, Aug. 11.
In other business, the board approved Austin Wortman as a custodian and bus driver, pending completion of a driver training program.
Marianne Rees was approved to coach volleyball and be athletic director.
The board also approved staff handbook changes.
Auditor Ross Stalcup made a presentation to the board.
The board will hold a special budget meeting Aug. 14 at 6 p.m.

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Council Authorizes $20K For Centennial

The Wolf Point City Council authorized a $20,000 donation, Monday, Aug. 11, to help fund the Centennial celebration, which will be held during the 2015 Wild Horse Stampede.
Funding will come from oil severance money.

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Child Killed In Sheridan County ATV Crash

A 4-year-old girl died Thursday, Aug. 7, in an ATV accident near Dagmar, in Sheridan County, about 40 miles northeast of Froid.
The Montana Highway Patrol reported that a 19-year-old man was driving a 2007 Polaris ATV across a field with the child riding as a passenger when the accident occurred at about 8:30 p.m.
According to the MHP, the driver made a sharp turn on a hill while going backwards and the ATV turned over onto its side.
The child was pronounced dead at the scene. The man was transported to a hospital with undisclosed injuries.
The names have not been released.

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