Judge David Cybulski denied a motion to suppress evidence against Dale Robert Fowler in 15th District Court Wednesday, May 14.
Fowler’s attorney, Mark Epperson, alleged that a police search of a bedroom was unlawful and that drugs and paraphernalia found during the search should not be admissible in court.
Fowler, 60, of Wolf Point, has been free on bail since he pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of criminal possession of dangerous drugs Oct. 30. Charging documents identified the drug as methamphetamine. He was also charged with misdemeanor charges of criminal possession of dangerous drugs, alleged to be marijuana, and criminal possession of drug paraphernalia.
According to charging documents, the search in question stems from WPPD Sgt. Ryan Michaelsen and Fort Peck Department of Law and Justice Officer David Gonzalez responding to a residence where Fowler was living at 430 Fairweather St. to investigate a report of a domestic disturbance in progress.
“The initial report was of a domestic assault,” Michaelsen testified and added that he learned that Shantelle Schaeffer, alleged to have been Fowler’s girlfriend at the time, was wanted on a tribal court arrest warrant.
Michaelsen said Schaeffer had dried blood on her face. He said she told him she had a verbal argument with Fowler and he had assaulted her.
Schaeffer was arrested on the warrant and was found to have drug paraphernalia in her possession. She was transported to the tribal jail.
Michaelsen said Fowler was taken into custody for domestic abuse.
He said Schaeffer gave him permission to enter the bedroom she shared with Fowler. Michaelsen said there was an odor of marijuana in the room, dried blood on the bed, a marijuana cigarette on plain view on a dresser top and drug paraphernalia in the bedroom. A search warrant was obtained to further search the bedroom.
Assistant Roosevelt County Attorney Jordan Knudsen asked Michaelsen if he asked permission of Fowler’s mother (the homeowner who lived at the residence) to search the bedroom and he responded that he had.
The mother testified that she told officers drugs would be found in the room because her son is diabetic and was recovering from a gunshot wound at the time.
Knudsen said Schaeffer’s statement to Michaelsen that there were illegal drugs in the bedroom led to probable cause. He asked Cybulski to deny the motion to suppress the evidence.
“By making the statement that the drugs were in the bedroom that she shared with the defendant, she exposed her self to liability,” Knudsen said.
Fowler remains free on bond. Wolf Point officers arresting him April 2 on a warrant out of McCone County following a traffic stop at Sixth Avenue South and Main Street for a stop sign violation and driving while license was suspended or revoked, according to information provided by the WPPD.
Allen Bowker and Frank Smith are running for the District 1 Roosevelt County Commission seat currently held by Jim Shanks, who is not running for reelection. The district covers the eastern part of the county.
Both Bowker and Smith responded to a questionnaire.
Why did you declare yourself a candidate for commissioner?
Bowker: I have thought about this for six years and have had a lot of encouragement by people in this area to run for District 1 county commissioner. The people in this district believe, as I do, that we would be well served by someone who has seen first hand the changes taking place due to the new influx of people in District 1.
Smith: I declared myself a candidate for commissioner after being asked by many of our voters. The voters know that I stay in contact with my area and know many of the issues that are handled by the commissioner office because I attended many of our local meetings, many of them across the hi-line and have knowledge of many state, tribal and federal laws that we have to follow. I was co-signer to the bill to turn the secondary roads over to the state when we could no longer afford to maintain them. I also helped negotiate the agreement between the state, tribes and counties so the tribes could repair or rebuild roads on reservations that were a problem for traffic and made it possible for tribal I.R.R. programs to rebuild a section of road north of Poplar that had a high accident rate on it, saving the county a little over $1 million.
What do you hope to accomplish on the commission?
Bowker: I hope to represent and communicate to the constituents of District 1. I plan to represent not only with my voice but implement a plan to get all of our voices heard, not only at the county level but at the state level as well. I have a plan that can be viewed on my website, available this summer, when I start campaigning full time. Watch the Searchlight and watch for me on foot knocking on doors all over District 1.
Smith: I will strive to develop more economics and foster smooth development of our area as industry moves west and south but still stay active on our road problems as most of them are not built to handle the heavy loads that is currently happening.
What do you see as being the major issues facing the county?
Bowker: I see the major issues as the roads, law enforcement and housing.
Smith: One of the major issues facing the counties is money. Because of better fuel mileage on our cars and the fuel tax refunded the following year we are always working a year behind. I have tried to get the refunds more like North Dakota’s where they could use general funds to repair roads or any intersections and help schools without going through the legislation process.
What areas do you feel are the most in need of improvement? How would you address those areas?
Bowker: The road conditions are probably the biggest issue I have heard about. Money needs to be allocated proportionally to accomplish this, not only for infrastructure improvements but wages for those involved.
Smith: Our roads are in need of improving. We also seek more law enforcement, both state and county. That’s why I volunteered on the state highway safety committee when they asked me and I am glad I did because under my tenure on the committee we were able to get another officer in our area and helped to build our highways to specifications to handle the heavier trucks that are on them now.
What areas do you feel have the most and least needs for spending?
Bowker: At this time, roads would be at the top of the list as needing the most funding. As far as the least needs, you have to look at everything on a case by case basis and by hearing both sides of every story because the fact is, there is only so much money to go around.
Smith: I feel all of our needs are important. That’s why I endorse a good planning board.
If any programs need to be cut in the future due to a budget shortfall, what would you cut first, second and third?
Bowker: The county commissioners salaries should be cut first. I would not ask anyone to do anything that I would not do myself. Everything else would be a case by case basis by hearing both sides of the story.
Smith: At this time I don’t want to comment on possible cuts in programs until I take a good look at our finance records and have the input from the public because all of the programs got where they are for a reason.
Do you feel county staffing levels are adequate? Too high? Too low?
Bowker: The road department, at least in District 1, is too low. For the rest of the staffing levels, you can’t possibly know without studying it in depth.
Smith: At this time staffing looks adequate except for a shortage in roads as we have to be careful because a lot of the employs in the county are state employees mandated by state, federal or elected by the public and the commissioners have vary little say over them.
Do you have any relatives employed by the county? If so, how many and who?
Bowker: No, not at this time. I do have a son who may be working as a temporary summer employee with the road department. (Take it easy on him!)
Smith: To my knowledge I have no family or relatives working for the county.
Deeper cuts than most people might realize are necessary could be coming to the Wolf Point School District following voter rejection of two levies and substantial legal fees the district incurred from a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union that resulted in mandated redistricting before trustees are elected next year.
During the school board meeting Tuesday, May 13, the trustees discussed options that included possible teaching and non-teaching staff layoffs and the elimination of tournaments hosted at Wolf Point High School that don’t involve the Wolf Point Wolves until funding is available to repair the gym floor.
One week earlier, voters rejected a $200,000 continuous elementary general fund levy the school district said was necessary to keep the preschool program running after the current school year and a $250,000 levy that would have run for one year only and would have increased the building reserve and provide funding for parking lot and gym floor repairs at the high school. The elementary general fund levy failed by two votes, 392-390.
To keep the popular preschool program operating, a likely bullet the district would have to bite would be the loss of at least two teachers and other staff.
The Indian Education Committee has met three times since the levies failed searching for ways to retain the preschool.
Superintendent Joe Paine presented several proposals for cost-savings that included elimination of the preschool, selling the school district office building that is no longer in use, not accepting out-of-district sports participants, use of available current funding for improvements, limit elementary lunches to one milk, reduction of extended contracts for facilitators, athletic director and curriculum coordinator, elimination of one non-teaching position at Southside Elementary School and reducing one teacher at Northside Elementary School and one elective teacher at the junior high/high school, possibly by attrition.
Board chairman Martin DeWitt said the district needs to become more active in selling the district office building on Third Avenue North.
He also said the Wolf Point district should only accept out-of-district athletes if the other school district pay enough to cover costs.
However, DeWitt said, safety must be a consideration.
“In my opinion, the parking lot is a priority for safety reasons,” he said.
The school board is likely to schedule a special meeting to address spending before the next regular meeting, which will be Tuesday, June 10.
In other business, the board voted to dispose of a 1983 Ford pickup.
The board also approved the hiring of Paige Vinton, Kathy Adkins, Joelle Page and Kristi Lepper as summer teachers at Southside School.
Also approved: Kim Cody, Southside teacher; Ethan Tubby, Northside substitute custodian; Michael Kelsey, junior-senior high teacher; and Vivian Schultz, activities bus driver.
The trustees also approved the resignations of teachers Richard Denny, Lacey Dickinson and Wade Krauth.
In other business, the board voted to terminate an unnamed employee and expel at least two students following a closed executive session.
Great Northern Development Corporation presented a proposal to the Wolf Point City Council Monday, May 19, to fund the cleanup of the fenced-off debris field in downtown Wolf Point that was the site of Gysler Furniture and Appliance until a rapidly-moving fire leveled both 84-year-old Gysler buildings the corner of First Avenue South and Anaconda Street Monday, March 10.
A fenced-off debris field with the remains of masonry walls, rubble and other debris have left a blemish on downtown Wolf Point.
The longtime Wolf Point furniture and appliance retailer has moved into what will be at least a temporary location on Main Street on the opposite side of Sherman Park.
GNDC executive director Martin DeWitt told the council that the site could qualify as a designated Brownfield site where expansion, redevelopment or reuse of the property might be complicated by the presence of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants. The designation could make the city eligible for federal grant funding to clean up the site.
There was discussion of the current appearance of the downtown area and 2015 being the centennial year.
“There would be zero or very minimum liability for the city,” DeWitt said of a Brownfield program grant.
Mayor Chris Dschaak called for volunteers to serve on a committee to look into a cleanup. Appointed were council members Rollie Paulson, Laurie Evans, Tina Bets His Medicine, Public Works Director Richard Isle and City Attorney Jordan Knudsen.
The committee will meet Thursday, May 29, at 6:30 p.m.
Asked if a cleanup during the coming summer would be possible, DeWitt responded that such a timeline would be aggressive, but the end of the summer would be possible.
The Wolf Point City Council discussed a proposal by Steamboat Dry Goods’ owner Carolyn Whitmer Monday, May 19, that would fund landscaping at Sherman Park, which would include replacement of dead trees and the addition of more trees at no cost to the city.
Mayor Chris Dschaak requested that the Park, Recreation and Tree Committee meet with Whitmer to discuss her proposal.
In another matter concerning Sherman Park, the council approved a call for bids to build a ramp for the gazebo. Bids will be considered in June but construction will not begin until after the Wild Horse Stampede in July.
The council also discussed rehabilitating the park on Fifth Avenue South and Fairweather Street. Mayor Chris Dschaak requested that the park remain on the council agenda for discussions during future meetings.
In other business, the council discussed a proposal by Fire Chief Shawn Eggar to dispose of a fire truck the city purchased in 1974 and replace it with an up-to-date and efficient truck the county owns.
City Attorney Jordan Knudsen will research the legality of selling the old truck and the joint city/county use of another truck. The council will revisit the issue during a future meeting.
In another matter, the council discussed requests by residents of Crescent, Prospect, East Indian and East Johnson streets to place additional speed limit signs to attempt to discourage speeding in the residential area.
The council also discussed a possible need for a social media ordinance that could set restrictions or guidelines over what city employees and volunteer firefighters could post on Facebook and other social media sites that could affect the city.
Dschaak said there is a need to address the use of social media with a policy.