Missoula County acknowledges lack of disclosure when approving project tied to commissioner
(Missoula Current) Missoula County on Thursday confirmed that one of its three elected commissioners is a partner in a project seeking a variance request that would allow a business to operate in conjunction with an agricultural operation off Third Street, along with future residential development.
Members of the Planning and Zoning Commission, along with Missoula County Commissioners Dave Strohmaier and Juanita Vero, recommended the county approve the variance request at a meeting on Feb. 9.
But during the meeting, county officials never disclosed the fact that fellow Commissioner Josh Slotnick was a partner in the project the county was recommending for approval.
Slotnick was not present at the meeting in which the recommendation was given. The Missoula Current didn't report Slotnick's involvement.
“The presentation by WGM, who was representing the project, did mention his spouse by name and the name of their business a few times,” Missoula County Communications Director Allison Franz told the Missoula Current. “But no one specifically disclosed his involvement, and we should have, for transparency's sake.”
The county's hearing report lists Corner Farm Village LLC as the landowner. It does not mention Slotnick but rather lists the WGM Group as the project's applicant.
The project proposed by Slotnick and his business partner has not been controversial at this point, at least in terms of what it looks to achieve by adding a business to an existing agricultural operation.
However, after the zoning commission recommended the project for approval and the Missoula Current reported that action, several residents expressed anger at the report, saying it didn't disclose Slotnick's connection to the project.
“I’m curious about why there is no mention of one of our commissioners involvement with this development,” one reader said. “I don’t necessarily oppose the project, but I do oppose the absence of this information.”
“Concerned that the article on the approved agri-business did not include the fact that Josh Slotnick, county commissioner, is one of the owners of this property,” said another.
The county this week said it understands the frustration and apologized for not making Slotnick's connection to the project clear when voting on the variance.
“We appreciate you and your readers holding the county accountable, and we'll do better next time this comes before the commission,” Franz said.