Havre resident Scott Dion felt he was getting screwed on his taxes.

So on Nov. 30, 2016, when he sent a property tax check into the Hill County Treasurer, he included a note on the memo line. It wasn't the first time he'd done this.

"I probably wrote something on the majority of my checks, and she's cashed them," Dion said, referring to Hill County Treasurer Sandy Brown.

This time, he wrote "sexual favors" on the memo line. The check was otherwise normal — a $745.77 payment made out to the county office.

But when the county didn't cash that check for months, Dion got a lawyer involved. 

His lawyer, Jamie Young, sent a letter to the Hill County Treasurer on Feb. 23, saying that leaving the check uncashed violated the First Amendment as well as Montana law.

Young cited a state law that requires banks or financial institutions to report deposited public funds and another that requires county treasurers to log the payments. He wrote that not cashing Dion's check amounts to official misconduct and the treasurer should be prosecuted.

Young sent a follow-up letter to Hill County Attorney Jessica Cole-Hodgkinson on March 6. 

"There is no exception under the law permitting Ms. Brown to refuse to perform her duties because she is offended by Mr. Dion's personal memo," Young wrote.

Brown, the county treasurer, said on Monday that she didn't know where Dion's check was at, though it was last with the county attorney.

Cole-Hodgkinson, the county attorney, wouldn't comment on Dion's situation specifically, though she said there is no current civil or criminal case related to the check scuffle.

She said that, in general, the treasurer can't cash a check if it isn't clear "what you want the funds applied to."

Dion said that aside from the memo, the rest of the check was normal, signed and made out to the county.

Montana Department of Revenue spokeswoman Christie Magill said that the state conducts assessments, but the tax collection is largely left to county treasurers.

Dion said that the property tax check hasn't yet been cashed. He plans to go through his bank records and pull previous checks with memos that have been cashed.

"The memo has nothing to do with them at all," he said. "Nothing."

Dion, who said he is a registered traveling nurse, added that for his first tax payment of 2016, he wrote "bulls--t" into the memo line. Dion said the county cashed that check.

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