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Musselshell County Courthouse

Musselshell County is still without a Disaster and Emergency Services director after Adam Carlson resigned in January.

Carlson had been suspended after two of the county's three commissioners accused him of insubordination and dereliction of duty.

Carlson disputed the allegations in a lengthy response to commissioners Tom Berry and Robert Goffena. The third commissioner, Nicole Borner, declined to sign the Jan. 8 letter, and said after his resignation that Carlson was “hardworking and was a really big asset to our county.”

Three days after resigning, Carlson filed to run for Goffena’s commissioner seat in this year's general election. He said Wednesday he considered running three months before his falling-out with the commissioners, but the letter helped galvanize his resolve. 

That commissioners' letter outlines several allegations including Carlson allegedly providing false information to the public, hosting a tour with a watershed protection group and providing radio interviews without first getting permission from the commission, which is county policy. It also claims that Carlson neglected his duties by failing to create a policy for acquiring properties through federal floodplain mitigation grants and missing deadlines set by the commissioners, among other issues.

Carlson disputed the claims, saying the commission didn’t communicate many of its concerns before moving to suspend him. 

“I would have resigned if I was elected commissioner, but other than that, I planned on staying in the job,” Carlson said.

Of his decision to run for the elected post, he said, “I thought that I could do more as a county commissioner and help move this community forward. They like to do things the way it was 20 years ago, and change is kind of hard for small communities to accept.”

Goffena's seat is up for a vote in November, but he has not filed for re-election. Carlson and Dwane Snook, both Republicans, are the only candidates who have filed so far, according to the county election department.

Berry did not respond to phone calls. Goffena declined to comment on the issues surrounding Carlson.

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“We’re in the middle of an HR issue, and that’s something that HR can decide on what can be released,” he said.

Borner said she disagreed with her two colleagues’ assessment of Carlson’s performance.

“I just thought Adam was a really great employee,” she said. “It is so difficult to find a good grant writer. On top of the grant writing and the money he was bringing in, he was creating so many good partners across the state.”

The county has not yet moved toward hiring a new DES director, Goffena said. In the meantime, two deputy directors have stepped into the role, which includes coordinating federal grants and communicating disaster-preparedness information to the public.

Musselshell County’s DES directors have in recent years responded to multiple catastrophic floods and wildfires that have destroyed or rendered uninhabitable dozens of houses in the Roundup area.

Carlson’s successor will be responsible for juggling several large, federally funded projects stemming from multiple major floods that have spilled over the banks of the Musselshell River since 2011.

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Morning Reporter

General assignment reporter for the Billings Gazette.