Commission gives Missoula Co. Attorney $50k to take on DOJ


MISSOULA, Mont. - The Missoula County Commissioners agreed to give the Missoula County Attorney $50,000 to pursue legal action against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

In a meeting Tuesday morning, County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg asked the commission for money to hire an outside attorney to file a suit against the DOJ.

In May 2012, the DOJ Office for Civil Rights announced an investigation into how Van Valkenburg's office, the Missoula Police Department and the University of Montana handled reports of sexual assault.

Last year the city and the university reached agreements with the DOJ, while Van Valkenburg refused to cooperate. He maintains his office has done nothing wrong and that the DOJ doesn't have the legal authority to investigate his office in the first place.

The $50,000 was set aside in 2012 to deal with the DOJ investigation. With the money, Van Valkenburg said he'll hire Missoula attorney Natasha Jones. Jones helped with negotiations between the City of Missoula and the DOJ.

"Missoula needs to have this matter settled," Van Valkenburg told the commission. "This has gone on for now close to two years sine the DOJ came to town and made these allegations, and they don't back them up they just absolutely refuse to provide any specific information whatsoever."

Van Valkenburg hopes that a declaratory judgment action will be filed in the next two or three weeks. It will allow a federal judge to decide whether the DOJ can legally investigate the Missoula County Attorney's Office.

Van Valkenburg's goal is to have the case resolved in the next three to four months.