Whitefish sends second letter concerning board comments

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Whitefish City Council last week struggled with whether to send another letter to the Flathead County Commissioners over an incident that occurred at a May 10 county planning board meeting.

Mayor John Muhlfeld and all six members of council in a letter dated June 6 asked for the censure of two planning board members over comments that they made using “foul language” and references to “Whitefish Nazis.”

Last week, Muhlfeld said there had been “no formal response” from the commissioners and that the city only received a copy of a letter from the commissioners addressed to the county planning office and planning board.

“Please be reminded that how a message is sent is as important as the message itself,” the county letter says. “It is essential that the planning board conduct itself in a manner that does not distract or detract from the issues before it.”

Ultimately, Council July 17 voted 5-1 to send another letter to the county. Councilor Jen Frandsen voted against the measure noting that she favors “less letters back and forth.”

In June city officials sent the original letter to the county after the comments came following a public hearing in May on the proposed Highway 93 South Whitefish Corridor Plan, which includes the area south of Montana 40 outside of city limits.

During the meeting, board member Rita Hall said, “The Whitefish Nazis are watching us very, very closely.”

“To refer to any of our citizens, elected or otherwise, as Nazis is unconscionable, especially given the turmoil over the actions of self-styled Nazis/white supremacists recently focused on Whitefish, its businesses and many of our citizens,” the city letter says.

Councilor Richard Hildner said the county’s letter does not address the city’s concern because the city’s letter specifically asked for the two planning board members to be censured.

“Maybe we need another letter to the commissioners explaining our desired outcome,” he said.

Muhlfeld seemed less than optimistic that another letter would get the job done.

“We could write another letter, we could write two letters and I’m fine with that,” he said. “But we’re not going to get any response from the commissioners. It might be worth undertaking to send another letter, but I wouldn’t hold hope we’ll have a favorable response.”

Councilor Frank Sweeney suggested that the city should send a letter only to let commissioners know that being sent a copy of the letter did not address the city’s concerns.

“The commissioners have not shown interest in engaging us in any formal fashion and that is quite frustrating,” he said. “The letter should say thank you for including us as a copy, but this doesn’t address any of our concerns.”

Frandsen explained her vote against sending a letter saying that the city has asked for meetings with the commissioners to no avail and she would like to leave the issue with the planning board.

“I hope that the planning board members would have the forethought to recuse themselves when it comes to issues in relation to Whitefish since there was such disdain for the city,” she said.

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