Ravalli County commissioners don't reappoint controversial planning board chair


Ravalli County commissioners don't re-appoint controversial planning board chair

HAMILTON, Mont. - Jan Wisniewski, the controversial planning board chairman under fire for comments made about "drunken Indians" didn't get reappointed to the board Thursday.

Commissioners offered no reason.

Wisniewski's statements before Salish tribal leaders in November sparked massive outcry.

Wisniewski was in the audience when commissioners discussed his unpaid position on the planning board. Commissioners voted to readvertise the vacancy in the Darby school district, which is Wisniewski's territorial slot on the board.

"They are the bosses and I'm not going to argue or second guess their decisions," said Wisniewski.

There was no public comment.

It was very unlike a few weeks ago when dozens crammed the meeting room demanding Wisniewski be fired.

According to meeting minutes, Wisniewski said he had talked to law enforcement officials in Havre who said their jails were filled with "drunken Indians" off the reservation. The statements were made at a public hearing where Salish tribal leaders had been invited to discuss their sacred Medicine Tree.

Native leaders said Wisniewski's comments were very offensive.

"The thoughts of the board members weren't made apparent in the meeting," said Commission Chair Greg Chilcott. "Certainly there have been issues raised by the community and we have issued an apology to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes."

Some criticized the commission for being what they called insensitive to Native culture and religion.

Wisniewski said he will apply for the board again anyway.

"I think I've done an excellent job on the board," he said.

Wisniewski said it's possible he will pursue legal action.

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