Volume 2, Number 50 - March 13, 2003
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Altering document was a mistake
Boulder resident Bubba Larsen met with Sublette County Commissioners Betty Fear and Gordon Johnston at the commission's business meeting Friday to discuss the issue of an officially recorded document being altered by a county employee.
Commissioner Bill Cramer was snowed in at his residence in the Hoback, while County Clerk Mary Lankford was enjoying Yellowstone's snow, so both were absent from the meeting. County Attorney Van Graham and county planner Joanne Garnett were in attendance.
Larsen explained that in July 2001, he received the original of a county planning and zoning office resolution rezoning six acres of Larsen's land to general commercial. The problem was that Larsen had asked for four acres, not six.
Last month, Larsen received a letter from the planning and zoning office with a copy of the resolution, only this time, the resolution had been changed to reflect four acres, not the six as his original had stated, but still had the same date and time stamp and signatures.
When Larsen questioned the altering of a recorded document, the document was altered again, to reflect six acres, and planning and zoning proposed a new resolution that would correct the original error.
Larsen said he was willing to vacate the original resolution in favor of moving on to discuss the real issue: the fact that an officially recorded document had been altered, not just once, but twice.
Fear and Johnston immediately agreed, approving a corrective resolution to the altered document.
Fear and Johnston listened as Larsen provided the details of discovering the document had been altered twice and how due process had not been followed.
Larsen set a bottle of whiteout on the table and said, "If that was in fact correct, this jug here is mightier than the pen, mightier than the sword, and mightier than the United States Constitution.
"I'm saying it isn't right," Larsen said. "It never should have happened."
"A mistake was made," Johnston said. "Now it has been corrected in a proper manner."
Garnett said, "First off, I do want to apologize to everyone for what happened." She said when the typo was discovered, she conferred with the county clerk's office and the typo was then corrected with whiteout.
"I apologize that I caused such an uproar," Garnett said.
Fear said she hopes everyone learned a lesson. She emphatically stated: "There can be no changes. I mean, who gets to decide what's a typo and what isn't?"
Fear said: "If something is recorded in our county as a recorded document, it is sacred. I rely on those documents.
"If there is a change in those documents, in original documents, there needs to be a paper trail," Fear said. "Without those paper trails, we have nothing."
Johnston said, "A mistake was made and has now been corrected correctly ... and the office that made the mistake has been counseled."
Tensions mounted between Johnston and Larsen, with both men leaning intently over the table at each other, red in the face, although the discussion remained civil.
"As far as I'm concerned, Bubba, it is taken care of," Johnston said.
Fear told Larsen, "It's something that will be continuously watched."
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