Van Valkenburg Sends Response To DOJ Proposed Agreement
Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg sent the Department of Justice a letter, saying a federal investigation into the way his office handles sexual assaults is "not acceptable". County commissioners gave attorney Fred Van Valkenburg the okay to send the four and a half page letter at a meeting Thursday morning.
Van Valkenburg said the letter is meant to show the county is willing to take the legal steps necessary to stop the DOJ from investigating his office.
"I want the Department of Justice to negotiate in good faith a resolution on the matter," Van Valkenburg said.
The letter comes after Van Valkenburg proposed last week the county file a lawsuit against the DOJ for acting beyond its jurisdiction.
Filing the lawsuit would cost the county around $50,000, and come from a fund already set aside from the county's budget. Before it comes down to any legal action, Van Valkenburg said he hopes this letter will help his office and the DOJ come to a resolution.
"I also hope the general public understands from this letter the position our office is taking, and why we're taking it," he said.
The county attorney's office is the final of three Missoula agencies to come to an agreement with the Department of Justice over sexual assault investigations in Missoula. The University of Montana, and Missoula police have already signed settlements agreeing to change the way they handle sexual assaults.
The DOJ offered county attorney's a similar settlement last month.
"The DOJ settlement is totally unacceptable," Van Valkenburg said.
His letter said the county doesn't need federal agencies telling it how to deal with sexual assault investigations, because his office has been successfully dealing with these types of cases for years.
"It ignores all of the good work the people in Missoula, especially the attorney's office, have been doing a long time," Van Valkenburg said.
He said a DOJ investigation could cost tax payers thousands of dollars each year of what could be a two year investigation. He also said the investigation would take away his rights as an elected official to choose how to run his office.
"The prosecutor is elected for a reason, so that he's accountable to votes of community he works in, he's not accountable to someone in DC," Van Valkenburg said.
The letter was sent Thursday afternoon, and the county is giving the DOJ two weeks to respond. Van Valkenburg will then meet with commissioners again to discuss whether to move forward with a lawsuit.