By Ross Markman
Two days after volunteering to replace outgoing Hill County Justice of the Peace Carol Chagnon, Joyce Perszyk has rescinded her offer.
"I declined and pulled my offer. Basically that's the whole gist of the thing," she said. "It was genuine on my part. It was strictly an interim job until they got a new judge on board."
Wednesday, the Hill County Commission appointed Havre lawyer Lane Hauge to fill the slot. Hauge is already certified to do the job and has substituted for Chagnon in recent years.
"This is the third time I've acted as the temporary JP," he said. "I'll still have a full-time law practice. I'm not slowing down or retiring."
Hauge, 51, said he'll spend about five to 10 hours a week working for the county, primarily presiding over initial court appearances of prisoners and setting bonds.
"I just don't have the time to do most of the trials right now," he said.
Trials, Commissioner Doug Kaercher said, will be divided between Hauge, Blaine County Justice of the Peace Perry Miller, and Perszyk.
"(Hauge) should do a good job. Since he does have a private practice here in town, he's going to know the community and what's going on," Kaercher said.
Hauge will not be paid the $32,432 salary earned by the justice of the peace. His hourly rate has yet to be determined, Kaercher said.
"It won't cost us as much if we had to hire a full-time person to do the job," he added.
As for Perszyk, Kaercher said the commission wasn't surprised with her decision.
"I think it just got too complicated between her being an employee of the city of Havre and just trying to logistically work it out," he said. "(Perszyk) being appointed as our justice of the peace wasn't going to be a workable situation."
The nonpartisan position became available when Chagnon announced her retirement earlier this month. After 16 years on the bench and 30 years working in the Hill County Courthouse, Chagnon's last day was Tuesday. She stepped down to spend more time with her husband, Paul, who suffered a stroke in September.
"I think (Hauge) will do a very good job. He's a pretty nice fella," Chagnon said.
Perszyk, Havre city judge for 4.5 years, was expected to be sworn in Wednesday morning and to hold the interim post until November's election. She also would have continued as city judge.
"I don't want my offer to turn into any type of political issue. There's no room for politics in the courtroom," she said today. "Therefore, I decided to withdraw my offer."
Havre Public Schools substitute teacher Ray Bergh and retired Montana Highway Patrol officer Terry Stoppa are running for the JP position. Both were eligible for the interim post, but the commissioners agreed it would have been inappropriate to appoint one of them.