APPF Was Handed Keys To Hardin Jail Before Deal With Town Was Sealed

October 6, 2009 11:26 a.m.

Why was a private security firm given control of a jail in Hardin, Montana, before a lease agreement with the town was finalized?

Hardin officials, who yesterday put a deal with American Private Police Force on hold, are having a hard time answering the question.

A bank that is trustee on bonds used by Hardin to build the Two Rivers Detention Facility — now in default — never signed off on the APPF deal, which was first announced in early September.But Al Peterson of Hardin’s economic development agency, which owns the jail, told TPMmuckraker last Wednesday that “we handed the keys over — they now occupy the facility.” Several APPF officials have visited Hardin, but only Becky Shay, the company’s spokeswoman, was based there full time — working out of the 90,000+ square-foot jail building.

Shay told us today the company no longer has keys to the facility, and she calls the economic development agency when she needs to get in.

Here is an October 1 report from KULR in Montana, in which Shay gives an interview from inside the jail:

In an interview yesterday before the deal was put on hold, Peterson told TPMmuckraker he had “no idea who gave [the keys] to them or what day.” Asked what Hardin would do if the deal was not consummated, Peterson replied:

“What would you do if you foreclosed on a home? You’d evict them.”

He also said that APPF had put some money into the physical plant of the jail, but declined to specify what sort of work had been done. Peterson did not immediately respond to a call today.

Shay, for her part, told us today she had been setting up phones in the jail and doing other tasks to get it up and running. She said she plans to retrieve some personal items in the building. It’s unclear whether Shay, who said “there’s still work to be done” in Montana, will continue working out of the jail.

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