City of Missoula Threatened With Lawsuit Over Attempts to Enter Monument Business
Apparently unsatisfied with just running EKO Compost and Mountain Water Company, the City of Missoula has decided to branch out into selling gravestones. Two private sector competitors, Garden City Monument Services and Garden City Funeral Homes, are threatening to sue the city over its attempts to enter the market. Attorney Rachel Parkin explains.
"We feel like this is unfair competition," said Parkin. "The city cemetery has the ability to set, by ordinance, regulations for sizes of headstones and things like that. They can grant themselves variances that they are not granting to other local monument shops."
Parkin says that there’s no secret the purpose behind the changes is to make a profit, and that the new competitor will significantly hurt private business.
"It really is an enterprise that they are engaging in," Parkin said. "This is certainly a for profit enterprise. The meeting minutes are replete with references to the profits that they will garner, what they can do with those profits and things like that. We are looking at using tax payer money to engage in direct competition with local businesses and it is problematic."
Parkin says there are important competition questions on how equipment was purchased for the new enterprise. Parkin says the city dipped into money that should have been used to maintain the cemetery in order to buy a new plotter, something that a private company would not have been allowed to do.