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What’s happening in Hardin, Montana?

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By Michelle Malkin  •  September 30, 2009 12:04 PM

Tons of readers are asking about the American Police Force jail contract in Hardin, Montana.

Neil Katz at CBS News reported:

This is the strange story of how American Police Force, a little known company which claims to specialize in training military and security forces overseas, has seemingly taken control of a $27 million, never-used jail, and a rural Montana town’s nonexistent police force.

After arriving in this tiny city with three Mercedes SUVs marked with the logo of a police department that has never existed, representatives of the obscure California security company said preparations were under way to take over Hardin’s jail, which has no prisoners.

Significant obstacles remain – including a lack of any contracts to acquire prisoners from other jails or other states.

And on Friday came the revelation the company’s operating agreement for the facility has yet to be validated – two weeks after city leaders first unveiled what they said was a signed agreement.

Still, some Hardin leaders said the deal to turn over the 464-bed jail remained on track.

The agreement with American Police Force has been heavily promoted by members of the city’s economic development branch, the Two Rivers Authority. Authority Vice President Albert Peterson on Friday repeated his claim to be “100 percent” confident in the company.

The lead public figure for American Police Force, Michael Hilton, said more than 200 employees would be sought for the jail and a proposed military and law enforcement training center.

The secrecy has led to speculation that the deal is tied to President Obama’s search for Gitmo detainee housing alternatives in the U.S. Hardin jail officials expressed interest in accepting released Gitmo enemy combatants last spring.

There’s not enough info to determine what exactly is going on — so Montana legislators are doing their jobs and trying to get to the bottom of it:

Montana Rep. Bob Ebinger said more rumors were likely until Hardin and the company provide more details.

“Always when things are secretive, you end up getting everybody—on both the right and the left—making suppositions about what’s going on,” said Ebinger, a Democrat from Livingston.

Ebinger and other members of the Legislature’s Law and Justice Committee said they would ask Hardin officials to provide more information about the company.

In addition to taking over the 464-bed, $27 million jail, the company has said it will sink $17 million into a military training center and is seeking 5,000 acres or more for a live-fire training ground.

Company spokeswoman Becky Shay said there were no plans to reveal the project’s financial backers.

They are not going to be able to sustain that position for long.

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