Helena – Montana commissioner of political practices dismissed a state ethics complaint against Governor Steve Bullock and Commerce Director Meg O’Leary on Monday with no investigation. The complaint was filed by state Representative Brad Tschida of Missoula.
Commissioner Jonathan Motl, who was appointed by Governor Bullock, said that trips taken by Meg O’Leary to a Paul McCartney rock concert and a political fundraiser at the Kentucky Derby are not gifts because she traveled with the Governor to the events as a member of his cabinet and staff.
In the compliant Tschida alleged that O’Learys travel to these events amounted to illegal gifts that could “improperly influence” her to “depart from the faithful and impartial discharge of her duties.”
Governor Bullock won narrowly re-election over Republican Greg Gianforte and Libertarian Ted Dunlap.
Throughout the campaign, Mr. Gianforte and other Republicans criticized Bullock’s use of the state airplane after it was revealed that Bullock had used the plane to travel to fundraisers, concerts and other campaign events. O’Leary accompanied Bullock on many of those trips.
Bullock and O’Leary have claimed they attended “work-related” meetings as part of the August 2014 trip on a state plane to Missoula for a Paul McCartney concert at the Washington Grizzly Stadium.
O’Leary also accompanied Bullock to a Democrat Governors Association (DGA) event at the Kentucky Derby in May of 2015. Bullock was Chairman of the DGA at the time.
Bozeman attorney Matthew Monforton, who represents Tschida, told MTN News that Motl’s decision is ”he kind of whitewash to be expected by Bullock’s hand-picked commissioner.” And “ Unlike prior commissioners (of political practices), Motl refused to recuse himself from an investigation of the governor who appointed him.”
According to MTN News Commissioner Molt doesn’t believe he should have to recuse himself because his appointment had to be confirmed by the Montana State Senate.
The decision Monday ends the ethics case against Bullock and O’Leary but the issue is not over. In early November Rep. Tschida filed a lawsuit in federal district court.
The lawsuit was in response to threats made by Motl to prosecute Tschida for publicly discussing the ethics complaint.
By: Big Sky Headlines Staff