Helena – In late December, with only a few days remaining in his term a group of Democrats stepped in to try and keep Jonathan Motl in the Commissioner of Political Practices office for another two years by filing a lawsuit in Lewis and Clark County district court. Just days later, the fifth lawsuit involving Mr. Motl’s conduct while in office was filed in the same district court.
The latest suit against Motl was filed by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks after he fined the agency $1,500 for allegedly violating state ethics rules in a 2014 anti-trapping ballot initiative campaign. The complaint against FWP was filed by KC York of Trap Free Montana Public Lands.
As a private attorney, prior to taking over the Commissioner’s office, Mr. Motl worked for a similarly named anti-trapping group called Montanans for Trap Free Public lands. Additionally, Mr. Motl served as Mr. York’s attorney via another anti-trapping group called Footloose Montana, where Mr. York served as “Outreach Director”.
Despite this obvious potential for conflict, Mr. Motl pushed forward with the case and ultimately fined the FWP $1,500 for violating state ethics laws.
In August, Helena attorney Jim Brown filed a lawsuit in Lewis and Clark County district court after Motl failed to recuse himself from an ethics complaint filed against Motl. Mr. Motl wrote the decision finding himself not guilty of any wrong doing in the third person.
Mr. Brown noted in court documents that, “In absolving Motl of any wrongdoing based on Motl’s investigation of Motl, Motl’s decision goes so far as to refuse to file the complaint for public record — a highly unusual step, and one without precedent in the law.”
In November, Republican State Representative Brad Tschida of Missoula filed suit against Jonathan Motl in federal district court. Tschida’s suit came after he was threatened with sanctions by Motl for disclosing a pending ethics complaint against Governor Bullock and then-Commerce Director Meg O’leary.
A lawsuit against Mr. Motl has also been filed in Yellowstone County district court by Jake Eaton of Billings, after Motl failed to recuse himself in a campaign finance case. Attorney’s in that case argued that Mr. Motl’s refusal to recuse himself despite a clear bias was an abuse of discretion, violated the Montana Administrative Procedures Act and due process.
Yet another case against Mr. Motl is pending before a Carbon County judge. In this case, Motl is accused of illegally obtaining the bank records of the Montana Growth Network, a non-profit advocacy organization based in Red Lodge.
Will he stay or will he go
The lawsuit to keep Jonathan Motl in office is heating up with Senate Republican leaders announcing they plan to intervene in the case. A hearing on the Senate resolution to intervene is expected early next week.
By: Big Sky Headlines Staff