Ethics Complaint Against Steve Bullock Surfaces, Legislator Accused of Breaking Law
Governor Bullock's use of the state plane to fly to Missoula for a Paul McCartney concert has resurfaced as a political issue just days before the general election. An ethics complaint against Governor Bullock has been sitting in the Commissioner of Political Practices office for weeks, but was only made public recently, when Missoula area legislator Brad Tschida sent the complaint to fellow legislators. Political Practices Commissioner Jonathan Motl says that Tschida broke state law by talking about the complaint, while Tschida accuses Motl of trying to keep the complaint out of public view.
“Confidentiality is imposed on the person filing the complaint, the person who is the subject of the complaint and the commissioner,” said Motl. “Mr. Tschida, by releasing an ethics complaint, violated a specific section of state law to which there is no exception.”
Tschida's attorney Mathew Monforton says Tschida's freedom to discuss the ethics complaint is protected, not only by state law, but by the U.S. Constitution.
"Number one it's a First Amendment issue, his speech is protected by the First Amendment, but it is also specifically protected by Montana law," said Monforton. "The statute that Motl is relying upon, in which he threaten Rep. Tschida with what he describes as a 'sever penalty', that statute expressly removed jurisdiction from Motl for legislative acts engaged in by legislators."
Motl disagrees, and says that Tschida's decision to release the complaint is a "black and white" violation of state law.
“It is bogus,” Motl said. “Let me read you the exact section of law. ‘The commissioner, the person who files the ethics complaint, and the person who is the subject of the complaint, shall maintain the confidentiality of the complaint and any related document released to the parties by the commissioner, until the commissioner issues a decision.’ It just so exquisitely black and white.”
Motl says that the type of violation by Tschida would be dealt with by a criminal court. When asked if there would be criminal charges, Motl refused to go into details until after the November 8th election. Tschida's attorney had strong words for Motl.
"That's absolutely false," Monforton said. "There is no criminal statute that attaches to any of this. Mr. Motl is a liar and a slanderer if he is accusing Rep. Tschida of committing a criminal violation. It goes to show that Motl is nothing more than an extortionist."
Motl said that Tschida's actions would not effect the original ethics complaint's status, but also said that the political practices office has such a narrow ground for ruling on ethics complaints, that most are thrown out.