By HDN Editorial Board
The most startling detail to come out of the 3,500 e-mails requested by The Associated Press and Lee Newspapers of Montana was that former policy director Shane Hedges remained active advising Gov. Judy Martz long after his resignation last September. Martz and her staff looked to Hedges even while he was incarcerated at a prerelease center in Helena for his negligent homicide conviction.
Hedges, who was once a rising star in the state Republican Party, resigned after pleading guilty to driving drunk down the Marysville Road, about 25 miles from Helena, on Aug. 15, 2001, and rolling his sports utility vehicle, killing the lone passenger, state House Majority Leader Paul Sliter, R-Somers. Initially at the accident scene, Hedges told police he didn't remember details of the accident, including who was driving the car. Investigators later determined that Hedges was driving and that he had a blood alcohol content of 0.15, or 1.5 times the state's legal limit of 0.10. Hedges' action the night of Aug. 15 was inexcusable. His position in the executive office doesn't hide the fact that he is not the victim here; he committed a crime.
Everyone admires loyalty, and everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but once Hedges pleaded guilty the governor should have sent a message by firing Hedges and severing all official association with him.
The governor accepted his resignation and in a prepared statement at the time said she was saddened by Hedges' decision to resign but respected him for putting state affairs first. Martz said her chief aide quit because his legal problems were overshadowing the administration's work. Why should Martz be saddened that an admitted felon was resigning from her staff? No matter how capable she thought Hedges was, did she not think that there were other capable law-abiding advisers available in her party or state?
There are too many deaths on our roads attributed to drunken driving for Montana's governor to associate with a perpetrator of such a serious offense. Law enforcement and groups like MADD and SADD have worked too hard to curb the problem of drunken driving.
What is done is done, but Martz and her staff should end any dealings with Shane Hedges immediately. Any continued dealings with Hedges by Martz or her staff is a slap in the face to state law enforcement and to anyone who has ever lost a loved one at the hands of a drunken driver.