HELENA (AP) — A new legislative audit found several issues under the Department of Transportation that recently underwent a high-profile change in command when the former Director Jim Lynch resigned after a disagreement with the governor over the hiring of the director's daughter.
Lee Newspapers of Montana reported Wednesday that auditors found the agency hired unqualified applicants for agency jobs. The auditors reviewed five recruitment files and found that in three cases, the person who was hired didn't meet the minimum qualifications. Two of the three jobs were in management.
Department personnel told auditors that former management circumvented the hiring committee's recommendations. The auditors said it appears personal, family or other relationships were likely the reasons the people were hired.
"Because the applicants did not meet the minimum qualifications, they should not have been considered for the positions," the audit said. "In all three recruitment files, there was evidence of several other qualified applicants."
The auditors also found accounting errors in the classification of expenditures.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer asked Jim Lynch to resign as transportation director in August. Lynch's daughter was hired for a human resources job in December 2008.
Lynch said at the time he kept out of the hiring decision of his daughter and checked with human resources staff to make sure it was all done appropriately. Lynch, who has since announced a Republican candidacy for governor, did not return a call seeking comment on Wednesday.
New transportation Director Tim Reardon, a longtime agency employee tapped by Schweitzer to take over after Lynch left, said the agency will review its hiring and promotions over the past two years.
"I don't think it was a horribly critical audit. It pointed out some areas that we needed to change and improve on. I think most of them the department had already corrected," Reardon said.
In one of Reardon's first moves shortly after taking over as director, he sought the resignation of Jennifer Jensen, who was the department's chief human resources officer.
In one example uncovered by auditors, a division administrator authorized paying a private business about $32,000 to a company in which his spouse was a part-owner. The company performed repairs and maintenance, while also providing charter services and fuel for the division.
Although the department implemented a conflict-of-interest policy in June 2011 for all employees to sign, the audit said it lacks a formal process to resolve potential conflicts of interest like the one cited.