Dave Gallick, Montana's commissioner of political practices, has been accused of serious ethics violations by the four permanent members of his staff.
The staffers say Gallick has worked on his legal practice on state property, used the state’s email system for his private business and has falsified time cards to indicate he was working on state business when in fact he was working for his private law firm.
The allegations were included in an investigative piece in the Sunday Tribune of Great Falls.
Ethical violations of this sort should not be tolerated in any state agency, but they are especially troubling when made against the office that is charged with ensuring that ethical standards are met by politicians of all stripes in the state.
Three options would solve this problem:
• Gallick should present his case countering the charges in complete detail so the public can make up its mind about what should be done.
• Gallick should step down and let someone else take charge of this vital office at a critical time in Montana's history.
• Gov. Brian Schweitzer should launch efforts to remove Gallick.
Gallick tried to dismiss the charges made by his entire staff saying they didn't like him personally and objected to his style.
That hardly rings true. The staffers have worked for numerous commissioners — the position is term-limited — and dissension of this sort has been unheard of.
Neither can political considerations be a factor.
The staff speaks highly of Jennifer Hensley, who served for several months before Gallick. Her nomination was eventually rejected by the Legislature because she was viewed as too partisan a Democrat.
The disarray in the office comes at a particularly unfortunate time.
The commissioner is at the center of the controversy over the state's challenge of the Supreme Court's Citizens United case. If the Supreme Court rules that Citizens United applies in local and state races in Montana, it will have an unfortunate effect on Montana politics. There couldn't be a worse time for the office to lose its credibility.
The office has always been above reproach. One of Gallick’s predecessors even fined the governor who appointed him.
The handful of people in the office has stood up to those who try to use public office to promote themselves, or those who skirt campaign rules to benefit their candidacies.
The Montana system can be a model for state’s around nation that want to ensure safe, fair campaign practices.
The unpleasantness can only tarnish what has been a great system designed to ensure public confidence in the electoral system.
Gallick owes the public a complete report on his activities. If he can’t or won’t do that, the public ought to show him the door.