By HDN Editorial Board
Land is bought and sold every day in Montana. All of us have at one time or another had our eye on a piece of property that we coveted. So who could blame Harry and Judy Martz of Butte for purchasing an adjacent 80 acres to their home acreage. Bought and paid for at the seller's full asking price. Dream comes true, no questions asked, end of story.
Unless, of course, the buyer is running for governor of the state of Montana. Unless, of course, the seller is Atlantic Richfield Co., which is in the midst of a multimillion-dollar natural resource case with the state the buyer is seeking to lead. Unless, of course, as governor you are a trustee in Montana's case, and unless, of course, you paid a third of what the seller paid two years earlier. And unless, of course, the property wasn't appraised by an independent party.
Martz and Sandy Nash, Arco's vice president of environmental management, don't see a conflict of interest. Sorry, Judy Martz, contrary to your wishes, it isn't the end of the story. The whole thing smells, and in the best case you used extremely poor judgment.
We don't begrudge the Martzes their dream property. However, the state's top elected official is held to higher standards than average folk. The governor should have had the foresight to have an independent third party appraise the property, and it would have been the end of the story. Her failure to do so has opened the governor and the state to a host of accusations and speculation. The governor has forced her own hand and should remove herself from any future decision making about Arco's environmental cleanup in the state.