Worker says Lindeen fired her in retalation'
August 3, 2009
GREAT FALLS (AP)
An administrator in the state auditor's office says she was recently fired after lodging a complaint against the governor's brother, who is second in command at the agency. Laura McGee told The Great Falls Tribune that on July 15 she sent a formal letter to State Auditor Monica Lindeen, complaining that Deputy State Auditor Walt Schweitzer verbally assaulted her and solicited campaign funds in the office. "With the exception of Walt, the working environment here is spectacular, and I do hope that my truthfulness and honesty will not jeopardize my employment," McGee wrote in the letter. The agency counters that McGee voluntarily resigned because her commute was too long. McGee says Lindeen demanded her resignation and then fired her Tuesday when McGee didn't resign. McGee, a former insurance agent in Great Falls, joined Lindeen as assistant deputy insurance commissioner when Lindeen took office in January after winning the seat in the November elections. Exempt employees like McGee serve at the pleasure of the elected official for whom they work, and don't have the usual state worker job protections. Schweitzer, the brother of Gov. Brian Schweitzer, said that he was surprised to hear McGee was terminated. "I thought she resigned because she had been Commuting to Helena from Great Falls, and it was getting to be too much for her," he said from Vancouver, B.C., where he was on vacation. McGee said that Schweitzer solicited campaign contributions from her while at work, trying to retire debt left over from Lindeen's win over Republican Duane Grimes. She also says Schweitzer solicited attendance for a fundraiser for Montana Democratic Party Chairman Dennis McDonald, running for Congress. Schweitzer said he doesn't recall requesting campaign funds in the state auditor's office and denied seeking attendance at the fundraiser. "I think I sent out a mass e-mail seeking funds," he told the paper, adding that he would have done that from his home, not from the auditor's office. Federal and state law restricts such activity. McGee said Schweitzer then became very angry with her in mid-July after sending out a department-wide e-mail warning that purses had been stolen in the office. She said Schweitzer, advising her she was not to send out mass e-mails, pounded on her desk and yelled at her. Schweitzer said he has no recollection of that encounter. Lindeen met with McGee on July 24 and demanded her resignation, McGee said. McGee said she declined and later received an e-mail terminating her employment on July 28. She also received a letter of recommendation at the same time. "We are prohibited by privacy laws from commenting on any internal personnel matter other than to say it is our understanding that Laura McGee resigned," said Jernnifer Rhoades, communications director for the agency. Lindeen was on vacation at a family wedding in Alaska last week and not available for comment, Rhoades said.