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Emails show DOT shakeup was surprise

 


HELENA — An Associated Press review of state government emails exchanged before former Director of Transportation Jim Lynch resigned last week shows Lynch and his replacement had no idea the shakeup was coming.

Lynch stepped down last Thursday and was replaced by the agency's legal chief. Gov. Brian Schweitzer later confirmed the move was made after he learned Lynch's daughter was hired by DOT in late 2008.

The governor said he found the hiring "not acceptable" and believed it may violate nepotism laws, although no such charges have been filed. Lynch, however, said he had nothing to do with the hiring decision and checked at the time to make sure it was OK for his daughter to submit an application if he did not get personally involved.

The AP requested the emails last week from both Lynch's account and that of his replacement, Tim Reardon.

Just days before his resignation, Lynch was working with the governor's chief of staff on routine matters such as seeking approval for employee travel to training conferences.

He even declined a job query sent to him by a search firm for the Texas transportation department. In that email, a consulting firm asks if he would be interested in applying for a position as executive director at the much larger agency.

"At this time I am not interested in leaving MDT," Lynch wrote back on Monday, Aug. 8 — just two days before he and the governor were discussing his resignation.

In interviews after his resignation, Lynch told reporters the resignation was not a complete surprise because he had been planning to leave the agency in the near future in order to consider options in the private sector or perhaps in politics.

Lynch, who ran the agency from the start of Schweitzer's first term in 2005, did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Friday.

Lynch's numerous emails for the week leading up to the abrupt resignation generally seem to reflect ordinary business. That is also the case for emails for the new director, Tim Reardon.

But Reardon's email in-box shows that his co-workers, past and present, were shocked by the transition. And many seemed pleased with the transfer in power.

Earlier this week, the director of human resources also resigned as part of the fallout from the shakeup.

But Reardon said on Friday that there have been no other departures, and believes the agency has moved on.

"I think it's going well under the circumstances," Reardon said. "I think people are really going back to work and doing things they have ordinarily been doing. That has truly been my focus, getting the work done."

 

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