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Yellowstone commissioners deny treasurer's buyout


November 11, 2013

BILLINGS — Yellowstone County commissioners have rejected an offer from the country treasurer to retire in exchange for a year's pay and instead asked him to resign for making racist comments in emails sent from his government computer.

The commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday morning to reject Max Lenington's $90,000 buyout proposal for the final year of his term as treasurer, assessor and superintendent of schools, The Billings Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/1i7irMc ).

"I would accept Mr. Lenington's resignation, but I'm not willing to pay out anything on that," Commissioner Bill Kennedy said.

Lenington responded to commissioners by email, saying he would not seek re-election but would finish out his term and retire at the end of 2014.

In the statement, Lenington blames the controversy over his words on "the liberal left-wing news media," which he accuses of "purposely and intentionally deceiving us and not telling the truth about" President Barack Obama, the Gazette reported.

Lenington, 69, recently came under public scrutiny after a Gazette public information request revealed instances of him using his government email account to send messages that used derogatory terms for black people and homosexuals, the Gazette reported Nov. 1.

Lenington's sister had forwarded him an email last year opposing Obama after his re-election. Lenington responded that he, too, was baffled in the email including the slurs.

On Friday, Lenington sent a letter to commissioners offering to resign at the end of the year in exchange for being paid for his final year in office.

Commissioners rejected that suggestion Tuesday.

Commissioner Jim Reno then read a statement acknowledging Lenington's long track record of public service, but asking him to resign.

"I'm proud to say I have friends in every category that you recently cast in the worst possible light," Reno said.

"Yes, some of my friends voted for President Obama. But I darn sure didn't," Reno said. "Yet we treat each other with respect. Max, when you lose the public trust, it's time to resign."


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