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Our View: The good and bad news from Yellowstone County


November 14, 2013

In the news business, we talk about stories that are good news/bad news. These are the kinds of stories that please both the optimists and the pessimists.

The sad case of Yellowstone County Treasurer Max Lenington is a good news/bad news story.

Bad news: Lenington, who also serves as assessor and superintendent of schools, wrote a racist and homophobic email to his sister on a county computer. It disparaged President Barack Obama and his race.

Lenington shouldn’t be writing political and personal emails on county-owned computers, especially those that are racists and offensive. But he did.

Good news: The Billings Gazette uncovered the emails and wrote a story informing Lenington’s bosses, the people of Yellowstone County, what was he was up to.

Lots of people were indignant and wanted Lenington to resign.

Bad news: Lenington admitted writing the emails, but attacked the “liberal media” for exposing his misconduct.

He said, though, he would resign, but only if county commissioners would “buy him out.” That means, he wanted the entire $97,000 salary he is supposed to get next year.

He said he didn’t want to embarrass the county any further, but he thought the county taxpayers should have to fork over money.

Good news: Commissioner Jim Reno, a fellow Republican, gave Gazette reporters a copy of Lenington’s request. The Gazette reported on it, and it was greeted with widespread revulsion.

Commissioners unanimously rejected Lenington’s proposal.

Bad news: Lenington is now threatening to remain in office for the rest of his term — through 2014. Lenington will remain in charge of county finances, assessment of property and, spare us, he will be the ultimate authority in the county for education of children.

Good news: The Yellowstone County attorney is investigating Lenington’s actions and promises a report soon.

There is still a lot of time for Yellowstone County residents to rise in rebellion and demand that Lenington step down.


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