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Montana Ethics Laws For Public Officials

Multiple bills are going through the Montana Legislature that address accountability and the conduct of public officials.

Ethics Laws For Public Officials

Montana Ethics Laws For Public Officials

By Tim Ravndal

Many citizens in Montana claim they have been impacted by public officials misconduct.  There have been multiple claims made regarding a loss of integrity and ethics violations against public officials.

When a complaint is filed, Title II laws in the Montana Codes Annotated, sets forth a procedure to correct ethical or official misconduct of public officials.  Under Title II Law, the section of Montana law is broke down in multiple different areas.

Ethics are at the top of the list to ensure the people that public officials are charged with protecting the public trust.  However, due to the lack of enforcement provisions within the law, complaints often are lost in the bureaucracy of government.  Political priorities can also impact the official decision making process in resolving ethics complaints.

Commissioner Jeff Mangan

The Montana Political Practice Commission is where many ethics complaints are handled.  Jeff Mangan is the current Political Practice Commissioner charged with upholding the ethics laws.  While a majority of complaints involve political campaign practices there are times when elected public officials are investigated by the commissioner.

Multiple bills are going through the Montana Legislature that address accountability and the conduct of public officials.

Senate Bill 150 was introduced before the House Administration Committee.  The bill introduced by Senator Bryce Bennett passed the Senate with a 50 to 0 vote.

The bill specifically looks at addressing a problem between the citizens right to know, the right to participate and personal privacy rights.  These rights are covered under the Constitution of Montana under Article II Sections 8, 9 and 10.

The foundation of the bill makes a case that confidentiality applies to a public employee or public officer and cannot be opened for inspection. While the process is determined by the constitutional rights of the citizens of Montana, the right to privacy is important.  Providing privacy protection under Section 10 of the Constitution of Montana for public employees is determined a priority.

Senator Bryce Bennett

Montana law and Constitution of Montana equally recognizes the right to know and the right to participate in actions taken by elected officials under Sections 8 and 9.

Claims have been made that elected officials are afforded a right to privacy when a complaint is filed against them.  The privacy aspect of an elected official has been called into question

The bill, if passed, will also provide additional laws against using public time, materials and or funds. by a public officer or public employee for campaign purposes.

Not long ago, the Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton was challenged for allegedly using his office for campaign purposes.  Governor Bullock was also recently challenged for alleged improper use of the state plane and staff.

As the bill moves through the process in the Montana Legislature, many we talked to are asking how the legislation will direct resources in securing the public trust and to protect the rights of the people.

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