Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rob Stutz, legislature’s chief attorney, resigns

The Legislature's chief attorney resigned Tuesday after fewer than 9 months on the job.

Rob Stutz replaced longtime legal services director and code commissioner Greg Petesch in July. Petesch had served as the Legislature's chief lawyer for 26 years until his retirement in June.

Susan Fox, executive director of Legislative Services Division declined to comment on the reason for Stutz's abrupt resignation because it is a personnel matter.

"We respect his privacy," Fox said.

Stutz did not immediately return a call for comment.

Fox said Stutz's departure will have little impact on the work of the Legislature's legal services staff at this point in the session.

"The timing of his resignation was respectful to the process," Fox said. "The bulk of the legal review work is complete."

Fox said general bills that survived the 45-day transmittal deadline have already been reviewed by legal staff.

Fox said she was grateful for the work Stutz did in his during his brief tenure.

"I want to thank him for all of the hard work he did pre-session and during transmittal," Fox said.

Stutz's brief term as legal director was dominated in the months leading up to the session defending a lawsuit Gov. Brian Schweitzer filed against the Legislature last fall alleging that lawmakers violated the Montana Constitution's "single subject" rule when it passed a spending measure in 2009.

"It was a lot of work and took a lot of his time and a lot of staff time, time that could have been spent on session business," Fox said.

A Helena district court judge dismissed the lawsuit in December.

Legislative attorney Todd Everts will take over as interim legal services director, Fox said.

Legislative attorney Lee Heiman, who took over as code commissioner upon Petesch's retirement will remain in that job, Fox said. The code commissioner is responsible for incorporating laws passed by the Legislature into the Montana Code. That work will begin this summer after the Legislature adjourns.

Fox said the search for a new legal director will begin no sooner than May.

"We'll wait until after the dust of the session has settled before we make those decisions," Fox said.

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