Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Right-wing blogger sues newly appointed Commissioner of Political Practices

A self-described advocate for “small and transparent government” filed a lawsuit against the newly appointed Commissioner of Political Practices seeking records related to the former commissioner's activities while in that office.

Edwin Berry, an atmospheric physicist and right-wing blogger from Bigfork, is asking the court to force political practices commissioner Jim Murry to turn over records related to former commissioner Dave Gallik’s alleged misconduct.

Gallik resigned in January after the staff in the office accused him of falsifying his state time sheet and doing private practice attorney work from his state office. Gallik denied the charges and said the commissioner’s fabricated the allegations to force him out because they didn't like his management style.

Matthew Monforton, Berry's Bozeman-based attorney, said his client filed the lawsuit because he has an interest in getting to the bottom of the allegations made against Gallik.

"If commissioner Gallik was performing or working on behalf of private clients and using state time and state resources to perform that work, that than would create very serious and perhaps criminal problems," Monforton said. "If the allegations are true that Mr. Gallik falsified time records, then that could potentially be theft of public funds."

The lawsuit asks the court to force Murry to turn over documents. Murry declined a public records request Berry made on Feb. 21 seeking records because of an ongoing ethics complaint Berry filed against Gallik last fall. Berry filed the complaint because Gallik was still listed as the treasurer for the Democratic Legislators Alumni Association political action committee while serving as commissioner.

Murry wrote in a Feb. 23 letter to Berry that because Berry's complaint was pending before a hearing examiner, Murry was unable to provide the document.

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