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Flathead Resident Sues Commissioner of Political Practices

first_imgA Flathead County resident has filed a lawsuit against Montana’s commissioner of political practices regarding the release of information about the previous commissioner. Edwin X Berry filed the suit against James Murry, the recently appointed commissioner of political practices, on March 6 in Flathead County District Court. The lawsuit seeks to compel Murry to release information on former Commissioner of Political Practices David Gallik, a request the current commissioner denied last month. Gallik resigned in January after a dispute with his staff went public. Gov. Brian Schweitzer appointed Murry as the new commissioner in early February. The allegations against Gallik include falsifying time payroll records and doing work for his private law practice while in state offices. In the lawsuit, Berry’s lawyers – Matthew Monforton of Bozeman and Timothy Baldwin of Kalispell – write that Berry had filed an ethics complaint against Gallik in October 2011 alleging various ethics violations. On. Feb. 21, Berry requested any documents evidencing Gallik’s work for clients other than the state while on state time and any documents about the former commissioner’s alleged misconduct. Murry denied the request, writing in a Feb. 23 response that because Berry’s complaint was pending before a hearing examiner, Murry would be unable to provide the documentation outside of that process. However, Monforton argues that a public records request is a separate matter from an ethics violation hearing, and Berry has the right to ask for the documents as a member of the public. “All the documents we are requesting involve evidence of misconduct by the former commissioner,” Monforton said in an interview last week. That would preclude any refusals for privacy, he said. In an interview with the Beacon, Murry said his office has 40 days to officially respond to the lawsuit once it was served on March 8, but the office intends to make available any public information. There are potential privacy concerns, Murry said, because if Gallik has clients from his private law firm involved, they have a right to having their privacy protected. “That’s the kind of thing that we’re most concerned with,” Murry said. The commissioner of political practices’ office is consulting with its counsel about the lawsuit, Murry said, and its response will depend on that advice. Murry is not an attorney; he was the executive secretary of the Montana State AFL-CIO from 1968 to 1991. “We’re doing everything we can to make information available to everyone that’s entitled to that information,” Murry said. Email Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.last_img read more