Montana Auditor Orders Probe of Fundraising Activity

By Beacon Staff

State Auditor Monica Lindeen said Tuesday that she is ordering an outside investigation into allegations that her deputy used the office for political fundraising.

The complaint came from an administrator who was fired after making the allegation as part of a complaint against Deputy State Auditor Walt Schweitzer. Schweitzer, the brother of Gov. Brian Schweitzer, has a much higher profile than a normal state agency deputy.

Lindeen said she wants to make sure with the external investigation that staff followed state ethics policies and laws. The auditor said the agency already has determined with an internal investigation that similar federal laws don’t apply to the state office.

Former administrator Laura McGee told the Great Falls Tribune over the weekend that she was fired after complaining that Schweitzer verbally assaulted her and solicited campaign funds in the office.

Schweitzer previously has said he doesn’t recall requesting campaign funds in the state auditor’s office as alleged by McGee, and denied another allegation that he sought attendance at a fundraiser.

Schweitzer did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday on the investigation. Agency Spokeswoman Jessica Rhoades said Schweitzer was out of town on vacation and could not be reached.

Rhoades said that Lindeen is currently reviewing candidates to conduct the outside investigation. She said an internal investigation was made when McGee first made the allegations.

Rhoades said that she could not say any more on what that found, other than that federal law does not apply to the office.

“The issue is undergoing a thorough review at this time, and I wouldn’t want to prejudice that review by a premature comment at this time,” Rhoades said.

State laws also restrict use of government resources to raise political money.

McGee alleged that Schweitzer solicited campaign contributions from her while at work, trying to retire debt left over from Lindeen’s win over Republican Duane Grimes. She also said that Schweitzer solicited attendance for a fundraiser for Montana Democratic Party Chairman Dennis McDonald, running for Congress.

“The employees of this agency have the utmost respect for the law, and we will continue to do everything in our power to ensure that the actions and policies of this office advance and demonstrate that respect,” Lindeen said in a statement.

McGee has also said she was fired July 28 because of her complaint over the matter, which took place just a few days earlier. Lindeen’s office has said that McGee voluntarily resigned.

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