State Quickly Hires New Banking Commissioner

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – The Schweitzer administration has hired a new banking commissioner who lists the same address as a recently hired senior adviser to the governor.

The banking commissioner’s job was posted from Dec. 29 through Jan. 7. Louisiana trial lawyer Melanie S. Griggs applied on Dec. 30, was hired on Jan. 14 and started work on Jan. 18. The job pays $97,000 annually.

In her application letter, Griggs listed an address that state records show is a home owned by Franklin Hall, who was hired on Nov. 29 as an adviser to Gov. Brian Schweitzer at a salary of $69,319, Lee Newspapers of Montana reported Wednesday.

When asked about any connection between Griggs and Hall, Schweitzer’s spokeswoman Sarah Elliott said, “I won’t discuss someone’s personal life.”

Hall previously worked for the Democratic Governors Association, which Schweitzer formerly headed. Hall then worked as a consultant in Helena who often accompanied Schweitzer on his out-of-state political trips, but not as a state employee.

Hall donated $1,260 and Griggs gave $630 to Schweitzer’s 2008 election campaign, according to records from the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Griggs was hired to replace Annie Goodwin, who retired, and won the job over 16 other applicants. The other finalist was Dave Novotny, the state’s deputy commissioner of banks and trusts.

Griggs will head a 39-employee division that regulates state-chartered and licensed financial institutions, including state-chartered banks, credit unions, licensed mortgage brokers and mortgage lenders.

The hiring committee for the banking commissioner’s job consisted of two Schweitzer appointees: Department of Administration Director Janet Kelly and Ann Brodsky, Schweitzer’s chief legal counsel.

Schweitzer declined to comment on Griggs’ hiring. Elliott says Kelly hired Griggs.

“Her resume speaks for itself,” Elliott said.

Until December, Griggs worked as an attorney for St. Martin & Bourque of Houma, La.

Both Griggs and Kelly were in meetings Wednesday morning and were unavailable for immediate comment.

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