Gallik Resigns from Montana Political Practices Post

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Political practices commissioner Dave Gallik said Tuesday that he was resigning amid an escalating dispute with the office’s four permanent staff members.

The former Democratic legislator was appointed to the position last year by Gov. Brian Schweitzer after the Republican-led Senate rebuffed his first pick for the post.

Gallik said he told the governor he would be resigning after he learned that office staff called the police with a complaint when he was out of the office talking to reporters. Gallik said the police never contacted him and that he doesn’t know what the latest issue was about.

Police dispatch records did not offer a reason why the city officer assigned to the Capitol responded to a request from the building. Police administrators could not be reached late Tuesday for comment.

The events followed news reports that staff in the office believed Gallik improperly conducted private business from his state office. Gallik maintains that he kept his private law firm business separate.

Earlier in the day, Gallik said he expected a “chilly” work environment after the dispute went public, but he expected all would continue to work together.

Gallik said he changed his mind after he verified with police dispatchers that staff members had called them for an undisclosed reason. The former legislator said he and the staff members had not spoken at all Tuesday.

“I can’t go back into that office with four people guns a-blazing at me, particularly with these false accusations,” he said.

The political practices office staff could not be reached late Tuesday for comment.

The staff members earlier made public their complaints, first in The Great Falls Tribune, that they believe Gallik had been committing ethics violations since taking the job last summer. They argue it is a conflict to private-practice attorney work in the commissioner’s office.

Gallik said it was never a secret that he would be continuing his private law practice in Helena, and rebutted proof offered by staffers that he has been doing private business in state offices.

He said there is nothing illegal with it and argued the employees are unhappy with him because he has a different management style than past commissioners.

Gallik argued the post, which pays a salary of $57,689 per year, is not an hourly job and he often works late from his private practice office to get both jobs done.

Program Director Mary Baker — along with fellow staff members Julie Steab, Kym Trujillo and Karen Musgrave — alleged that Gallik wasn’t spending enough time doing the job he was appointed to do and has been ineffective. They cited emails from his state account regarding private practice work, and said they have seen private practice case accounts on Gallik’s desk at the commissioner’s office.

The four said they had hired a lawyer in case of retaliation — but Helena lawyer Thomas Budewitz said at that time none had a reason to believe there would be any.

The employees said they took their complaints to the governor’s office, since he made the appointment. The governor can remove a commissioner “only for incompetence, malfeasance, or neglect of duty” according to state law — a decision that would be subject to judicial review.

Gallik said Schweitzer’s chief of staff, Vivian Hammill, advised him after that to keep legal work to his law office — and asked him to try to get along with his staff.

But Gallik said he told the governor late Tuesday to expect a resignation letter on Wednesday. Gallik said he understood the commissioner’s job would likely only last another year, until the Senate convenes in 2013, because of the way the Republican-led body treated Schweitzer’s last nominee.

Gallik said he has no intention of walking away from his law practice.

“That is the straw the breaks the camel’s back. I don’t need this headache,” Gallik said after the latest developments. “I don’t know anyone who would continue on knowing the baseless allegations were going to continue.”

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment late Tuesday.