Gov. Schweitzer Seeks Political Practices Nominees

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Gov. Brian Schweitzer said Wednesday that he wants legislative leaders to provide a list of nominees for political practice commissioner by next week in the wake of Dave Gallik’s resignation.

Gallik was appointed last summer after the Republican-led Senate rejected Schweitzer’s first choice. The Helena attorney resigned this week amid an escalating public dispute with staff over their allegations that he was doing private practice work on state time.

Gallik disputes there was any wrongdoing, pointing out he made it clear from the start that he would keep operating his private practice. Gallik said he decided to resign after staffers called Capitol security, which notified city police, amid their concerns over how Gallik would react to their public complaints.

Gallik, a former Democratic legislator, said the situation had become untenable, and said he believed political motivations were behind the effort to force him out.

Staffers said they felt “justice was served” by the resignation. Program Director Mary Baker — along with fellow staff members Julie Steab, Kym Trujillo and Karen Musgrave — said in a joint release Wednesday that enforcement of state ethics and campaign rules “requires this office to be beyond reproach.”

“Our actions were in no way politically motivated,” the statement said. “No political party or person was involved with any action we took to address what we believed may be an ethical violation.”

They said they were “optimistic” things would improve under different leadership.

Schweitzer, who received a one-sentence resignation letter from Gallik on Wednesday, sent a letter to legislative leaders giving them until next Wednesday to provide recommendations for a replacement.

The nomination process has been plagued by partisan differences that has led to three — going on four — different commissioners in the past 13 months.

Legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle first failed to reach a consensus choice in December 2010 as they were seeking a replacement for former commissioner Dennis Unsworth, who left when his six-year term expired. Schweitzer, who is not bound to the legislative recommendations, picked Jennifer Hensley, of Butte.

But the Republican-led Senate rebuffed that nomination before adjourning in April, leading Schweitzer to pick Gallik — who never expected to be confirmed by the Senate to continue working in the job after lawmakers convene in 2013.

Whomever Schweitzer names to replace Gallik would work in the job until receiving Senate confirmation in 2013 to complete a six-year term.