Judge Lets Suit Against Ex-Commissioner Proceed

By Beacon Staff

HELENA — A Missoula judge has ruled a lawsuit can proceed against a former state commissioner of political practices over claims he was conducting private law work out of his state office.

Attorneys representing the state attempted to halt the lawsuit against Dave Gallik, claiming the conservative Montana Policy Institute had no standing to sue.

District Judge John Larson on Thursday denied the state’s motion to dismiss the case.

The Montana Policy Institute claims Gallik violated Montana’s False Claims Act, a bill Gallik himself sponsored as a lawmaker in 2005.

The law allows a person to pursue legal action on behalf of the state government against anyone who makes false representations or claims to receive payment from the government.

The institute filed the lawsuit in March 2012 after commission employees told the Great Falls Tribune that Gallik was conducting private business on the state’s time.

Gallik resigned in January 2012.

Attorneys representing the state said Gallik’s conduct was performed within the scope of his official duties. The state also argued the institute can’t identify direct and independent knowledge of the allegations against Gallik.

The institute, through its attorney, said it filed a freedom of information request months before the news reports about Gallik were published.

“I think there’s a bigger lesson here, and that is the commissioners shouldn’t be political hacks given a patronage gift,” said Art Wittich, a state legislator and attorney representing the institute.

The state has 10 days to intervene in the proceedings against Gallik or notify the court that it declines to take over the action.

If the state declines to intervene, the institute can move on with the lawsuit.

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