On May 12, 2015, Jon Motl, the Commissioner of Political Practices filed a “Summary of Facts and Finding of Sufficient Evidence to Show Violations of Montana’s Practices Act” against former Libby City Attorney James Reintsma, the mayor of Libby, and several members of the Libby City Council. The basic allegation of Mr. Motl is that public funds were used to influence the 2013 Libby mayoral election.
We deny in the strongest terms possible that we are responsible for any wrongdoing in this claim by Motl. Mr. Reintsma, acting in his capacity as city attorney and without any request or advice from us, decided to pursue a legal ruling in the matter of Allen Olsen’s claim of residency within the city limits of Libby. We understood and were assured by our city attorney that he had the legal right to pursue such a legal determination without our permission. We also agreed with Mr. Olsen that this matter needed to be resolved. The issue was legal residency, not opposition to a mayoral candidate.
We were never informed of Motl’s inclusion of the mayor and city council members in his findings against Mr. Reintsma until the day before the finding was released to the public. Also, none of us were ever asked nor allowed to give a statement in our defense to the COPP prior to his decision. Yet his inequitable conclusion of our fault is clear in his comments to the Western News of May 15 when he compares our alleged misdeed of apparently not telling Mr. Reintsma that he couldn’t file his lawsuit to Chicago-style corruption.
Motl has demanded an outrageous settlement amount from each of us to avoid litigation in this matter. He also advises us that paying any negotiated settlement is an admission of our guilt.
We have not previously spoken publicly on this issue because we were stunned by this decision of the COPP and angered by one man’s power to use and abuse his government employment and our taxpayer money to judge and condemn people who have never had any opportunity to defend themselves. It is our opinion that the situation in which we find ourselves constitutes extortion by a public official against residents of his state. This power unfortunately can touch any resident of this state, and reading the newspaper on a daily basis, it is clear that Motl has had many similar complaints lodged against him for abuse of his office.
Therefore, we have decided after serious deliberation that we cannot pay any fee, great or small, to the Commissioner of Political Practices that requires us to admit any guilt in this case. It is not our desire or preference to seek legal action, but we may not have any other recourse to clear our names.
We apologize to the public for our silence, but we had to explore our possibilities before making a decision. We appreciate the support that many of you have offered us and we hope for a just outcome.
Bill Bischoff, Doug Roll, Vicky Lawrence, Robin Benson, Peggy Williams, Barb Desch
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.