Judge Rejects Montana Lawmaker’s Claim of Retaliation

GOP Rep. Brad Tschida's ethics complaint alleged Bullock misused a state-owned plane in 2014

By Molly Priddy

HELENA — A federal judge has dismissed claims that Montana’s commissioner of political practices retaliated against a state lawmaker who publicly disclosed a confidential ethics complaint against Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris says in his order Tuesday that Jonathan Motl’s position as commissioner upholding a state law gives him immunity from prosecution.

Republican Rep. Brad Tschida’s ethics complaint alleged Bullock and former Commerce Director Meg O’Leary misused a state-owned plane in 2014. Ethics complaints are confidential, but Tschida sent a letter about it to other lawmakers a week before Bullock was re-elected.

Morris rejected Tschida’s allegation that Motl retaliated against him by saying in a radio interview that the disclosure could result in prosecution for official misconduct.

But Tschida’s claim that the confidentiality provision violates his free-speech rights will proceed in the case.

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