Selection Committee to submit choices for new Political Practices Commissioner to Governor

The four top leaders from the state legislature are set to meet tomorrow in Helena to choose top candidates to be the next Commissioner of Political Practices.

Former Commissioner Dave Gallik resigned last month following after co-workers accused him of ethics violations. Gallik denies those claims.

The selection committee’s candidates move to the governor’s desk for consideration.

15 candidates are currently asking to be considered for the Political Practices Commissioner. The Political Practices office upholds campaign finance laws. So it’s not the best time to be without a commissioner.

Legislative Services Executive Director Susan Byorth Fox says at least it’s early in the election season.

“I think there’s a backlog of some of the cases so it’s important we get this filled as soon as possible,” Fox said.

The selection committee is made up of the majority and minority leaders for both the state house and senate.They will look at the candidates and narrow those down to 2 to 5 names. State statute requires this committee to meet. Byorth Fox said it’s intended to assist the Governor.

“If the leaders of the 4 caucuses, we’ve got both parties represented, both chambers. If they can come up with a list, then a certain level of vetting and I think it’s a level of buy-in,” Byorth Fox said.

Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer can choose from the candidate list given to him. But he doesn’t have to, he can choose whomever he wishes.

“But he does have to do it within 30 days of the vacancy so we figure that to be February 17th,” he said.

Commissioner Dave Gallik is the second Commissioner to leave the post early. The Governor’s previous choice, Jennifer Hennsley was not confirmed by the Senate during the 2011 Legislature.

House Speaker Republican Mike Milburn suggests the Governor choose carefully this time around.

“The last two did not work out…we’re hoping he does not make that mistake again. We’re going to present to him somebody who we believe will be fair and honest and do a good job–look at every case objectively,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Democrat Carol Williams thinks the selection committee will take their job seriously and choose good candidates in this important election year. She’s not sure how the Governor will choose this time.

“I think he’s seriously nominated people that he had considered and probably talked about about their view of the office. My sense is that he made the best decision that he could at the time and these things just happen,” Williams said.

Republican speaker Milburn has a different take. He thinks the Governor’s previous two posts have been too partisan for the Political Practices Commissioner. Governor Schweitzer is in China this week and his office did not return calls seeking comment.

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