Currently Bullock is heading to Iowa for his third time, hoping the Hawkeye State will spark the flame of his presidential aspirations.
He’s been there in April, was there at the end of July and is heading there again next week.
We know that “Bullock’s itinerary has not yet been set,” meaning we’re not sure if he’s going during working hours.
We do know for certain that he’ll be speaking to an Iowa newspaper on August 16, which will be a Thursday.
On top of this, Bullock will be in New Hampshire on August 24, a Friday.
And how would all this work, anyways?
Will he be paid his usual 40-hours-a-week salary…or will he use up vacation time…or just opt to not get paid for that time?
Because, really…I don’t think state law allows you to campaign for office while you’re supposed to be working in that office…or any other state-level job.
When Bullock was in Iowa on July 27, it was a Friday.
So we have a Thursday and a Friday – both work days – and I’m sure there was some travel prep a day before.
Doesn’t leave a lot of time to do the usual gubernatorial tasks, and I’m sure his head’s not in the governor’s office, either.
Looking at the GOP side, I’d say that Matt Rosendale’s head isn’t really in the State Auditor’s office, either.
If we’re going to complain about Bullock being in Iowa on a Thursday, then we should probably complain about Rosendale being in Billings on a Wednesday.
That’s the day that Vice President Pence had his Rosendale campaign rally, though he also did a private dinner event on Tuesday night.
Did Rosendale take that time off from work…or was he paid?
They’re honest questions, and I feel voters have a right to know.
Next come the regional candidates.
Mostly we’re talking about the PSC this year…larger swaths of Montana that are made up of numerous legislative districts.
It’s hard to keep track of all these races, or what the candidates are doing in them.
One thing that I have heard is that PSC #5’s Democratic candidate, Andy Shirtliff, has been skipping out on work to campaign.
This seems likely as he was in Polson for the evening opening of the Montana Democratic Party’s field office there last Wednesday.
It takes a while to drive from Helena to Polson, so I’m thinking that Shirtliff must have taken off work early that day.
As some might know, Shirtliff had been laid-off from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development a while ago due to the budget cuts.
(Two notes for the political die-hards: Eric Stern was another that saw his governor’s office job cut during that time, and it’s interesting to note that Thai Nguyen is working the Polson Dem office for county commissioner Caroline McDonald.)
After Shirtliff lost his job, he moved over to the Montana Department of Commerce to work as a public relations specialist.
This has been described to me as “a cushy job.”
So for the Wednesday night campaign event…was he paid…did he use vacation time…or simply opt to take unpaid leave?
I have no problem with the latter two, but if you’re getting paid you’re 40-hour-a-week salary when you’re driving to a political event, then that’s not alright in my book.
From what I’m hearing, Shirtliff is getting paid for a full 40-hour-week…even though he’s been absent a lot from work due to campaigning.
This hasn’t gone unnoticed amongst the staff that’s been at Commerce for years or decades, but when some people made it known they wanted to go public with the information, the department squashed the effort to save Shirtliff any embarrassment.
And then there are the judges.
The worst example comes to us from Havre, where Judge Jessica Cole-Hodgkinson “did not appear for a total of 10 hearings.”
One county attorney’s office employee said she’d “barely been in the office since taking over” in 2016, and added that the judge had “spent much of her time on the Hill County taxpayer’s dime in Missoula, supposedly closing her private practice.”
Havre wasn’t able to get rid of Cole-Hodgkinson until last month, and just yesterday the former judge began a series of three hearings to figure out what in the hell she was doing for her $95,000-a-year salary.
Here in Missoula, Judge Marie Andersen has problems as well. She was “frequently late for work or absent.”
In this instance, there was little the county could do but issue a statement saying they were troubled.
Andersen will be up for election in November, however, and we’ll see how Missoula’s news-reading public takes the recent stories…which garnered national attention.
Aside from those two, I’d like to mention Missoula County Clerk and Treasurer Tyler Gernant, who I hear is also chronically absent from work.
Some view mismanagement and waste as the two hallmarks of his nearly 4-year-tenure.
I think it’s clear we have candidates campaigning on the taxpayer’s dime.
They’re off doing functions when they should be in the office, and some of them might even be getting paid for it.
I think a common response to this news is that, ‘If you’re a Democrat, this is ok…but if you’re a Republican it’s a no-no.’
That’s about what I’d expect from the social media crowd.
But what do the laws say, and what would the media report…if they ever felt like digging into this?
I doubt the media will look at anything.
What’s most troubling to me aren’t the lost hours that taxpayers are paying for, however.
What I worry about is the sense of entitlement that directs these decisions.
These politicians feel that they’re important enough, or good enough or – gosh darn it! – just deserving enough to do this.
They’re better than you and I.
And when you’re better than everyone else, you can do things that everyone else cannot.
Like not show up to work, and then get paid for it.
Who the hell’s gonna complain…some silly blog that no one reads?
“Andy Shirtliff.” LinkedIn. Retrieved 7 August 2018. https://www.linkedin.com/in/andyshirtliff
“Bullock adds New Hampshire trip as he probes national run.” AP. Retrieved 8 August 2018. https://apnews.com/bba68e5ddfbb45379d9e675f758a8a54
Dragu, Paul. “New Hill County attorney takes office; questions remain about past attorney’s conduct.” Missoula Current. 30 July 2018. https://www.missoulacurrent.com/government/2018/07/hill-county-attorney-alley/
“Governor Bullock plans third Iowa trip as he eyes presidential run.” KULR. 7 August 2018. http://www.kulr8.com/story/38826348/governor-bullock-plans-third-iowa-trip-as-he-eyes-presidential-run
“Investigation Criticizes Missoula County Justice of Peace.” U.S. News & World Report. 17 July 2018. https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/montana/articles/2018-07-17/investigation-criticizes-missoula-county-justice-of-peace
Scavelli, Melissa. “Vice President Pence visits Billings during overnight trip.” 23 July 2018. http://www.kulr8.com/story/38711790/vice-president-pence-visits-billings-during-overnight-trip
“Tyler Gernant.” LinkedIn. Retrieved 7 August 2018. https://www.linkedin.com/in/tyler-gernant-70592a4
Zolman, Rob. “Democrats open campaign office in Polson.” Valley Journal. 1 August 2018. http://www.valleyjournal.net/Article/20164/Democrats-open-campaign-office-in-Polson