He’s a Bozeman Chronicle writer and he considers me a troll and my stories rubbish.
I think a big reason for this is that Carter’s a reporter that’s loyal to the Montana Democrats whereas I’m just loyal to Montana.
That’s why I was surprised to see him put up a story today called Under Bullock, state has paid over $900,000 in settlements to state employees, most confidential.
Usually Carter is a loyal, in-the-pocket reporter for the Montana Democrats.
Why, then, this sordid story?
Let’s delve into that question, the Chronicle story, and, while we’re at it, let’s thread in all the scandalous reporting I’ve done over the past year.
We’re told right away that the $900,000 has been paid to those state employees “over the last three years,” meaning only when Bullock’s been in office.
The state agencies “won’t say why.”
Why is that? Personally, I believe it’s because Bullock and his cronies have to cover up their corruption and their sleaze.
We know that 42 employees got more than $745,000 in hush money but we don’t know who they are as each is labeled “confidential.”
One poor bastard only got $120 but one individual got as much as $122,000.
My, what do you think that person knows?
One former employee tells us that “state agencies use the confidential payments to cover up misdeeds.”
Those state agencies are:
- The Department of Justice
- The Department of Revenue
- The Department of Transportation
- Natural Resources and Conservation
- Fish, Wildlife and Parks
We’ve already reported on the monumental corruption at DPHHS, a story that James DeHaven was working on before he quit/got fired.
We also looked into corruption between Deloitte and DPHHS workers.
Bullock says those payouts and who they were made to need to be confidential. Helena attorney Mike Meloy disagrees, saying the state agencies “are likely in violation of the state’s open records laws.”
That prompted the Chronicle to try and get more information.
They were turned down, and the person that turned them down was Mary Ann Dunwell, “a spokeswoman for the Department of Revenue” who also happens to be a representative for Helena’s HD 84.
Dunwell, a Delaware native, is a frequent guest poster on the Democratic mouthpiece blog MT Cowturd.
Dunwell explained that the hush money payouts were “a personal matter” and that she couldn’t provide any more information.
That's funny, because state employee pay is a personal matter as well but I can look it up...as we've done on this site before.
She points to the “transparency checkbook website,” which lists things like “confidential payee” and “other expense – employee settlements.”
One former state employee that is afraid of getting sued told the Chronicle anonymously that they’d been working for the state for about 10 years when they lost their job due to “mandatory staff reductions.”
The employee “filed a complaint with the Human Rights Bureau” alleging discrimination because they felt the firing was “in retaliation for whistleblower activities.”
Then, “less than 24 hours later,” they got a call from their agency and a settlement offer for over $50,000.
The employee was “to never disclose the settlement.”
So it's clear that the employee wasn't fired because of mandatory staff reductions after all.
Why would you give them a payout if that was the case?
That settlement was verified by the Chronicle and it, and many other settlements like it, have “non-disclosure clauses.”
We then get some information from Ronja Abel, “a spokeswoman for Bullock.”
You’ll remember that she got her job with Bullock back in January because she was sleeping with Bullock’s chief of staff.
Before assuming that position, Abel was working underneath Commerce Director Meg O’Leary.
We’ve speculated on this site that another reason Abel was given the job in Bullock’s office is because she helped cover up the McLean scandal.
Loyal readers will of course remember that came about after former lieutenant governor Angela McLean walked in on Bullock and O’Leary while they were “in the act.”
McLean quit over this and shortly thereafter was given a high-level state position, one with substantially more pay.
Abel characterizes the former state employees that get settlements as people with “axes to grind” that are “out for political retribution.”
Abel also justified the payouts that were given because they make up “a miniscule fraction of the state’s total personnel services budget.”
She also tells us that “state law does not allow state agencies to release information regarding the employee settlements.”
That’s not quite true, however, as citizens have access to Montana state employee pay records, as we mentioned.
There’s no right to privacy there, and we have to ask…how is a settlement any different from regular pay?
Whether working for the state or not…it’s still pay, and has to fall under the open secrets law.
Bullock will fight that, and we have to ask why.
- What is he trying to hide?
- What was so bad that these employees raised concerns?
- Why were employees paid off instead of fixing the problems?
- What are the problems?
We don’t know these things and it’s frustrating.
We pay for state government to operate, all the way from the lights coming on in the buildings to the governor’s salary…and the salary of all those that have been fired and then paid hush money to cover it up.
If it’s our money…why can’t we know what’s happening with it?
I feel legislators will begin asking that question very soon, and we can expect to have yet another hearing into misdeeds in the Bullock administration because of it.
What will they find?
I’m sure it’ll be pretty bad. After all, Bullock has paid nearly $1 million of your money to cover it up.