Missoula District Judge John Larson denied the state’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Montana Policy Institute (MPI), a conservative think tank, against former Commissioner of Political Practices (COPP) Dave Gallik this Thursday.
Gallik, appointed by former Gov. Brian Schweitzer, resigned his position after several employees of the Office of Political Practices came forward to Great Falls Tribune reporter John Adams, confirming public records that showed Gallik was conducting private business on state time. MPI filed a lawsuit against the former COPP under the False Claims Act, a law that allows private citizens to take civil action on behalf of the state in cases of false representation.
“I’m delighted that the court recognized both the merits of the case and the propriety of MPI’s involvement with it,” said MPI CEO Carl Graham. “We look forward to helping get Montana’s taxpayers back what they’re owed.”
The complaint was originally filed on February 27, 2012, and according to the False Claims Act, the complaint was only supposed to be under seal for only sixty days. However, the state was able to extend the seal in late September.
“The real delay in the case was Attorney General Bullock trying to keep it under seal for eight months,” said MPI’s Attorney, Senate Majority Leader Art Wittich, in a telephone interview with Media Trackers. “They were trying to keep it under seal for a long time.”
Wittich continued to add that evidence may have been spoiled over the long period of time.
“There’s been spoiled evidence since the beginning of this matter,” said Wittich.
On the same day of the hearing on whether to dismiss the case against Gallik, the Office of Political Practices was broken into.
Mary Baker of the Office of Political Practices told Media Trackers that they were unable to find anything missing, but that a small stack of papers had been disturbed. When asked if she thought the break in was related to the Gallik case, she said it couldn’t be verified.
“You know, we had some concerns that it could be, but nothing has been validated,” said Baker in a telephone interview. “Basically the police said there wasn’t enough to go on.”
The state has ten days to decide if it will intervene and proceed with the action or decline to take action. Wittich said he is unsure if the state will take up the case, but said that the case will move forward “with or without them.”
“The significance of the case is that Gallik will be held accountable, and the state will recover some of the lost money that he claimed and received,” added Wittich.