Free. Independent. News.
COVID-19, economic analysis, in-depth government reporting.
Our local journalists cover Montana for you.
Get updates daily in your inbox.
From left, Julie Steab, Kym Trujillo, Mary Baker and Karen Musgrave, who work in the Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices, have documented alleged time and office misuse by their boss, Dave Gallik, commissioner of Political Practices. TRIBUNE PHOTO/LARRY BECKNER
(Since we’re having trouble wit the link on the Tribune website I’ve gone ahead and uploaded the story to The Lowdown.)
HELENA — The staff members in the Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices say their boss, the state’s political campaign ethics and finance enforcement official, has been conducting private business from his state office since his appointment in May.
All four permanent staff members of the commissioner’s office told the Tribune Capital Bureau in interviews last week that Commissioner Dave Gallik — who was appointed by Gov. Brian Schweitzer in May — has spent nearly as much time in his state office tending to his private law practice as doing official political-practices work.
“Dave Gallik has been committing ethics violations since he got here,” said Mary Baker, program supervisor for the commissioner’s office. “He has been doing private-practice attorney work in the commissioner’s office since the day he walked in.”
The commissioner’s staff said Gallik, who earns $57,689 per year as commissioner, also has been fudging time sheets and clocking state time he hasn’t actually worked, an act they described as “stealing from the taxpayers.”
Gallik, in an interview Thursday, denied the allegations.
A former Democratic member of the state House who lost a primary bid for the state Senate in 2010, Gallik said his staff members — all of whom were hired before he was appointed — do not like him because he is “different” from past commissioners.
“The folks around here aren’t used to someone like me,” Gallik said. “What it boils down to is we have classified employees who come in here and work eight hours a day, and former commissioners who had no political background and no legal background. So it’s different.”
But Baker, along with fellow staff members Julie Steab, Kym Trujillo, and Karen Musgrave, told the Tribune their complaints against Gallik stem from the fact he isn’t doing the job he was appointed to do and is instead focusing much of his time and energy on his private practice.
Gallik said nothing he has done violates the law governing his office, which says a commissioner may not “hold another position of public trust or engage in any other occupation or business if the position … interfere with or is inconsistent with the commissioner executing the duties of the commissioner’s office.”
Gallik admitted he isn’t in the office as much as previous commissioners, but he said that even while out of the office he is doing commissioner work, often at his private office.
“It was never a secret that I would continue my law practice,” Gallik said. “I told the governor when he appointed me that I would continue my practice.”
Gallik said state law bars him from using state offices or equipment for private work, but he can do commissioner work from his private office, while also being able to work on his private-practice caseload.
According to Lewis and Clark County District Court records, Gallik had at least 16 open cases in that county alone since taking office. He also has two cases open in federal court in addition to other cases filed in other state district courts.
Gallik said around the time he was appointed commissioner that he hired a fulltime lawyer at his law practice to help with the caseload. “So it’s not just me working on these cases,” Gallik said.
Gallik said that he doesn’t practice full time privately but that he works “long hours” in both jobs.
Gallik said he occasionally used his state email address to communicate with his private-practice staff to coordinate scheduling between the two jobs, but he denied using his state computer or email account to conduct private practice or personal business. However an analysis of emails, photographs, court records and state time sheets obtained by the Tribune appear to dispute Gallik’s claim.
Notes for a divorce settlement Gallik was working on sit on his desk in the Commissioner’s office last summer. Staff said the often saw files like this on Gallik’s desk in his office. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Gallik repeatedly sent documents and emails back and forth from his law practice to his state email address. Emails between May and August showed regular communication between Gallik and his staff at his private practice on private casework.
For example, on July 19, 2011, Gallik sent an email from his state account to his assistant, Connie Anderson, in which he discussed preparations for an upcoming trial: “We need to get the exhibits and documents ready for the matters coming up,” the email states, in part. “… Put together the exhibits with an index. Once you have this I will put the exhibits in the proper order then we will put the exhibit stamp and make the appropriate amount of copies for trial. I will also need a shell for our proposed findings of fact. …” Gallik also exchanged emails with his wife, Gail Gallik — an executive assistant in the state Department of Commerce — regarding leases and rental agreements for property the couple owns. According to his staff, Gallik regularly leaves his computer on, logged in, unattended and unsecured for long periods of time when he leaves the office, which is a violation of the state’s computer workstation policy.
Every member of the commissioner’s staff said they’ve regularly seen emails on his computer related to his private practice. They said they’ve also seen private-practice case files on his desk in the commissioner’s office.
In one instance Musgrave photographed files Gallik left sitting on his desk that dealt with a divorce settlement he was working on.
The photo showed handwritten notes on a legal pad regarding a divorce settlement.
“He left that kind of stuff on his desk all the time,” said Trujillo, program data technician for the commissioner’s office.
According to the staff, they met with Gallik at his law office the week before his term as commissioner began in May. The staff said Gallik indicated he wanted the commissioner’s staff to work seamlessly with his private-practice staff.
“He told us he made it clear to the governor he would not be giving up his law practice,” Musgrave said.
“He told us he wanted the political-practices staff to work with his private-practice staff,” Trujillo said. “He thought we were just going to conjoin the two offices.”
“We told him in no uncertain terms that he can’t do that,” said Steab, an investigator for the commissioner’s office.
Baker said she informed Gallik that under no circumstances could his private-practice work cross over with the work of the commissioner’s office.
“We drew the line prior to him coming here as to what he could and couldn’t do,” Baker said. “I said we were not going to be calling his staff and coordinating with them.”
According to his staff, once Gallik came on as commissioner he regularly clocked hours on the state payroll when he was actually doing work for his private law practice. In some cases state payroll records and court records appear to confirm this.
For example, Gallik logged eight hours of political practice work — a full day’s worth — on June 28, 2011. However, in a sworn affidavit Gallik filed in Helena District Court in a case involving one of his private-practice clients, Gallik claimed eight hours of attorney work on that same day.
Gallik said he couldn’t recall if he was in the commissioner’s office June 28, but he says he must have worked those eight hours.
“If that’s what I claimed, then that’s what I worked,” Gallik said, adding that he works “a lot of 16-hour days.” According to state payroll records, Gallik initially logged 18.5 hours of state time on July 20-22 when he was in Vancouver, Wash., conducting a mediation for one of his private clients. Gallik later amended the time sheet only after Baker repeatedly brought it to his attention.
Gallik said the initial mix-up was a result of his misunderstanding of proper reporting procedures.
“I think I worked some time ahead of time and didn’t put it down, and then I just added on those days I was gone,” Gallik said. “I found out that wasn’t the right way to do it so I amended it back to the way it should have been.”
More recently, while attending the Council on Government Ethics Laws conference in Nashville, Tenn., with Baker and Trujillo, Gallik claimed a full day’s pay on Dec. 7. However, according to the conference program, the conference ended at noon that day. Gallik then toured the Opryland Hotel with Baker and Trujillo for the rest of that afternoon.
“I think what I did on that one was I took too little time on the return trip and too much time on the conference getting out,” Gallik explained.
Gallik said even if there was a “technical issue” with his timesheet — which he said there is not — he said he was appointed by the governor to a “salaried position.”
“The job is to get the job done,” Gallik said. “I respect the requirement to log my hours so I do it. I don’t cheat because I don’t need to cheat the state out of $27 per hour.”
According to payroll records, previous commissioners worked on an hourly pay scale and logged their hours.
Baker said she discussed the erroneous reporting with Gallik on numerous occasions.
However, all four staff members said Gallik gets angry when confronted about his reporting of work hours.
Musgrave said Gallik often becomes verbally abusive when challenged by his staff. “David likes to be in control,” Musgrave said.
Meanwhile, Gallik has produced very little in the way of political-practices work product, the staff says.
“We wouldn’t give a damn about what he put down for hours if he was actually getting the job done,” Trujillo said.
The commissioner’s staff said the many of the political-practices decisions that were released during Gallik’s tenure were prepared by Gallik’s immediate predecessor, Jennifer Hensley, or by staff. Hensley was in the position for just a few months after replacing Dennis Unsworth, who had been commissioner for four-and-a-half years before that.
The Republican-controlled Senate blocked Hensley’s appointment during the 2011 legislative session, refusing to give Hensley a confirmation hearing.
However, the staff in the commissioner’s office said Hensley did a great deal of work in the short time she was there.
Most of the other decisions or settlements produced by the commissioner’s office were written primarily by Steab in her investigative reports or by Baker and signed by Gallik, the staff said.
“He wrote almost nothing on his own,” Steab said.
According to the staff, of the 21 decisions produced by the commissioner’s office since May, 12 were almost entirely written or outlined by Hensley before Gallik’s arrival. Many of the remaining decisions were either “cut and pasted” from Steab’s investigative reports or written by attorneys contracted by the commissioner’s office, the staff said.
According to the staff, Gallik has only drafted one decision on his own since arriving on the job in May.
“If he’s doing all this commissioner work when he’s out of the office, where’s the work product?” Baker said.
Gallik disagrees with his staff’s assessment of his productivity.
“I think there is a good work product to show for it,” Gallik said. “Take a look at the backlog (of political-practices complaints). It’s no worse than it’s ever been,” Gallik said.
Gallik said he’s also been integrally involved in Western Tradition Partnership campaign-finance litigation. The Montana Supreme Court ruled in December in that case that the state’s 100-year-old ban on direct campaign spending by corporations should remain in effect.
Gallik said he’s also been working on a mandate that all candidates for statewide offices must file their campaign finance reports online.
Gallik claims that he has saved the Montana taxpayers “a lot of dough” because he has cut down on the amount of legal bills by putting his skills as an attorney to use in the office.
But Baker contends that the office’s legal bills have actually gone up since Gallik took office.
“There may be an appearance that he did save some money to this office, but if you actually look at the pending contracts yet to be paid you’d see we’ve got $34,172.50 owed to contracted attorneys,” Baker said.
Baker said the office has had to contract five outside people to work on complaints because of Gallik’s conflicts of interest, mostly resulting from his campaign donations. In one case Gallik himself is named in a complaint as treasurer of the Democratic Legislative Alumni Association PAC.
“Because of his conflicts we’ve incurred significant legal fees for outside legal contracts — the highest number of outside contracts we’ve ever had in the history of this office,” Steab said.
Baker and Steab said they raised their concerns about Gallik’s actions with payroll officials at the Department of Administration, Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s office, the Legislative Audit Division and the Attorney General’s office. While their claims have yet to be investigated, the office is scheduled for a legislative audit in June. However, the staff said the results of that audit wouldn’t be known until late next fall, possibly after the 2012 election cycle.
That’s why the staff contacted the Tribune last week, they said.
“If we continued to not say anything then we would be as guilty as he is,” Musgrave said. “He is stealing from the state by claiming time that he is not working, and if we remained silent we’d be helping to perpetuate that crime. We know this is going on, and we need to do something about it.”
According to Baker and Steab, in August they met with Schweitzer’s chief of staff, Vivian “Viv” Hammill, and Patti Keebler, the governor’s appointments coordinator.
According to detailed notes Baker and Steab took during their Aug. 9 meeting, they explained to Hammill and Keebler that Gallik was misreporting his state work time, specifically that Gallik was reporting time worked while he was out of state working on private-practice matters.
Steab and Baker told the governor’s staff that they estimated that half of that time Gallik reported to the state was spent doing privatepractice work or handling his rental property business. They also said that the work the commissioner’s office had produced during Gallik’s term as commissioner was primarily the work of others.
Baker said she was especially concerned about the misreported time because she was the one who signed off on the office’s bi-weekly payroll verification form.
“I was not at all comfortable putting my signature on that form when I knew that the hours he was reporting were not accurate,” Baker said.
“At the time we thought they were very offended by what we were telling them,” Steab said.
Both Steab and Baker wrote in their notes that Hammill said Gallik’s behavior was inappropriate and the problems need to be “nipped in the bud.”
Gallik said he did have a conversation with Hammill after that meeting.
“(Hammill and Keebler) told me I couldn’t do any legal work from the political-practices office and that I had to do it from my law office, and I told them that I wasn’t,” Gallik said. “They said to try to work it out (with the staff). Try to make them understand. Try to get along.”
A request to interview Hammill, Keebler or Schweitzer was met with the following statement by Schweitzer’s communication’s director, Sarah Elliott: “When Governor Schweitzer appointed Dave Gallik he asked him to do more with less. In the first six months of being commissioner, Gallik, being himself an attorney, saved the office thousands on legal fees and decided at least 27 cases and motions. In comparison, Dennis Unsworth, the previous commissioner, decided only 13 cases in his first six months.”
Elliott went on to say that the Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices is not managed or under the jurisdiction of the governor’s office.
“The governor is aware that, just like many Montanans, Gallik works two jobs,” Elliott stated. “The governor’s chief of staff did speak to him about how to properly account for his state time. Commissioner Gallik’s work product speaks for itself.”
The commissioner’s staff responded with a joint statement of their own: “We wish the governor would have checked with us regarding what Dave Gallik has done,” they said. “We apologize to the governor for having to give him the facts, but if he is naïve enough to believe (Gallik), and not check to see that what he is saying is true, then he will be embarrassed to find out Dave is taking credit for other people’s work.”
Gallik speculated that the reason his staff approached the Tribune with their complaints was to try to drive him out of office.
“They don’t like me, who I am or what I say. I’m not a pushover,” Gallik said. “I think this is an attempt to undermine my effectiveness.”
Baker, who has worked in the commissioner’s office since 2001, said Gallik’s accusations ring hollow.
“I’ve worked under four commissioners and they’ve all come from political backgrounds. I’ve adapted to all of them,” Baker said. “In order to build trust it takes time and you have to be engaged. Dave is never here.”