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Attorney General Tim Fox’s office alerted a Missoula court Thursday that the state will intervene in a lawsuit against former Commissioner of Political Practices Dave Gallik.
Gallik resigned as the state’s top political and ethics watchdog in January 2012 after the Great Falls Tribune reported allegations made by Gallik’s former staff members that Gallik, an attorney, was conducting private law practice work out of his state office.
Two months later the Bozeman-based Montana Policy Institute sued Gallik under a state statue called the “False Claims Act,” a law Gallik carried when he served as a Democrat in the House of Representatives in 2005.
Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, when he was still serving at attorney general, appointed Great Falls attorney Ward “Mick” Taleff to represent state in the case. Last November, Taleff argued on behalf of the state that the case should be dismissed because the Montana Policy Institute, the plaintiff in the case, lacked standing to bring the lawsuit.
Missoula District Judge John Larson rejected the state’s claim and on April 12 ruled the lawsuit against Gallik could proceed.
Thursday was the deadline for the current attorney general, Republican Tim Fox, to either intervene in the case or step aside and let MPI continue the litigation against Gallik.
John Barnes, communications director for the Attorney General’s Office, said the state will intervene. The state has 20 days to serve the complaint against Gallik.
“We feel that the claims that are being made against Gallik are serious,” Barnes said. “Given the nature of all of this – this has implications for state employees and state government in general – we feel its best handled by attorneys representing the State of Montana and best handled by the Department of Justice.”
Gallik said it is “odd” that the new attorney general decided to intervene in the case.
“That seems like a reversal of position,” Gallik said.
Gallik maintained he did nothing wrong while serving as the commissioner of political practices.
“I told everybody that I am going to continue my law practice. I took the job because of the fact that I could continue my law practice. Nothing has changed. The job was a salaried position, I did the job, nothing has changed,” Gallik said.
A committee of top legislative leaders is meeting today to choose candidates to fill the commissioner position. Gallik’s successor, Jim Murry, ended his term last month and the position is now vacant. Senate President Jeff Essmann, House Speaker Mark Blasdel, Senate Minority Leader Jon Sesso, and House Minority Leader Chuck Hunter are interviewing five candidates today and will soon make recommendations to Governor Steve Bullock.