Yellowstone County Treasurer Max Lenington may have violated county policy with dozens of messages sent and received through his government email account detailing an $11,000 transaction for a customized Triumph motorcycle from a dealer in Iowa.
A Gazette public information request turned up more than 30 emails between Lenington, the county treasurer, assessor and superintendent of schools, and a sales representative of Baxter Cycle, a motorcycle dealership based in Marne, Iowa.
In the emails, Lenington agrees to trade in a custom-built 1978 Yamaha Street Tracker towards a customized green Triumph Thruxton.
The thread of messages stretches at least from Oct. 18, 2012, to Jan. 24, 2013, and includes attached photos of the Triumph and a photographed bill of sale.
The dealer valued the Yamaha at $4,500 and billed Lenington an additional $6,603.50 for the customized Thruxton, a retro-looking British bike that Triumph bills as “The café racer. Reinvented.”
Lenington, who first started working in county government in 1969, earns $90,054 a year and supervises about 25 people. His current term as treasurer, assessor and superintendent of schools expires at the end of 2014.
When asked about the motorcycle purchase Friday, Lenington said he didn’t think the transaction was excessive personal use of government resources and compared the thread of emails to incidental use of a work telephone for personal business.
County attorney investigating
County Attorney Scott Twito said Friday the civil division of his office is investigating whether these emails violate the county’s email policy.
A 2007 memo detailing the county’s “Computer User Responsibility Policy” states that using county email extensively “for private, recreational, or personal activities” may represent misuse of county email resources.
Twito said he wants to wait until his civil division finishes their investigation before saying whether Lenington’s emails violate this policy.
Unelected county employees can be fired for violating the policy, County Commissioner Jim Reno has said. But because Lenington is an elected official, he would have to be recalled from office by voters, even if the County Attorney’s Office determines he violated this policy.
In Montana, an elected official can be removed from office for “physical or mental lack of fitness, incompetence, violation of the oath of office, official misconduct, or conviction of a felony offense,” according to state statute.
The Montana oath of office states, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, protect and defend the constitution of the United States, and the constitution of the state of Montana, and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity (so help me God)."