Lenington says he’ll retire early if county buys out his last year in office

2013-11-08T16:25:00Z 2013-11-18T16:41:09Z Lenington says he’ll retire early if county buys out his last year in officeBy EDDIE GREGG egregg@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Yellowstone County Treasurer Max Lenington, under fire for his racially charged emails, has offered to retire at the end of the year — on one condition.

“Buy out my last year of the term and I will submit a retirement letter effective Dec. 31, 2013,” Lenington wrote in a recent email to the Yellowstone County commissioners. “I will retire as gracefully as possible — you will have solved the problem.”

Lenington's current term isn't set to expire until the end of 2014.

The proposal is on the agenda for the County Commission’s meeting Tuesday.

Commissioner Jim Reno, saying he believes in the importance of keeping public records transparent, provided The Gazette a copy of the email Friday.

Lenington, 69, earns $90,054 a year and has been working for the county since 1969.

“I feel that The Billings Gazette is censuring my First Amendment Rights as it pertains to my personal political opinions and dogma; however, I don’t want to embarrass the Yellowstone County who I have faithfully served and whom I dearly love,” Lenington wrote.

He suggested the commissioners appoint one of his staff as an interim treasurer and assessor for 2014 and then let voters elect someone during the next election cycle.

Lenington recently came under public scrutiny after a Billings Gazette public information request revealed he has a history of using his government email account to send racially charged messages.

In a Nov. 13, 2012, email sent with his government account, Lenington said that President Barack Obama must have been re-elected because, “ … there are more lesbians, queers, Indians, Mexicans and n——— than the rest of us!” (The Gazette has chosen not to completely reproduce the word that Lenington wrote.)

The public information request also turned up dozens of messages showing that over several months Lenington used his work email to negotiate the purchase of an $11,000 motorcycle.

Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito said Friday that his office is continuing to investigate Lenington’s conduct and will make a report soon.

A Gazette investigation in August also showed that Lenington apparently plagiarized two letters to the editor — one of them titled “Why I Hate Barack and Michelle Obama” — that he submitted to The Gazette and several other newspapers.

A voice mail left at Lenington’s office asking for comment on his retirement plans went unreturned Friday afternoon.

Lenington ended the email to the commissioners outlining his retirement proposal by saying, “I am seriously thinking of putting myself out to pasture. I am open to any options you might suggest, so let’s visit about it. I am at your disposal.”

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