Lenington’s latest letter didn’t violate county policy, not grounds for recall

2014-03-11T17:23:00Z 2014-03-12T15:13:05Z Lenington’s latest letter didn’t violate county policy, not grounds for recallBy EDDIE GREGG egregg@billinggazette.com The Billings Gazette

Once again, the Yellowstone County Attorney has concluded that “offensive remarks” by County Treasurer Max Lenington did not violate county policy and are not grounds for a recall.

Lenington, who also serves as the county’s assessor and superintendent of county schools, submitted a letter to The Gazette last month decrying President Barack Obama as a “beige puppet” and singling out numerous minorities and individuals for supposedly ending the American Dream.

Lenington didn’t use county equipment to send the letter and he didn’t advocate for a candidate, ballot issue or political committee and therefore did not violate county policy or violate the state law that determines whether a recall petition can be initiated, County Attorney Scott Twito stated in a Feb. 26 letter to the Yellowstone County Board of Commissioners.

“The County Attorney’s prior reasoning that Lenington’s offensive remarks did not rise to the level of recall is reaffirmed,” Twito stated.

From October 2012 through 2013, Lenington used his government email account to circulate politically and racially charged remarks and letters.

At the request of the County Commission, the County Attorney’s Office reviewed Lenington’s actions last November and found that there wasn’t grounds for a recall and that Lenington hadn’t violated county policy.

In his most recent letter, Lenington stated “A coalition of Blacks, Latinos, Gays, Government Workers, Union Members, Environmental Extremists, loony liberal left Media, Hollywood, uniformed (sic) young people, the ‘forever needy,’ the chronic unemployed and illegal aliens have now ended Norman Rockwell’s America.”

Lenington also stated it will take “acts of defiance and massive displays of civil disobedience to get back the rights” these groups of people have taken away.

The letter, which borrowed heavily from a widely circulated online post purportedly written by a retired Marine Corps veteran, also stated, that Obama’s second term is “the final nail in the coffin for the legacy of the white Christian male who discovered, explored, pioneered, settled and developed the greatest Republic in the history of mankind.”

A few days later, Lenington issued an apology for the letter, which the Montana Human Rights Network said contained the most blatantly white supremacist rhetoric made by an elected official in Montana in recent times.

“Free speech should not be abridged by the government and will not be by the Yellowstone County Attorney,” Twito wrote in his finding. “Lenington is allowed to exercise his right targeting and accusing several groups of ending a picturesque version of America if anyone cares to listen.”

Twito goes on to point out that, “Curiously, one group Mr. Lenington blamed for this country’s downfall is government workers, a group to which he has belonged and from which he has derived a substantial income for over 40 years at taxpayer expense, and moreover, a group that he has refused to leave despite public calls for his resignation unless, as he said, the taxpayers buy him out.”

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