Survey of county voters shows broad support for Lenington's removal

2013-11-11T22:01:00Z 2014-03-12T08:17:05Z Survey of county voters shows broad support for Lenington's removalBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

A majority of Yellowstone County voters believe Treasurer Max Lenington should either resign or be removed from office. 

Hilltop Public Solutions conducted a weekend phone survey of 1,605 local voters and asked if they were aware of controversy surrounding Lenington and what they thought should happen. 

An even 80 percent of the respondents said they were aware of the Lenington controversy, 54 percent said he should resign and 63 percent said he should be removed from office. 

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 racist messages.

In a Nov. 13, 2012, email sent from 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.)

Late last week, Lenington announced he'd retire at the end of the year if the county agreed to pay his salary until his term expired at the end of 2014, at a cost of $90,000. 

The survey found that only 11 percent of respondents believed the county should offer the buyout. 

Hilltop conducted the survey itself; it had a margin of error of 2.5 percent. 

"We funded and conducted this survey ourselves," said Aaron Murphy with Hilltop. "Why? Because we live in this community and we believe it's a community that doesn't and shouldn't tolerate racism of any kind."

Yellowstone County Commissioners meet Tuesday morning, and Lenington's retirement offer is on the agenda for discussion. 

"We didn't need to do a poll to know that Max Lenington's hatred, and his abuse of his taxpayer-funded job, is not welcome in Yellowstone County," Barrett Kaiser, Hilltop's director of western operations, said in a statement.

"Now we know that this community overwhelmingly supports efforts to show Max Lenington the door — and that's something we will help do if he refuses to step down," Kaiser added. 

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 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 using his county email account.

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