HELENA — A state licensing board’s handling of a case involving an ex-Bozeman legislator dominated Monday’s confirmation hearing of a Bozeman architect reappointed to the state Board of Architects and Landscape Architects.
The Senate State Administration Committee took up Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s nomination of Bozeman architect Bayliss Ward to another term on the Board of Architects and Landscape Architects. Ward, the board’s president for the past three years, has practiced architecture for nearly two decades in Bozeman.
Most of the hearing focused on how the board handled a complaint, investigated and issued an order in 2007 telling John Sinrud to quit practicing architecture without a license. Sinrud at the time was a prominent Republican legislator from Bozeman who owned an architectural design firm.
In October 2007, the Board of Architects issued an order telling to Sinrud to quit practicing architecture until he obtained an architect’s license.
Sinrud, a harsh critic of Schweitzer during the 2007 legislature session, said at the time that he was the victim of a political witch hunt by the Schweitzer administration.
Ward’s nomination was to be heard earlier with those of people appointed to other boards, but one senator, who was not identified, asked that Ward’s nomination be segregated for a separate hearing.
It will be up to the Senate, which Republicans control 28-22, to decide whether to confirm or reject Ward’s nomination.
One Republican senator, Art Wittich of Bozeman, was Sinrud’s lawyer on the matter and spoke Monday.
Ward told the Senate that he had recused himself from the Sinrud case, declining to participate in either board hearing in July and October of 2007. He said that he had never had any bad blood against Sinrud, but that he had taken over one project from Sinrud.
“I didn’t want to vote on it or comment on it,” Ward said Monday. “I’m an architect. I’m sorry. I’m not very politically correct. I didn’t want to be involved in any of this stuff.”
Sinrud said that Ward, as board president, should have determined that the complaint against him was without merit. Sinrud said the board was mad at him for killing two of its bills in two legislative sessions.
“I never put myself out as an architect,” Sinrud said.
He listed his occupation as “architectural design” on his company’s website and in his mini-biography in the legislative directory known as “The Copper Book.”
Sinrud said one of his former employees also was cited by the board for practicing architecture without a license, but nothing happened to her, and the same thing happened to another drafting firm in Bozeman. But Sinrud said he, instead, received “a cease-and-desist order.”
“My due process has been destroyed by this committee (the board) and this chairman,” Sinrud said. “We have a board that’s run amok.”
Wittich said the Board of Architects went on “a witch hunt” and ran “a kangaroo court” that didn’t allow Sinrud to confront the state’s witnesses or call any of his own.
“We’re talking about a serious matter here — somebody’s livelihood,” Wittich said. “Somebody’s right to make a living.”
Sinrud is now government affairs director for Northwest Montana Association of Realtors.
However, Michael Fanning, an attorney for the Department of Labor and Industry, where the state Board of Architects and Landscape Architects is located, defended the investigation and proceedings. He did not work at the department at the time, but reviewed the record.
He said the board minutes verify that Ward had recused himself before two hearings in July and October 2007 because he knew Sinrud.
“He did not participate in any fashion,” Fanning said.
Fanning said the record shows that there was an opportunity for Sinrud and Wittich to participate in the proceedings, but they chose not to do so.
The state attorney said the cease-and-desist order against Sinrud didn’t shut him down but directed him to discontinue performing any architectural services.
Wittich said it would have been expensive for Sinrud to fight the order, adding, “I think Mr. Sinrud decided to just throw up his hands.”