Subscribe for 17¢ / day

HELENA -- State Political Practices Commissioner Dave Gallik said Tuesday that he will resign from his job after employees called the police to come to the office earlier in the day.

His resignation comes on the heels of a Great Falls Tribune story Sunday that quoted the office's other four employees accusing Gallik of conducting his private law firm's business in the state office and inaccurately reporting the hours he worked for the state on his time sheets. He denied the accusations.

"They're going to stop at nothing to get me," he said in an interview about the police call. "I don't need this."

"I have not done anything wrong," he added. "But they stepped over the line calling the cops. I've got to think about the rest of my life."

Gallik said he hadn't said one word to his employees all day, left the office to take a reporter's phone call and, upon his return, learned that the staff had summoned the Helena Police Department. Gallik said he tried to find out why the police were called, and the police dispatcher said she would have the officer who responded to the call get back to him Wednesday.

Gallik said he walked over to the governor's mansion Tuesday night to tell Gov. Brian Schweitzer that he had had enough.

"He understood," Gallik said.

Gallik said he will submit his letter of resignation Wednesday to Schweitzer, who will appoint a new commissioner.

"Here's the deal," Gallik said. "I'm tough. I'm more than willing to do battle over whether I'm doing the job, whether we have the Campaign Tracker (electronic reporting system) up and running. I'm willing to take on those battles.

"But when I'm in an office with four women who have targeted me and I haven't said one word to them (today), even hello, and for whatever reason they called the cops. I can't be going in there and worrying about what the next false allegation was."

Gallik, a Democrat, said he thinks the four employees are out to get him for political reasons.

On Wednesday, he said he would bring some state legal papers that are at his law office and return them to the political practices office. He will bring some people with him as witnesses and take what few personal items he had in his state office.

Schweitzer appointed Gallik to the job in May 2011.

Difference in styles

Gallik said he's been completing decisions on time and pushing to implement an electronic reporting system for candidates' campaign finance reports. Office staffers have resisted his efforts on the electronic reporting system and don't like the fact that he's not always in the office, unlike prior commissioners, he said.

"What I would say is, look at the job that's getting done," Gallik said. "Where is it deficient? What more needs to be done?"

The four employees, including program director Mary Baker, who's been with the office since 2001, said Gallik was spending an inordinate amount of time working at his private law practice and neglecting commissioner duties.

The four women have hired Helena attorney Tom Budewitz to represent them in the unfolding dispute.

On Tuesday, Budewitz said the allegations have nothing to do with politics, and that his clients are concerned about the office maintaining its integrity and getting its work done properly.

"This is not merely a clash of personalities," he said. "It goes to the heart of what the office is designed to accomplish. These ladies have the utmost respect for the office and purposes for which it is created."

Also Tuesday, several legislators said they'd like to take a closer look at the allegations.

Rep. Pat Ingraham, R-Thompson Falls, who chairs an interim committee that has oversight of the Political Practices Office, and the panel's vice chair, Sen. Kendall Van Dyk, D-Billings, said panel staffers are looking into what authority the committee has on the issue.

"It seems like if there's a problem, we ought to be involved," Ingraham said. "We need to look at it so the integrity of that office is not jeopardized. ... If you lose trust (in the office), then it ceases to be what it needs to be, and that concerns me."

Sen. Larry Jent, D-Bozeman, who served on the interim legislative committee, said of Gallik, "The guy's a friend of mine, but truthfully, if that's true, the guy has got to go. You can't do that."

The next meeting of the panel, known as the State Administration and Veterans' Affairs Interim Committee, is Jan. 27.

Schweitzer said Tuesday before Gallik announced his resignation that he hasn't contemplated removing Gallik from the post and that he doesn't believe anything has been alleged that involves any of the reasons for removal.

"My guess is it's like most things you read in the newspaper; when you hear one side, there's usually another," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, said perhaps state Attorney General Steve Bullock should arrange appointment of a special investigator to look into whether violations of the law have occurred.

Bullock, however, said Tuesday that state law outlines procedures for any complaints against the political practices commissioner or how a commissioner would be removed, and that his office has no "official role" in those steps.

Gallik, a Helena attorney and Democratic former state representative, acknowledged that he's still operating his law practice, and that on occasion he has communicated with attorneys on private cases while he's at the state Political Practices office.

He said he has two computers on his desk at his Helena law office -- one for state commissioner work and one for work related to his law practice.

Gallik said it’s possible has has used the computer at his state commissioner office to reply to an e-mail sent by attorneys at his private practice, but that he strives to keep the two jobs separate.

He said he's kept up with the workload at the state office, issuing decisions on virtually all completed investigations of complaints and working with the attorney general's office on defending a series of high-profile lawsuits trying to invalidate Montana campaign finance and reporting laws.

Gallik also said that he took the job last May with the understanding that he would probably get rejected by a Republican-controlled Senate next January, so he wanted to maintain a law practice that he could return to if that happened.

Schweitzer appointed Gallik last May after the GOP-controlled state Senate refused to confirm the governor's prior appointment to the job, Jennifer Hensley, a paralegal and political operative who is married to Democratic state Sen. Steve Gallus of Butte.

The Gallik appointment came after the Senate had adjourned for the 2011 session, enabling him to serve in the job without confirmation at least until January 2013, when the Senate reconvenes. The Senate then could decide whether to confirm Gallik.

After Gallik became aware that his office employees had talked to a reporter about his alleged shirking of his duties, he wrote them a memo Friday, saying the office now would be subject to increased scrutiny. He asked them to give him weekly reports on their work accomplishments, inform him of all substantial communications on cases and complaints before the office, and to implement testing of the electronic campaign reporting system.

The four employees replied with their own emailed memo, saying they'll keep Gallik "fully apprised" of what's going on at the office but that they couldn't guarantee the reporting system will be ready by the end of February, as Gallik is requiring.

Besides Baker, the other three employees who alleged that Gallik did private law practice work in his state office were Julie Steab, Kym Trujillo and Karen Musgrave.