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Commissioner of Political Practices Issues Decision in Ethics Matter Adams v Montana Board of Regents

April 25, 2018

The Montana Commissioner of Political Practices office has completed its consideration of an ethics complaint, Adams v. Montana Board of Regents, COPP-2018-ETH-001, accepted jurisdiction, and has issued a summary decision.

The Commissioners office takes the responsibility of upholding Montana’s ethics laws very seriously.  In this matter, the issue of jurisdiction played a central role, as to whether Montana’s Board of Regents were indeed bound by Title 2, Part 1, Montana’s Code of Ethics.

Upon receipt of the Board of Regents responses to the filed complaint, the Commissioners office initiated a thorough review of all relevant legal authority.  Thanks to the work of the COPP’s Chief Legal Jaime MacNaughton and staff, the Commissioner has determined Members of Montana’s Board of Regents are public employees, and therefore subject to Montana’s Code of Ethics.

The Commissioner understands the members of Montana’s Board of Regents are strong advocates for education and Montana’s University system. The Montana Board of Regents has a responsibility to look at all issues that may affect the operation of the Montana University System, including funding.  Like any other public employee, the Board of Regents also have a duty not to utilize public resources in support (or opposition) of a Ballot Issue.  Seeking and providing information, determining the veracity of that information, providing the public guidance on effects of passage (or failure to pass) of a Ballot Issue, for example, without expressing support or opposition is routinely done in public meetings at all levels of local government.

Included in their response, the Montana Board of Regents requested guidance should the Commissioner find Montana’s Code of Ethics apply. We urge the BOR and interested parties to read the decision fully as it contains extensive guidance in these matters, and the COPP is ready to refer and provide any additional resources regarding Title 2, Chapter 1 within the scope of the duties of the Office of Commissioner of Political Practices.

Jeff Mangan
Montana Commissioner of Political Practices

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