Montana Deputy Auditor’s Accuser Returns to Work

January 28, 2010

The Montana state auditor’s office has reached a settlement with an employee who left the office last year after accusing Deputy Auditor Walt Schweitzer of illegally soliciting political contributions from co-workers.

Under the agreement with Auditor Monica Lindeen, Laura McGee will work on a financial literacy program for schools and colleges on Montana’s Indian reservations through June 30, 2011. She will work from her home in Highwood.

McGee will be paid the same $45,000 annual salary that she made as an assistant to the deputy insurance commissioner before leaving last summer. McGee told the Great Falls Tribune that Lindeen fired her after she complained about Schweitzer, the governor’s brother. Lindeen said McGee resigned because her commute was too long.

An investigator found no wrongdoing by Schweitzer.

The settlement was reached through mediation. It includes a $35,583 payment to McGee for unreimbursed medical costs and attorney fees. The settlement says any payments to McGee are not an admission of liability by the auditor’s office.

“I am very pleased that Laura and I mutually decided that it was time to look to the future, and, most importantly, continue to serve the people of Montana,” Lindeen said. “I believe we found a sensible, well thought-out solution.”

McGee also praised the mediation efforts.

“Monica and I both felt it was important to sit down and figure out a way forward,” McGee said in a statement released by the auditor’s office. “I am very pleased to have this unique opportunity to serve our American Indian communities by addressing financial education.”

Missoula lawyer Elizabeth Kaleva, whom Lindeen hired to conduct the independent investigation into McGee’s complaint, said she found insufficient evidence that Schweitzer illegally solicited political donations. In her report, Kaleva said McGee refused to cooperate with the investigation.

Kaleva said Schweitzer denied soliciting money in the office to pay off Lindeen’s 2008 campaign debt and for Democrat Dennis McDonald’s 2008 congressional campaign.

Investigating and settling McGee’s complaint cost the auditor’s office about $62,000, including the $35,583 payment to McGee. The rest went to various attorneys for their work on the case.

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