Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks v. Trap Free Montana Public LandsAnnotate this Case
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court reversing the decision of the Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices (the Commissioner) that the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP) was responsible for ethics violations.
Trap Free Montana Public Lands (Trap Free) filed an ethics complaint alleging that FWP allowed the Montana Trappers Association (MTA) to use an FWP-owned trailer and equipment in MTA’s efforts to oppose a ballot initiative, in violation of Mont. Code Ann. 2-2-101 and -121. A hearing examiner found that FWP staff were responsible for three statutory violations for the occasions when MTA members used the trailer and equipment in conjunction with its political advocacy efforts. The Commissioner adopted the hearing examiner’s recommendation that the Commissioner impose an administrative penalty on FWP. The district court reversed, concluding that FWP employees did not violate state ethics laws. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that where section 2-2-121(3)(a) prohibits public employees from using public resources for political purposes, and where MTA members are not public employees, there was no violation of the ethics code.