Great Falls Commissioner Ethics Hearing: Complaint Unsubstantiated
Back on October 10, 2023, I reported on an ethics complaint that was registered against Great Falls City Commissioner, Rick Tryon. You can get caught up on that article here:
On Monday morning, November 13, 2023, the City Ethics Committee hosted a public hearing about those complaints.
A few things to note:
- a full investigation as requested by Jasmine Taylor, was out of the committee's jurisdiction
- Tryon provided a written response, but did not show up to the hearing in person
- Tryon refused to hand over finance information, citing the complaint was " based on speculation and innuendo"
- The committee said they struggled with the lack of available information
In reading both articles from KRTV and The Electric, it DOES seem that the committee wasn't served the proper information regarding things in Taylor's complaint. It also seems like the actual ethics for a city commissioner isn't spelled out clearly. From The Electric:
Seana Westcarr-Gray said that though Tryon was contributing to the blog voluntarily, “there is a service component, I think, if you are regularly contributing to the blog.”
Crosby said Westcarr-Gray was correct in her reading of the code, but professional activity isn’t defined so it was up to the committee, but that it was a “slippery slope” in looking for ethical violations in private lives based on aspirations in the code rather than specific requirements or prohibited actions.
Westcarr-Gray said she didn’t think Tryon was an employee of E-City Beat though his contributions constituted professional activity, but she hadn’t seen evidence that it had affected his ability to discharge his official duties
It looks like they're making the best decision they can with the limited information given and the glaring components left out of the ethics code for Great Falls City Commissioners.
The other complaint which, in my understanding, comes down to dressing down people who don't agree with the commissioner on the internet publication ECity Beat, again, comes down to lack of information. From The Electric:
David Sneddon, committee member, said that “there’s more to this and there’s some gray areas.”
He said that some of Tryon’s comments and posts included in the complaint seemed benign, but some were “very personal,” but “we lack the capability to receive more information, acquire more information.”
As to the question of employment, Sneddon said they didn’t know definitively either way and that “there’s key pieces here that we just do not know.”
Jordyn Rogers, committee chair, said that the claims were “too speculative, no matter if we disagree with the statements made,” and that the committee couldn’t make determinations regarding First Amendment rights of public officials.
Later In The Day, Commissioner Tryon Responded:
I believe the committee's decision speaks for itself. Ms. Taylor's complaint was baseless which is reflected by their decision.
My Thoughts On This Whole Thing:
No matter what you think of his politics and the way he attacks constituents on the blog ECity beat, Tryon has done more than just complain about things in a blog. He has stepped up twice and run for City Commissioner instead of just complaining. I totally respect the Commissioner for that, even though I disagree with him on nearly everything.
I wish that Tryon would have just cooperated. (What is it with America and refusing to cooperate with investigations? It's not cool and it's not ok. Nobody is above the law or is in a position to decide what is valid or not. That's what a committee is for.) I lost a few notches of respect for the commissioner here. No matter what we believe, it's imperative, that as a society, we cooperate with things like this. That's how they get resolved once and for all. The way this was handled, it's wide open for another complaint to be filed.
If Taylor were in the same boat, being investigated for ethics, she would be BLASTED for not showing up and for not providing information to the committee. Believe me, there would be a blog or two on that. Just like this blog on ECity Beat where they threaten Taylor and anyone else who doesn't agree with them: (This stems from the name ECity beat being sold because the people using the name for their blog didn't do their diligence.)
Someone should inform Lovick and Taylor that E-City Beat will not be silenced no matter how hard they try, and that an expensive and lengthy legal action may be forthcoming if they continue.
Someone should also inform the Cascade County Democratic Central Committee and their 2024 candidates that their official silence on these attacks by their Chair and officer against the First Amendment rights of Great Falls citizens is tantamount to complicity and will not go unanswered now or in the upcoming 2024 local campaigns.
To me, statements like this scream: "But, when you complain about us, we'll just stomp our feet and go yell about it on the internet to an audience of ONLY like minded people."
One More Item Of Note:
The last time an ethics complaint was filed in Great Falls against a commissioner, it was filed by Jeni Dodd, a regular contributor to the same blog as Commissioner Tryon. She was upset because Commissioner Hauck was involved in a women's march. That complaint was also found to be invalid.
Great Falls Needs Clearly Defined Ethics For ALL Of Our Leaders
Great Falls needs to learn from these 2 ethics complaints. Sit down and define ethics from our Mayor all the way down. Define it so these things don't keep happening.
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