Attorney Says Mayor John Engen Robocalls Break State Statutes
Missoula attorney Quentin Rhoades is calling attention to a robocall that was heard throughout the city this month. The call featured the voice of Mayor John Engen and sounded like this:
The phone call was paid for by Missoula County Public Schools and used an alert system designed to communicate vital information to parents to send out the message. Rhoades says Political Practices Commissioner Jonathan Motl should investigate, but Motl has said the robocall did not fall under his jurisdiction.
"If you do an announcement to the public in support of a ballot initiative, you have to say who paid for it, that's required by Montana statue, that' required by Montanan election law statute," Rhoades said. "That wasn't done here, and that is a violation of Montana Election law and Commissioner Motl has direct jurisdiction over violations of Montana election laws."
Rhoades believes that there were ethics violations in the production of the robocall and that by using public money in support of a ballot initiative, the robocall also violated state statutes.
"There are at least two statutes that say they are not supposed to use public money to support a ballot initiative," Rhoades said. "What [MCPS officials] have said and used as kind-of a loop-hole here is that 'we are educating the public on how to vote,' but the problem with that excuse is that it is not the Missoula County Public School's role to tell people how to vote, that's the role of the Missoula County Elections officials."
Rhoades noted that the phrase “Support our Public Schools” that appears in the phone call, has also been used by multiple fundraisers for the ballot initiative and that anyone who lives in the area will have a clear understanding of its intent.