Interim Legislative Committee Considers Removing Shannon Augare After He Misses Meeting
The Montana Legislature's 2013 Law and Justice interim committee met to vote on July 10, but not all members were present. Notably absent was Senator Shannon Augare (D), who was charged with Driving Under the Influence and Obstructing a Police Officer in June.
As one of its first orders of business, the interim committee decided, on a 5 -5 split decision, that proxies could not be used for casting votes. This meant that unless Augare appeared at the meeting or called in, his vote would not count and Republicans would have more representation. Immediately after the decision on proxies, Representative Ellie Hill (D) of Missoula attempted to have Augare's position filled by someone else.
"Shannon is a friend of mine and he is by all means innocent until proven otherwise," said Hill. "Knowing that both [Senate Minority Leader] Sesso and [Senate Majority Leder] Essman have acted and asked for Shannon to do some other things while this is going on. And because he is not here again today... didn't call in. I guess I would move to make a formal request from our committee to Senate Leadership to appoint a replacement for Senator Augare so that we can continue with the important bipartisan work that we need to have happen.
Other's, like Ravalli County Representative Scott Boulanger (R), said Augare would need to either join in the meeting or remove himself.
"I just think this conversation is premature," said Boulanger. "I mean he hasn't stepped down. He is innocent. He's just not here today. I don't think its appropriate to go forward in asking for a replacement until he does officially either does get acquitted or steps down. I just think it's premature."
Hill pointed out that if Augare stepped down, it could make him appear guilty in front of the federal court that is trying him and that this might be the reason he is maintaining his seat. Regardless, the committee decided not to remove Augare and left the decision in the hands of Augare and the Montana Senate Leadership.