The Montana Legislature’s Select Committee on State Settlement Accountability met for the first time this past week, but not everyone showed up. Committee Vice Chair Ron Ehli explains.

"There are ten people total on the committee, but only seven showed up to the committee and it was six Republicans and one Democrat," Ehli said. "I appreciated at least one showing up, because I don't want this to be a partisan thing. I promise that I will personally reach out to all of the Democrats... and I did this prior to the committee... because I don't want this to be partisan.

Ehli says that two of the three democrats that didn’t attend are Missoula Representative Kimberly Dudik and Senator Nate McConnell. Their absence may be a response to Democratic leadership, who hinted to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle last week, that the committee may just be a Republican scheme to make Democratic Governor Steve Bullock look bad. Ehli insits the committee is “not a witch hunt,” and wonders how Democrats could have reached that conclusion before the first meeting ever began. Ehli says the committee is a response to data gathered from the Legislative Fiscal Division.

"There is, what appears to be, a very exponential increase and rise in the amount of employee settlements, in dollar amount. What we have seen in the last four or five years is the settlement costs to the state of Montana going through the roof, hitting up in the two million dollar mark," Ehli said.

The Committee will have to balance the public’s right to know with the right to privacy for the employees involved. Ehli says the committee will have the power to issue subpoenas to try to get answers.

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