Political Practices Commissioner Asked to Investigate Possible “Pay to Play” Relationship Between Mayor Engen, WGM Group
The Missoula County Republican Party filed a Political Practices Complaint against Mayor John Engen yesterday, October 1.
The complaint claims that Engen accepted political donations higher than state law allows from two contributors: State Senator Cliff Larson, and WGM Group President Brent Campbell.
There is also a line in the complaint noting that WGM Group is “an engineering firm that has contracted with the City of Missoula on multiple occasions throughout Mayor Engen’s time in office, to the tune of millions of dollars,” and Missoula County Republican Party Chair Vondene Hopkins-Kopetski hopes the political practices commissioner will investigate this relationship.
"I'm not sure if the inference is cronyism, but there's a question if there was an expectation on the part of Mr. Campbell," said Hopkins-Kopetski. "In donating to Mr. Engen's campaign... was there... well, I guess it's a 'Pay to Play' sort of question."
A major feature of the complaint is a flyer for a fundraiser that occurred on October 4, 2013. Hopkins-Kopetski says that the this fundraiser should have been reported by Engen, and that the complaint is similar to that of the recent case against law firm Datsopoulos, MacDonald and Lind and Sheriff T.J. McDermitt, where the commissioner ruled an unreported fundraiser to be an illegal contribution.
"The flyer that went out advertising the fundraiser addresses the fact that there were several notables there; Governor Bullock was there, and several other people, and he did it in conjunction with a homecoming celebration, but the flyer does identify this as a fundraiser for Mayor Engen, it has Engen's picture on it," Hopkins-Kopetski said. "Part of our complaint addresses the fact that fundraisers are supposed to be recorded, we believe, as in-kind donations to the candidate."
Mayor Engen’s Director of Communications Ginny Merriam said that the charges are “unfounded” and said an explanation will be released to the public on Monday, October 5.