Time for change and the disappearing family von Trapp

Guest Commentary
Valerie McMurtry
Candidate for PSC, Dist. 2
Thursday, October 22, 2020

The scandal prone, dysfunctional and chaotic Public Service Commission has sunk to a new low. In the past 6 weeks the PSC has lost three court cases that have cost Montana thousands of dollars in court fees. All three were unnecessary, two being the result of illegal actions by the PSC and one being the result of arrogance and stupidity on the part of these commissioners.

The illegal actions involved the PSC intentionally hindering solar energy development which broke federal law. That law which has been on the books for over a decade, states that utilities companies must include renewable energy along with their fossil fuels. The other lawsuit was the PSC suing three media outlets who asked for the release of ‘public’ documents that exposed internal fighting within the PSC.

What transpired among this all-Republican commission was middle school bullying, not what the voters should expect from elected officials. These commissioners should be concerned with doing the job they were elected to do. That job is to represent the ratepayers and protect them from unnecessary and unfair rate increases by monopoly utility companies. These men are highly compensated but their behavior does not reflect that they take their position seriously.

Then there is Tony O’Donnell, who is up for re-election. He has been found guilty of 3 campaign ethics violations, and faces a possible $2000 fine.

He used his office for filming a campaign video and he failed to reveal details about his campaign spending during the primary. Tony also filed campaign finance reports late. This is not his first rodeo. He should be well aware of what the campaign finance laws are, but apparently he is not.

In case you’re wondering what his first violation was, two years ago, Commish O’Donnell, gave $3000 to Rod Garcia who was running for the legislature. When he was ‘outed’ for this contribution, Tony lied and said it was a gift. Needless to say, the Commission of Political Prac tices made Garcia return the ‘gift’.

Tony O’Donnell has had diminishing attendance at commission meetings in his 3½ years. In 2017, his first year, his attendance was 80%; 2018, 67% and in 2019, 55%. Due to his surgery in December, 2019, January -November were the only months counted in 2019.

Many of his absences were ‘excused’, but no matter excused or not, he was not in the PSC office. Being a Public Service Commissioner is a full time job and Mr. O’Donnell is not serving the voters when he is a noshow.

It does seem that Tony must be a fan of The Sound of Music because he re-enacted one of the movie’s memorable scenes. Do you remember when the Trapp Family won the singing competition? The announcer said, “and the winner is, the von Trapp Family … the family von Trapp ... the Trapp Family Singers”, but alas, they had escaped to Austria. Well that is sort of what happened at the Heights Candidate Forum on Tuesday, September 22. There were two county commissioner candidates and two Public Service Commissioner candidates on the schedule that evening. All confirmed, the forum was to start at 7 p.m., but guess who didn’t show? Tony O’Donnell.

The chairperson waited for a few minutes past starting time, and then began the evening with the county commissioner candidates going first. That would give Tony time to arrive. At 7:30 they were done and the PSC candidates were next. Still no Tony! So I made my presentation and questions were asked, giving Tony more time to arrive. But alas and alack, still no Tony.

This not showing up does seem to be a pattern of his and it is why he should be replaced on November 3.

The PSC race is about pocketbook issues that are important to families across Montana. It is about what you pay for your utilities. Three PSC seats will be decided in this election. It is time to elect new commissioners.

Elections matter and the choice is yours.

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