Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ron Tussing -- the cost to the taxpayer continues to rise (and the Gazette continues to ignore)

Billings Mayor Ron Tussing, tired of only getting paid a few hundred a month as Billings mayor (he apparently didn't read the not-so-fine print on the contract and has been, according to gossip, been discontented with the mayor's pay from day one) is now running for the PSC District 2 spot against incumbent Commissioner Brad Molnar.

As much as so many in our fair city would love to see this guy leave Billings and move to Helena, it needs to be kept in mind that we already tried that tack once, paying him several hundred thousand dollars to leave, only to have him pocket the money and then run for mayor in direct violation of (at least) the spirit of the agreement.

We hope that the residents of PSC district 2 will have the good sense to re-elect Brad Molnar -- and expect that they will. But might we suggest that if Tussing is by some chance elected, that the City of Billings file an injunction to garnish his wages to pay for the damage he has done to our city's finances? He should be able to keep a few hundred a month (maybe the same that he gets paid to be mayor) to live on, but the rest of his salary should go to the City of Billings.

Today's Billings Gazette reports that the bill for the Feuerstein lawsuit is up to $1.6 million, of which insurance will likely only pick up a third. More than $1 million will have to be paid by the taxpayers of Billings.

Par for the Billings Gazette course when it comes to Mayor Tussing, the article amazingly never mentions Tussing's name, even though as then chief of police he was at the center of the lawsuit against the police department, and even though he is now running for higher office and the public has the right to be reminded of his centrality to that lawsuit (jurors interviewed after the case indicated that Tussing's testimony and arrogant attitude was particularly damning.)

To be sure, Tussing was not the only person responsible for that debacle, but he was the guy in charge of the police department, and it is a dereliction of duty on the part of the Gazette not to remind readers of Tussing's connection.

Think Burns and Abramoff -- editorial guidelines seem to be that you can't mention one in the Gazette without mentioning the other, correct? By the same token, the Feuerstein case shouldn't be mentioned without including Tussing.

Anyway, the number you read is right. More than $1 million that will be billed to the taxpayers of our fair city. Thanks, Mayor Tussing.

There is plenty in the MH archives about Ron Tussing, such as our 5-part series of posts on the Feuerstein case entitled "The House the Ron Tussing Built," which will have to be reprised as this campaign goes on. But first, interested readers can turn to our initial post about Tussing's PSC bid, and the followup piece that was prompted by how popular the first post was with commenters in a frenzy to defend their honey Ron Tussing and attack Commissioner Molnar.

The PSC 2 race will be quite a doozy -- stay tuned. If our last couple of pieces on Tussing are any indication, there won't be long to wait for further comment.


GeeGuy said...

This is much like a post I made yesterday about the doings in our city.

The press never looks backwards, only forward. Gosh, why would anyone want to drag Tussing through the coals...what's done is done...let's move on and figure out how we're going to pay the bills.

We used to look to the press to provide some form government. Now?

Not so much.

Montana Headlines said...

Yes, the similarity is striking. If Tussing had gone away and stayed away -- like he was paid off to do -- I would have no objection to leaving him alone.

But he is bucking to be a PSC Commissioner -- which, besides offering the nice pay raise that he is reportedly interested in, is a job that directly affects the daily life and pocketbook of every Montanan to a degree that is perhaps rivaled only by the governorship or a major state legislative leadership position.

It was one thing to elect him to the position of mayor, where Tussing's job is mostly ceremonial and where the other city council members do all of the heavy lifting.

Those Billings residents whose pocketbooks will already be feeling the bite of Tussing's incompetence as a leader should be uninterested in giving Tussing a PSC position. Not if they value their pocketbooks.

goof houlihan said...

The lawsuit is far more interesting than Ron Tussing. I expect some other Montana cities may come in on the side of Billings and not their joint insurer.

The crux of the matter is that the MMIA hires the lawyer, and it's the mmia lawyer that urges no settlement, and then, when the jury trial goes awry, it's the mmia who dumps the liability onto the city, who might have settled had they known of MMIA's ace in the hole.

Who was the lawyer really representing? Was his interest in keeping MMIA's exposure down, or the City of Billings? I'd say it was the former.

It may have been the lawyer with the "Two Sing".

Anonymous said...

Ron's been a very popular mayor, attending hundreds of events in the past 2.5 years. He's gotten along professionally with Tina Volek and other council members, a fear that some of his political enemies tried to scare people with before he took office. The fact remains that Mayor Tussing has served the community well as its police chief for what, 7 years? and mayor for the past 3. He's also more open to renewable energy sources in a district that is more and more leaning Democrat than Republican. Tussing is also much better educated and disciplined than Brad Molnar. The Obama supporters are going to come out in droves again in November as they did in the primary. This wave will carry Ron to a bigger victory than he otherwise would enjoy. So, this is Ron's race to lose. Brad Molnar's solicitation and acceptance of corporate gifts for personal use is a story with "legs" and there simply isn't a reasonable defense of it. Watching both men over the course of the past 10 years or more, I foresee the likelihood of Molnar imploding far more likely than not. I've seen Tussing arrive at public events and people flock to him, especially retired folks. He seems to genuinely enjoy people. Molnar is more of a loner. He offends easily and is offended even more easily. He can't seem to control his temper when it matters most. I'd say that Roy Brown has a better shot at becoming governor than Brad Molnar has a chance of being elected again.

Montana Headlines said...

Sorry, but Molnar is the odds-on favorite -- if he wasn't, there wouldn't be the concerted effort to smear him and to pour money into Tussing's race.

Anonymous, thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

oh, okay. That makes perfect sense. I'm sure you're right.

Anonymous said...

I'm a different anonymous. Given the earlier one's glowing review of Tussing, and given that that person has been with Tussing at a number of events and is aware that he's done hundreds of events the past 2.5 years, the comment might have been left by his wife. If so, it is nice to see that kind of loyalty and support from a spouse.

Montana Headlines said...

Anonymous 2 -- don't assume that the first anonymous is Mayor Tussing's wife. He has a small but dedicated gaggle of admirers in whose eyes he can do no wrong, and who also stand by their man.

Anonymous said...

Who needs his wife when he's got Mary Jo Fox out there trashing Brad and trumpeting Ron?

Anon 3

Anonymous said...

I know Brad will win. So will McCain, Roy Brown, Dennis Rehberg, Bob Kelleher and Tim Fox. It'll be a Republican sweep all the way. We are the best.

Montana Headlines said...

Funny how it is that Mayor Tussing's supporters are the touchiest ones that we deal with here on Montana Headlines. The man must have a sort of animal magnetism.

Anonymous said...

Maybe one of his daughters wrote it or one of his grandchildren. If a woman outside of his family supports him it must be a sex thing. Women aren't capable of having a cogent thought. Everyone knows that.

Montana Headlines said...

The point is reinforced.

Anonymous said...

The mayor and council members all vote on issues before the council. Please explain how council members "do the heavy lifting" as you say. What is the difference between their responsibilities/powers? Just curious.

Mike the Democrat said...


Billings Mt.,Aug 26, 2008--/MNA PRESS/--Billings Mayor Ron Tussing has had four ethics violations complaints filed against him, with the Billings Board of Ethics. A letter, signed by over 100 citizens, was sent to Judge Russell Fagg, in his capacity as Chair of the Billings Board of Ethics. The four complaints pertain to potential breaches of duty allegedly committed by Ron Tussing in his official capacity as mayor.

According to Montana Code Annotated 2-2-121, public officers are prohibited from using public time, facilities, equipment, supplies, personnel, or funds to solicit support for, or opposition to, local ballot issues. The letter to Judge Fagg outlines four potential issues, in which Ron Tussing may be in violation of Montana State law. Ron Tussing, in his official capacity of mayor, is a member of the Celebrate Billings steering committee and as such, actively campaigned for and supported the passage of the 2006 Billings Ballpark Bond Issue and the 2007 School District 2 Mill Levy. Mayor Tussing also campaigned against the 2006 Repeal of the 2004 Public Safety Mill Levy.

The complainants allege that Mayor Ron Tussing used Billings City time, facilities, equipment and supplies in support for, and opposition to, these ballot issues. The complainants attached over thirty (30) evidentiary exhibits, in support of their claims.

The Billings Board of Ethics will meet to review the complaints. The complainants have requested that all members of the board, who have been appointed by Ron Tussing, be recused from the review process. The complainants also have requested that Victoria Cech, whose husband serves on the Celebrate Billings Steering Committee with Ron Tussing, be recused, as well.

If the Board substantiates the complaints, the next step is to refer the complaints to the Yellowstone County Attorney’s office. The county attorney may then launch investigations into the alleged breaches of duty and fine Ron Tussing between $50 and $1,000, for each substantiated violation.

Ron Tussing is running against Brad Molnar for Public Service Commission District 2.