Big Sky Roundup

Montana PSC: Vote on Tschida was 4-1

By: - January 12, 2023 7:05 pm

Jim Brown, president of the Public Service Commission. (Provided by the PSC for the Daily Montanan.)

Montana Public Service Commissioners voted 4-1 on the hire of former Republican lawmaker Brad Tschida, according to the PSC staff attorney.

Chief Legal Counsel Lucas Hamilton said the holdout was President Jim Brown.

The all-Republican commission regulates monopoly utilities in Montana, and after a problematic audit released spring 2021, it reorganized to hire an executive director. The first director stayed just one year and left summer 2022.

Brown declined to comment on the reason he voted against Tschida. A news release that announced the hire had laudatory statements from the vice president and another commissioner, but no word from Brown.

In a brief phone call this week, Brown declined comment. However, he volunteered confirmation that he was the “no” vote.

“The information provided by Mr. Hamilton is correct,” Brown said.

Last year, with encouragement from Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte, Brown ran a race for Montana Supreme Court justice, but he lost to the incumbent Ingrid Gustafson.

Tschida, who served four terms in the Montana Legislature before losing a race in 2022, has recently been a controversial figure. He alleged wrongdoing by the Missoula County Elections Office, but the local Republicans said a review found the elections were secure.

Political analyst Lee Banville said sometimes, people cast votes to send a message, such as a split decision by an all-Republican board.

“It seems to me that Jim Brown is sending a message,” said Banville, with the University of Montana. “What’s complicated is I don’t think we all can translate what he’s saying.”

Hamilton said the human resources office told him 10 people applied for the executive director position in the times it was posted between summer and December.

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Keila Szpaller
Keila Szpaller

Keila Szpaller is deputy editor of the Daily Montanan and covers education. In Montana since 1998, she loves hiking in Glacier National Park, wandering the grounds of the Archie Bray and sitting on her front porch with friends. Before joining States Newsroom Montana, she served as city editor of the Missoulian, the largest news outlet in western Montana. She worked there from 2006 to 2020. As a Missoulian reporter, she was named a co-fellow by the Education Writers Association to report on a series about economic mobility; grantee of the Society of Environmental Journalists for a project on conservation from the U.S. to Africa; and Kiplinger Fellow in Digital Media and Public Affairs Journalism. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune and Missoula Independent, and she earned her master’s in journalism from the University of Montana. She lives in Missoula with her husband, Brock, who is also her favorite chef, and her pup, Henry, who is her favorite adventure companion. She believes she deserves to wear the T-shirt with this saying: “World’s most mediocre runner.”

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