APNewsBreak: Records Show Montana Official’s Vehicle Misuse
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton put tens of thousands of miles on a state-owned pickup truck and used it extensively during weekends and holidays in addition to other travel that legislative auditors said violated state policy, an Associated Press review has found.
A state audit of the secretary of state’s office covering two fiscal years ending in June 2018 found Stapleton’s travel to his home in Billings violated policy. After auditors questioned the use, Stapleton returned the vehicle to the motor pool in March 2019.
An AP examination of Stapleton’s use of the truck between July 2018 and March 2019 found the first-term Republican, who is running for Montana’s U.S. House seat, improperly used the truck to regularly travel from Helena to his home in Billings.
Over the entire lease, he also traveled thousands of miles in the 2015 GMC Sierra during weekends and holiday periods when he had no official events scheduled, according to the AP review of government documents obtained through public-records requests.
Stapleton declined multiple requests for interviews by the AP. His office manager and spokeswoman, Susan Ames, said Stapleton traveled to fulfill his job responsibilities and a long-term vehicle lease was the most efficient and least costly way of doing so.
“Three government agencies have investigated and found no wrongdoing by anyone in the agency, including the secretary,” Ames said. She did not respond to an email asking which agencies found no wrongdoing.
Auditors found nearly half of Stapleton’s travel over the first 18 months of the lease violated a policy that says state-owned vehicles can only be used for commuting distances of less than 30 miles (48 kilometers) and only if the employee is on call for a quick response to an emergency that threatens life or property. The audit could not conclude how the vehicle was used 25% of the time.