Guest Editorial by Evelyn Pyburn-Originally published in the Yellowstone County News print edition
So if you have missed it, there’s more “to-do” about Gov. Steve Bullock’s misuse of the state plane than what hits the accounting books. His most regular travel companion is what is raising eyebrows, and who that is dovetails with rumors that have been flying around Helena since before Lt. Gov. Angela McLean resigned.
If travel with the governor to all corners of the country and beyond are any measure, then commerce in Montana should be in very fine shape, because Montana Department of Commerce Director Meg O’Leary has traveled more with the governor than any other member of his department.
O’Leary traveled with Bullock on the state plane 56 times – two and a half times more often than the next frequent flyer, Jason Smith, who flew 20 times with the governor. (All but a paltry $1,500 was at taxpayer expense, of course.)
The Paul McCartney concert in Missoula is one of those joint trips made by the governor and O’Leary, which must have raised as many eyebrows then as it has since. The blatancy of it singles it out as most interesting. While issues of prudent use of taxpayers’ dollars abound about flying to such a nearby destination, and about whether the trip was for business (which the governor says it was, even though the time frame would hardly have allowed for a business meeting), but the thing is, O’Leary was not invited. Montana’s first lady Lisa Bullock was, according to research conducted by Matthew Monforton, an attorney, former judge and legislator.
Since the governor was allowed a guest (with the expectation of it being Mrs. Bullock), O’Leary was welcomed, but she is the only member of the governor’s cabinet who attended. Others, like O’Leary, received no invitation to an event that had no business items on its agenda.
But, who knows, maybe Lisa Bullock is no fan of Paul McCartney.
This was not the only time that O’Leary was the governor’s travel companion when one might have expected to see his wife, instead. O’Leary is said to have traveled to Puerto Rico with the governor, and she attended the Kentucky Derby with him (pictures of which are posted on the Internet).
All are situations which add to a rumor that began circulating the halls of the Capital months before the former lieutenant governor resigned. And, as one media person recently said, it is “common knowledge” in Helena, that what was termed as a “poor relationship” between the governor and the former lieutenant governor was rooted in her knowledge of his extramarital affair.
There’s lots of grumbling about the lack of media attention to the matter, but the fact is there is no evidence to support the theory of an affair except for the indirect evidence of travel records. The former lieutenant governor is not talking, and except for flying rumors, nor is anyone else.
Some media do seem to be attempting to flush out the story. Of course, one has to suspect that if the governor were of a different political persuasion, the accuracy of the rumor wouldn’t be quite so troublesome.
But in all fairness, the media did go after the governor’s emails. The ones that they got revealed little, and left unexplained the reason why the lieutenant governor was so abruptly dismissed from the governor’s inner circle. That there is no answer to that question adds to the rumor mill.
And also, it was media who asked both candidates during the second debate, this week, if either had had any affairs. That’s not a typical debate question, and raising it was certainly an effort of media to tip public awareness to the issue.
And, it is media that is now pushing for more emails, only to learn that the governor destroyed all his emails as Attorney General. Again, why would a forthright person serving in a forthright manner, as a public servant, feel compelled to destroy emails?
If that’s not enough grist for the mill, it is certainly true that Lisa Bullock hasn’t been on the campaign trail – but then, neither has Meg O’Leary.