HELENA — Montana lawmakers are poised to foot the bill to defend a state senator who is being sued under the state’s public records act to release her emails.
Earlier this month, a legislative committee inserted an amendment to a supplemental appropriations bill to allocate $100,000 to help pay for legal fees that might be incurred by Sen. Jennifer Fielder, a Republican from Thompson Falls.
In February, the Campaign for Accountability sued Fielder, the Legislative Services Division and the state of Montana for failing to fully release hundreds of pages of documents requested a year ago.
The state’s public records act requires public officials to release documents, including emails, pertaining to their official duties.
The bill carrying the amendment to pay for Fielder’s defense has stirred little controversy thus far. During an initial hearing before the Senate Finance and Claims Committee on March 8, Democratic Sen. Mary Caferro of Helena was the only member to vote against the amendment.
Caferro said Fielder and the state could avoid further legal expense by immediately releasing the documents.