State investigates commissioner over possible misconduct

The state attorney general is investigating whether a Gallatin County commissioner violated ethics rules by accepting gifts from a wealthy property developer who wants to build townhomes in Big Sky.

The issue emerged when a neighboring landowner, Packy Cronin, sued the developer and Yellowstone Club member Loren Bough. County commissioners must approve subdivisions.

Cronin's attorney, Brian Gallik, asked the county attorney to investigate Commissioner Steve White's relationship with Bough. The sheriff forwarded the request to the Justice Department, spokesman John Barnes said.

Gallik obtained a March email in which White thanked Bough for several days of skiing at the private Yellowstone Club and noted commissioners met that morning about Cronin's proposal for a 13-lot subdivision on a 10-acre property.

Montana law bans public officials from accepting gifts "of substantial value" that would improperly influence them in carrying out their duties.

White, 65, told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle ( ) that he has given no one special treatment.

"This has devastated me, to have someone lodge these allegations," White said, adding that he has never violated his oath of office during his 10 years of service.

White acknowledged skiing with Bough at the Yellowstone Club four times in December, January and "a couple of times in March."

"I had no problems going to the Yellowstone Club because it's in Madison County. Gallatin County commissioners have no authority over anything going on in the Yellowstone Club, so I didn't think there was anything wrong with that," White said. "We never ever talked about Gallatin County business."

White said he will recuse himself from future decisions on Bough and Cronin's land.


Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle,