Keila Szpaller

(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.