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May 31, 2011 6:46 PM by Mark Holyoak (KPAX News)

Secretary of State McCulloch called before judge

HELENA- A district judge ordered Secretary of State Linda McCulloch to appear before him to explain her actions in court. Judge James Reynolds set a date of July 27th for McCulloch to explain why she refused to allow a recall petition against Governor Brian Schweitzer. Missoula accountant Patty Lovaas filed the petition claiming misconduct by Schweitzer in handling state property taxes.

"It was for an election for the people against the Governor for official misconduct on increasing property taxes without legislative authority. And they refused to accept them," Lovaas said in December. "The Secretary of State's Office does not have the authority to decide what petitions to reject or accept."

"It's just an assumption on her part. It's just, for lack of a better word, potentially a grudge against the Governor," said Assistant Attorney General Stuart Segrest, who represented the Secretary of State's office.

Lovass, a former Senate candidate, claims Schweitzer illegally raised property taxes, increasing revenue for the state by $9.6 million at the taxpayers expense. She says he did so without legislative authority in 2008. McCulloch later said the filings were late and, therefore, unacceptable.

McCulloch previously stated she's prepared to take her civil action case to the way to the Montana Supreme Court or even Federal Court.

Contact Mark Holyoak

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