The Billings Gazette published a story late last evening accusing Public Service Commissioner, Randi Pinocci, of “spying” on Commissioner Roger Koopman by requesting his emails. Koopman’s emails – which demonstrate a personal misuse – were subsequently released on Northwest Liberty News, although there is no indication that the publicly-available email records were passed along by Pinocci.
Pinocci told the Montana Daily Gazette, “Employees have brought concerns to me about Roger Koopman. I have been listening to them, taking notes, and staffers said there were a number of emails that are very concerning that Koopman has written. Staff were cc’d on those emails,” Pinocci added, “which is how they saw them.”
Having been approached with staffer concerns, Pinocci requested to look at the emails to see if those emails validated their concerns. While the press has claimed Pinocci “stole” the emails, he has a right to view emails (as does any Montana citizen who puts in the proper request) sent by Public Service Commissioners from the public server. The same goes for phone records under Montana law designed to provoke transparency in government.
Pinocci said, “I went to Mandy Henmen and said I have heard complaints about Koopman’s emails from staffers and gave my complaints and requested access. I was given access, as was my right, and I saw the concerns were valid. I thought we should have an intervention with Roger [Koopman].”
He continued, “Chairman Johnson thought the situation was serious but that we should wait because it might make matters worse if we confronted him right away.”
Again, Pinocci went on, “Koopman had heard through a staffer that I was concerned about his behavior and he requested a meeting with me. I told him I indeed had concerns and he needed to make some changes, encouraging him to try to do better. I also explained that I had a letter with documentation on Brad Johnson’s desk. He found out about this because I was the one who told him.”
Pinocci claimed, “The emails that got released somehow to the press – which I absolutely did not do – make it very clear he has said things that are outlandish. He says the commissioners are intimidating staff. He’s said derogatory things about staff that he should not have said. He’s written allegations he should not have.”
Pinocci’s concern was that Koopman was his diverting the standard protocol to make complaints and accusations, hurting the climate and working environment of the PSC.
There were additional concerns Pinocci was not at liberty to discuss because the emails were not yet available. However, it has become clear from emails already released that Koopman was misusing his work computer for personal use.
Other off-the-record sources have reported to the Montana Daily Gazette that Koopman had been rumored to be bringing a gun to his public office, with staffers claiming to have felt unsafe and police placing an informal post in the hallway on alert for a possible firearm. These and other issues, including a staffing incident with Chris Ship – the communications director for the PSC – resulting in non-disclosure agreements being signed and a financial package being paid on account of Coopman’s alleged misconduct.
All of these issues with Koopman are a part of the currently troubled milieu in the PSC, which runs far deeper than Pinocci’s legal and above-board request to access public emails.
Koopman was widely considered to be a strong conservative and while his policy positions aren’t particularly troublesome, his personal behavior has recently earned him the nickname “Kooky Koopman” according to a source within Northwest Energy.
Rather than the reporting provided in the Billings Gazette, which makes Pinocci look like a “spy,” it appears that Commissioner Pinocci is trying to protect the interests and integrity of the PSC and has done so in a legal and up-front way.
Reportedly, Koopman has retained two attorneys and is threatening damages for the emails’ release.
“Roger Koopman is not the victim here,” Pinocci told the Montana Daily Gazette,”the rate-payers are the victim because they will be paying all the cost of working this mess out internally. The taxpayers do not pay the PSC, the rate-payers of the power companies pay for the PSC. The attorneys that work for PSC will have thousands of hours to sort all this out. The other victims are those Koopman wrote emails about, including staff and other commissioners. Had Roger not misused his email to begin with, we wouldn’t have any problem. He’s responsible. No one else.”