The embittered commissioner is upset that his emails – available as a part of public record according to Montana law – were released, leading to his embarrassment and allegedly hurting his troubled marriage.
With Montana’s out-of-state, liberal media doing the dirty work, drama-laden PSC Commissioner Roger Koopman has decided to vindictively litigate a junk lawsuit against his colleagues for allegedly legally obtaining his work emails and disseminating them to the press. The Billings Gazette is again, predictably, referring to the incident as an “email spying scheme.”
The Fake News outlet seems to be indifferent to the reality that the emails of public officials are public property, easily ascertainable by merely requesting them, a procedure regularly utilized by press outlets like the Billings Gazette and its more reliable competitor and #1 Online Montana News Outlet, the Montan Daily Gazette. Simply put, there is no controversy. There is no crime. There is no civil penalty for reporting truth which is the ultimate vindication against accusations of defamation.
The Montana Daily Gazette has reported on the Koopman Misbehavior Saga since it began and has repeatedly corrected the publication’s factual inaccuracies in articles like September’s “Billings Gazette’s Yellow Journalism Botches Public Service Commission Story.”
As we reported at the time…
“Lutey begins his tabloid column by alleging, “Montana Public Service Commission documents showing a pattern of bullying, harassment, and spying at the agency have been released by a district court judge.” And yet not once throughout the piece did Lutey make even a tepid attempt to detail what, specifically, led to his conclusion that “bullying, harassment, and spying” took place at the agency.
As this publication has repeatedly demonstrated the yellow journalism muckraking of the Billings Gazette, Koopman’s attorney acknowledged that their arguments correspond to the Gazette’s awful reporting. The out-of-state, bankrupt, and newly unionized Lee Enterprises paper writes, “the main subjects of the damage claim and [The Billings Gazette’s] earlier investigative work are the same.”
Koopman’s attorney said, “It’s an invasion of privacy, it’s defamation, it’s retaliation. There is what we think is official misconduct and other complicit behaviors in terms of legal violations, policy violations and procedures that were established to protect people from this kind of thing.”
However, as Hillary Clinton taught the entire country in her own email scandal, there is no expectation of privacy when emailing from publicly-owned servers or when conducting public business. In order for Koopman’s lawsuit to be successful, state laws regarding public transparency would have to be changed, but then whatever perceived offense on the part of Koopman’s defendants would fall under ex post facto violations of laws that do not yet exist.
For full disclosure and our own journalistic integrity, it should be reported that Koopman’s emails were released via the Northwest Liberty News run by Jim White of Kalispell, who now serves as editor of the Montana Daily Gazette (who was not consulted for this article and is written independently of his influence).
In their reporting on Koopman’s lawsuit, the Billings Gazette broke virtually every standard of journalistic decency and made unsupported and wild-eyed, unsubstantiated allegations. They wrote…
Documents released by order of Lewis and Clark District Court Judge Mike Menahan in September revealed that Koopman was the target of spying, embarrassing email leaks, and trumped-up claims that led to a police investigations that went nowhere. Many of the plots involved fellow Republican Commissioner Randy Pinocci, the commission’s communications director, Drew Zinecker and Mandi Hinman, the office administrator.
By “spying” the Gazette means public emails were lawfully obtained. By “embarrassing email leaks” the Gazette means that Koopman’s emails regarding his failing marriage (which never should have been sent from public servers) were made known. And by “trumped up claims that led to a police investigation” they mean that an alleged whistle-blower was concerned about workplace safety.
Meanwhile, the Gazette’s claims of “plots” and “conspiracies” sound more like something published by Qanon than anything in a respectable news publication.
Gideon Knox Group president, Jordan Hall (publisher of this newspaper) reports, “If anything, Pinocci and Zinecker should immediately counter-sue Koopman and the Billings Gazette for libel. Use of the term ‘spying’ is clearly libelous when in reference to the standard and rudimentary release of public emails. No one ‘hacked’ a computer. No one ‘stole’ emails. The accusations are absurd and any serious journalist should have their credentials immediately revoked for such a breach of truth and basic journalistic decorum.”
Hall added, “We’ll see what Gideon Knox Group can do if Pinocci, Zinecker and Hinman want to counter-sue for libel. And I pray to God that they put the Billings Gazette out of business, if they won’t be out of business by the time it goes to court anyway. We have resources for this type of thing.”
Meanwhile, the Gideon Knox Group has issued a request of the PSC for all of Koopman’s most recent emails. Sources have told the Montana Daily Gazette that reportedly recent allegations exist of relational impropriety within the PSC office on behalf of Koopman that made employees feel improperly advanced “romantically.” Montana Daily Gazette will update the public as that story progresses.