Montana News

Jan 18, 2014 12:05 AM by Sanjay Talwani (sanjay@kxlh.com)

Walsh was formally reprimanded by Army over advocacy

HELENA - Montana's lieutenant governor John Walsh, the former commander of the Montana National Guard, was formally reprimanded by the U.S. Army in 2010 over his advocacy of an organization that promoted National Guard interests.

An Army Inspector General document first reported in December said Walsh improperly used government resources for personal gain and to "solicit/coerce" Guard officers into joining the National Guard Association of the United States. That report said Walsh wanted to boost Montana Guard membership in that association because he was running for vice-chairman of the group.

The Inspector General report referred the matter to the Army JAG, or Judge Advocate General. That in turn resulted in a "memorandum of reprimand" obtained Friday by MTN News under the Freedom of Information Act.

That memo says Walsh, now a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, violated federal codes of ethics when he used government resources in the effort.

The Inspector General report said Walsh used federal computers, Walsh's official e-mail and photo, and the time of his executive assistants in endorsing the organization. In his efforts he sent emails to more than 177 Guard officers and warrant officers to solicit their membership in the group.

Walsh said Friday that he had nothing to apologize for. The group he was endorsing, the National Guard Association of the United States, has an important role in a time of shrinking budgets to keep the Guard well-equipped and to ensure appropriate benefits for Guard servicemembers and their families, he said.

The memo, signed by Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army, notes that it does not constitute "punishment" under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but it also says that Walsh's "failure to adhere to Army Values causes me to question your ability to lead."

"As a senior leader, you are expected to understand and comply with all legal and regulatory requirements regarding your involvement with NFEs (non-federal entities)," the memo says. "You must remain impartial in your dealings with NFEs, no matter how important or worthwhile you may believe the organization to be. Your actions were unacceptable, inconsistent with the conduct expected of our senior leaders."

Walsh said the position he was seeking within the NGAUS was an unpaid, volunteer position.

"For 33 years in my military career, my number one priority has been focusing on making the Montana National guard a better organization," he said Friday. "And so by belonging to the National Guard Association of the United States, I realized early in my career the impacts that that organization had on the National Guard."

The NGAUS says its legislative accomplishments in fiscal year 2010 include extension of TRICARE (health coverage program for military personnel, retirees and families) benefits and securing more than $1.5 billion in funding for Guard and Reserve equipment and construction.
Walsh retired from the Guard to seek election as lieutenant governor in 2012 on the ticket with Steve Bullock.

He's running in the U.S. Senate Democratic primary against former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger and Wilsall rancher Dirk Adams for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Max Baucus.

He's also said he's interested in the appointment to the seat when it is vacated by Baucus, who has been nominated to be the next U.S. ambassador to China and could leave the Senate within months, if not weeks.

Governor Bullock, who has the authority to appoint a senator for that vacancy, has endorsed Walsh in the election but has not indicated whether he will appoint Walsh to the position should the opportunity arise.

U.S. Rep. Steve Daines is widely expected to be the Republican nominee in the race.