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Former Bozeman city commissioner investigated after employee complaint

Details of Wallner investigation revealed in emails
Posted at 8:06 PM, Apr 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-02 00:51:44-04

BOZEMAN — After former Bozeman City Commissioner Michael Wallner resigned abruptly in March, MTN News did a public records request.

In an email released from the City of Bozeman, MTN learned Wallner was informed he was under an employee complaint investigation a few days before his resignation.

In an email from March 10, 2021, Bozeman City Manager Jeff Mihelich told Wallner the city hired an independent investigator to look into conduct complaints made by a city employee.

The investigation involved a dispute between an unnamed city employee and Wallner, who was the president of the neighborhood's HOA at the time, regarding an in-home daycare in a neighborhood in Bozeman.

According to the report, Wallner went to the city employee’s house to further discuss the dispute, as well as a public records request regarding all Wallner’s communication about in-home daycare services.

“Admittedly, at the time, I was truly spread too thin, and I agree with the finding that my roles as a local HOA President and as a City Commissioner may have blurred some lines unintentionally.”
Former Bozeman City Commissioner Michael Wallner

The report outlines the city employee told Wallner not to come over, and that the employee believed Wallner was trying to intimidate the employee and get them to withdraw the records request.

However, the investigator found this claim was not substantiated and witnesses told the investigator Wallner was acting “pleasant and cordial,” and documents obtained by MTN News show the public records request was withdrawn just a few days after they were requested.

In an interview with a witness, Wallner told the city employee when leaving the house that “he didn’t see any need to report this to the city because it was a personal issue.”

This claim was not substantiated in the investigator’s report.

In the report, Wallner said he acknowledged he had “blurred the lines between the president of the HOA and city commissioner and said:

“Admittedly, at the time, I was truly spread too thin, and I agree with the finding that my roles as a local HOA President and as a City Commissioner may have blurred some lines unintentionally.”

Wallner continued:

“At a certain point during my service as a commissioner, actions that I was responsible to take as the President of my local Homeowners Association presented an unfortunate circumstance with my then role as a commissioner. A complaint resulted and I was made aware today of the result of the investigation into this complaint.”

The investigator did note city commissioners should avoid contact with city employees that could be perceived as intimidating, stating:

“Resolution 5124 implores the City Commissioners to avoid contact with City employees that could be portrayed as trying to exert influence over the employee.”

In the report, the city employee also alleged that Wallner called him an explicit word, but the investigator couldn’t determine if it was factual or not.

MTN News first obtained findings from the investigation Friday afternoon from Wallner, who said he wanted to be transparent.

In the email, Wallner insisted he resigned because he was “spread too thin and needed to prioritize family and career.”

Wallner also added:

“While I have no idea why these falsehoods were said about me, I harbor no ill will toward anybody involved in this circumstance. Back in March, I moved on with my life and will continue to do so in the future.”

Wallner resigned in mid-March, and Commissioner Christopher Coburn was appointed by the Commission shortly after.

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