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Emails, staffers confirm long-simmering tension between Bullock - KXLH.com | Helena, Montana

Emails, staffers confirm long-simmering tension between Bullock admin, McLean

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Lt Gov Angela McLean (MTN News file photo) Lt Gov Angela McLean (MTN News file photo)
HELENA -

Gov. Steve Bullock and his administration had a strained relationship with Lt. Gov. Angela McLean and had considered replacing her on the 2016 ticket since early this year, according to internal emails and top Bullock staffers.

Emails obtained late this week by MTN News also showed that McLean had become largely isolated on the job by early October, when she was locked out of her official Twitter account, excluded from office meetings, and stripped of her initiatives.

Click here to view the emails (PDF).

“Following our meeting, I received a call from (staffer) Dave Parker whereby he asked me to imagine a workplace if I stayed in my post, but the governor took away my initiatives and my ability to serve the citizens of Montana,” McLean wrote to the governor in an Oct. 2 email.

McLean made an unexpected announcement Nov. 30 that she is quitting her lieutenant governor post to take a job with the commissioner of higher education, starting Jan. 4.

McLean, a former high school teacher, said two weeks ago her new job as director of American Indian and minority achievement is an extension of the work she did on education issues as lieutenant governor.

However, Bullock staffers and the governor told MTN it appeared McLean had become “frustrated” as lieutenant governor and wanted to move on.

“Every day, certainly in the private sector and other areas, there are smart, capable people that the fit just isn’t there,” Bullock told MTN News on Friday. “And I think in some ways, there was frustration about what this job is. That’s kind of where we ended up.”

McLean, reached Friday by MTN, said she loved the job of lieutenant governor, enjoyed the work every day, and looked forward to contributing to the state at her new job.

“Every day I was allowed to serve the people of Montana, I did, and earned the salary that they paid me,” she said.

Bullock now must choose a new lieutenant governor and running mate – for the second time in less than two years. Former Lt. Gov. John Walsh left the job in February 2014 when Bullock appointed him U.S. Senator, and then chose McLean as Walsh’s successor.

Bullock said Friday he’s been talking to business and community leaders about possible names for the next lieutenant governor. He said he’s confident he’ll find someone “to fill out the rest of this term and hopefully run with me in 2016 as well.”

Bullock, a Democrat, is up for re-election next year. Three Republicans have said they’re running or considering a run for the office.

When McLean announced her new job Nov. 30, both she and Bullock mostly deflected questions about whether they’d had a falling out, or whether the administration wanted to replace her on the 2016 ticket.

But several internal emails – obtained by MTN in a records request to the governor’s office -- revealed that McLean had sparred with the administration over her role for some time.

In a May 28 email from McLean to the governor, she said she remained “100 percent committed to going forward together,” but that she knew there had been talk “since early this year” about finding a new running mate.

She said she wanted some definitive indication whether she would be his running mate next year.

Bullock staffers confirmed they had discussed early this year whether McLean would remain on the ticket, because of numerous disputes over how she did her job as lieutenant governor.

But they also said that in September, McLean had threatened to quit – and that they heard from others that she was considering running against Bullock in the 2016 Democratic primary for governor.

At this point, Bullock and his aides began suggesting to McLean she might be happier in a different job, emails indicated.

In an Oct. 2 email to the governor, McLean said she’d been asked to imagine a workplace where she no longer had any initiatives – but said she was still determined to stay in her post.

Shortly thereafter, however, according to the emails and confirmed by administration staffers, McLean had been locked out of her official lieutenant governor Twitter account, excluded from daily administration meetings and had her meetings with the governor canceled.

McLean also said in the email there had been a hostile “atmosphere” since she’d had a “private conversation” with the governor in December 2014, and had been told she created “sides” and a division within the office.

When asked about these comments, Bullock said there weren’t any “sides drawn up by any means,” but that “there were certainly challenges with many of my co-workers within here.”

Bullock staffers said they considered McLean a talented politician and educator, but that she repeatedly caused friction within the office by demanding she be involved in certain events beyond what they thought appropriate.

For example, they said McLean would sometimes want her own separate briefings on issues, after the governor had been briefed, or arrange her own publicity on events or releases in which the governor was involved.

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