MT Department of Commerce Director resigns following spending investigation

Montana State Capitol
Posted at 6:10 PM, Dec 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-14 20:10:42-05

HELENA — As first reported by the Montana Free Press, Montana Commerce Department Director Scott Osterman has resigned following an internal investigation that said he inappropriately spent state funds.

Osterman allegedly spent approximately $27,000 on expenses traveling from Kalispell where he lives to Helena for work. Those expenses included staying at the DoubleTree hotel while in Helena where the Department of Commerce Director’s office is located. The internal report also alleged Osterman improperly classified food expenses as office supplies.

State employees are only allowed to expense lodging, meals, and transportation when they are traveling away from their designated office.

The Montana Free Press reportsOsterman paid back the state about $29,700 this week which roughly equals the sum of the expenses the probe identified as inappropriate.

“Following an internal review, the Budget Office found the director violated state policy related to travel expenses, and the governor took decisive action. He found out about it, had the director pay the amount he owed to the State of Montana in full, and accepted his resignation. The budget office has provided materials related to this matter to the Legislative Auditor and the Attorney General, and our office and administration will cooperate fully with any investigation,” a spokesperson for the Governor’s Office told MTN in a statement Thursday.

“To tighten fiscal controls to protect taxpayer resources, the governor has directed the Budget Office to conduct an internal review of the Commerce Department and to conduct a regular review of directors’ use of state resources. He also directed the Department of Administration to conduct a training with all agency directors on the lawful and appropriate use of state resources, which was completed.”

Deputy Director Mandy Rambo is filling the position of the department’s acting director.