Lewis and Clark County Commissioners Needs to Take Justice of the Peace Swingley’s E-mail Problem Seriously

I was disappointed by the Independent Record’s coverage of Justice of the Peace Mike Swingley’s latest outburst at the press. Not only did the story fail to highlight that Swingley has a pattern of using his official e-mail to promote bigoted and flatly incorrect theories, but he was given an almost unprecedented opportunity to write hundreds of words in his own defense without any fact-checking or context provided.

And that was it. No more investigation, no effort to understand just how often Swingley uses his position to express and even act upon his dangerous views.

While we wrote last week about Swingley’s love for bad history and bigoted observations about Muslims, there’s another important detail we left out of Swingley’s actions in the past. Back in 2015, when city commissioners Katherine Haque-Hausrath and Andres Haladay questioned his use of his official e-mail account to attack Helena’s Muslim population and defend the Confederacy, Swingley went after the press, demanding that the commissioners turn over e-mails written to KXLH reporter Sanjay Talwani.

Back in 2015, Commissioner Haque-Hausrath noted that Swingley’s remarks showed that Muslim and Arabic people had to wonder if they could get a fair hearing in his courtroom:

“Judge Swingley’s statements are deeply troubling because they exhibit such a clear bias toward Arabic and Muslim people that there is no way anyone who might even appear to be Arabic or Muslim could be confident about getting a fair trial in his courtroom.

If the press isn’t going to demand answers or a real apology from Swingley, it’s incumbent upon the Lewis and Clark County Commissioners to hold him accountable. I hope that commissioners who want to preserve Helena’s image and not let it become a national punchline will investigate and demand some answers in one of their upcoming meetings.

Correction: Apologies for the error in the piece. I rushed it and put in City Commission when I meant County. I’ll do better in the future.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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