Victims/Deceased: None mentioned in the given text. : “Montana Commerce Director Scott Osterman Resigns Amid $26K Expense Violation”

Death – Obituary – Accident and Crime News : Montana Department of Commerce Director Scott Osterman has resigned following an internal investigation that revealed he had accumulated over $26,000 in disallowed government expenses, potentially in violation of state law and policy. The probe, which was conducted by the Budget Office, found that Osterman had spent nearly $18,000 on vehicle and lodging expenses for travel between his home in Kalispell and his office in Helena. In addition to this, thousands of dollars in disallowed meal expenses and approximately $4,500 in reported vehicle maintenance costs were flagged, bringing the total potentially misspent funds to over $30,000 since Osterman took office in 2021.

Osterman submitted his resignation on Wednesday evening, and Deputy Director Mandy Rambo has been listed as the acting director on the Department of Commerce website. Governor Greg Gianforte’s office released a statement on Thursday, stating that the director had violated state policy related to travel expenses and that the governor had taken decisive action in response. Osterman was required to pay the amount he owed to the State of Montana in full and his resignation was accepted.

The investigation into Osterman’s spending began when an internal control coordinator in the governor’s Office of Budget and Program Planning identified a potential vulnerability at the senior leadership level. This led to a review of expenses for executive agencies from January 2021 to June 2023. Osterman was found to have charged lodging, meals, and state vehicle usage for his daily commute between his home and the department’s headquarters in Helena, which is not permitted under state law and policy.

Osterman had the opportunity to challenge the findings of the investigation and was given until December 8 to reimburse the state for any improper expenses. He ultimately paid back approximately $29,700 this week. The matter has been referred to the Legislative Audit Division and the Montana attorney general for further investigation.

Governor Gianforte has directed his budget office to conduct an internal review of the Commerce Department and to regularly review directors’ use of state resources. This incident follows a similar situation in 2019 involving then-Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, who faced scrutiny for personal travel in a state vehicle. Osterman’s resignation marks the second controversy involving a department head appointed by Governor Gianforte since he took office.

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