Schweitzer says University of Montana law professor’s tax study violated policy

2012-09-15T07:30:00Z 2013-12-09T18:47:30Z Schweitzer says University of Montana law professor’s tax study violated policyBy CHARLES S. JOHNSON Missoulian State Bureau missoulian.com

HELENA – Gov. Brian Schweitzer called University of Montana President Royce Engstrom last month to complain about study done by a law professor under contract for Cablevison/Bresnan that criticized how the state how the state values certain types of business property.

Engstrom, in turn, said that law Professor Kristen Juras had “apparently” violated some aspects of UM policies and apologized to Schweitzer.

Juras’ written study contained no disclosure saying her conclusions were her own and not the university’s views, nor did she seek prior consent from her dean to use the university name in working as a consultant, Engstrom said.

Juras was hired by the cable company to do the study, and she presented it to a legislative committee in July. While she indicated in her oral presentation that her conclusions were her own, not the university’s, she failed to do so in the written report.

Cablevision/Bresnan and some other centrally assessed industries are mounting an effort to convince the 2013 Legislature to change how the state Revenue Department values their property in attempt to lower their taxes.

Schweitzer has been highly critical of the idea, saying it will amount to a large shift of their taxes onto homeowners and owners of small businesses.

“I asked him (Engstrom) if it was the policy of the University of Montana to shift $100 million in taxes from a dozen out-of-state corporations to 45 Montana businesses and 350,000 homes,” Schweitzer said in an interview Friday.

Engstrom said he didn’t know what Schweitzer was talking about, the governor said, so he told the UM president: “You have a person who represents herself as a UM professor. You assume that someone who represents the law school represents the University of Montana.”

In an Aug. 27 letter to Schweitzer, Engstrom concluded that Juras “did apparently violate” some UM policies and apologized for her failure to fully comply with UM policy. Schweitzer released the letter Friday.

“I’m sorry that one of our faculty members engaged in an activity that did not fully comply with existing policy,” Engstrom said. “Her activity may have created the impression that the university has a position on the specific matter of property taxation. It does not.

“Clearly, as a university, we are interested in policies and practices that permit optimal investment in higher education. To the extent that Professor Juras was making recommendations that decrease resources available to the state, she was not speaking for the university.”

UM’s policy prohibits both a faculty member’s and a consulting sponsor’s use of the university’s name in connection with a private company that suggests any university involvement, Engstrom said. In addition, campus policy doesn’t allow UM’s name to be used in connection with consulting activity without express prior consent by the faculty member’s dean, he said.

In an interview, Juras said in hindsight she regrets that she didn’t put a footnote in her report that indicated that it contained her views, not those of the university. She said she did make that clear when she spoke to members of Legislature’s Revenue and Transpiration Interim Committee in July. They already knew from committee discussions and debates earlier this year, she said.

“He (Schweitzer) didn’t attack my legal analysis,” she said. “He has never spoken to me. I presented a report that was critical in some aspects, but certainly not all aspects, of the Department of Revenue’s procedures, and the governor’s upset.”

She added, “If he (Schweitzer) wants to shut down professors that prepare reports that are contrary to his views, I believe that interferes with academic freedom. I believe professors ought to be able to criticize the government.”

Although Juras did the most of the work through her private practice, after the academic year had ended, and mostly from her home in Great Falls, Engstrom said she did make some photocopies and phone calls from the UM Law School. Engstrom ordered her to reimburse the university, and Juras said she already has done so.

Juras had not seen Engstrom’s letter until the Missoulian State Bureau provided her with a copy from Schweitzer.

She defended her tax study as “a scholastic piece of work,” adding: “The recommendations were my own, not directed by Bresnan.”

While she provided the company with ongoing drafts of her study, she said officials made “no substantive efforts” to change her study.

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(16) Comments

  1. confusedude
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    confusedude - September 16, 2012 10:46 pm
    Why don't you take a long walk off a short pier? E.g., Leave Montana NOW!!
  2. dsrobins
    Report Abuse
    dsrobins - September 16, 2012 2:54 pm
    Professor Juras clearly has a severe problem with judicial and academic ethics. Her employment at the UM law school should be terminated immediately.
  3. oldie
    Report Abuse
    oldie - September 15, 2012 8:58 pm
    Good for Gov Schweitzer! I'm glad he made this issue public and I don't care one whit about how he chose to do it. Now we all know about what dirty deals are being done in the dark of night. If a corporation wants all the free speech rights of a citizen then they can pay their taxes like any other citizen too.To heck with anybody that says otherwise.
  4. DonaldM
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    DonaldM - September 15, 2012 6:51 pm
    The Gov. is a well known bully, and when he hears something that he doesn't like he acts out.

    He is technically correct in this case. She should have prominently included in her written report a disclaimer that she was expressing he personal opinion and not representing the U. I'm surprised at that oversite. I hope the Report wasn't on UM letterhead.

    For such researchers, the incidental use of Univ. resources when doing private consulting is common. This is the first instance where I have heard it criticized. Though the criticism is correct.
  5. Bandit218
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    Bandit218 - September 15, 2012 3:46 pm
    I am also sure that our blow hard governor has never done personal business on my dime. I am also sure that Bend has never done personal business on company time. A hypocrite is a hypocrite.
  6. EddB
    Report Abuse
    EddB - September 15, 2012 1:34 pm
    I am supposing that you who are so willing to castigate our Governor for standing up for home owners and small businesses are more than willing to step forward and pay the higher taxes that would occur if the tax break for "out of State" businesses were to be granted. BTW, whomever is trying to spread the misinformation that Montana is a bad place for business needs to check more than one source for their information.
  7. startingover
    Report Abuse
    startingover - September 15, 2012 1:11 pm
    Whether the corporations get a tax break or not, they will not foot the bill. It will be passed on to either their customers through increased rates, or taxes go up as they pay less. Regardless of how you look at it the corporation will not pay in the end. The study seems like a waste of time and money to me, as does the controversy it seems to be creating.
  8. Bend
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    Bend - September 15, 2012 11:26 am
    Really, the good professor admitted to using university time and property to complete a study for a private company. Then she deceptively presented that report (with a verbal acknowledgement that it was her own opinion) as a product of her academic work at UM. A shill is a shill, and a hidden shill of out-of-state industry trying to shift taxes back onto MT businesses and homeowners is a hack as well.

    See the related article where the DOR disputes the logic and facts of this "study". Who wants local property taxes to go up? That's right, the companies that want off the hook and paid for this study. Good job Brian protecting MT and calling out the political shills who produce these paid-for-opinions and try to con our already gullible legislators.
  9. ErikRay
    Report Abuse
    ErikRay - September 15, 2012 10:57 am
    It appears that the Governor’s intellectual abilities and his appreciation of academic freedom are commensurate with his horsemanship and roping skills. Perhaps this lame duck should waddle back up to his Georgetown Lake mansion instead of needlessly attacking educators for his vindictive pleasure.
  10. pensar
    Report Abuse
    pensar - September 15, 2012 10:50 am
    This professor seems to want the pay from the consulting but the cover of the University connection. Harvard had a real problem with ethics (lack thereof) and had to start teaching it to their business grads. Very sad that this professor clearly has no problem with unetical use of the University's name on her selfish, (because she makes enough money to afford it) ideas about shifting taxes to the Montana population and giving out of state corporations the deals they asked her to lobby for.
  11. Buzz Feedback
    Report Abuse
    Buzz Feedback - September 15, 2012 10:06 am
    Governor Witch Hunt
  12. Waltzing Matilda
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    Waltzing Matilda - September 15, 2012 9:58 am
    Instead of nit picking about some policy violation, perhaps the Governor should worry about how he continues to violate the law. It is ILLEGAL to have a dog that is not a service dog in a public building, yet Schweitzer continues to bring his do to the state capital. It is also ILLEGAL for anyone other than law enforcement to have a gun in a public building, yet at one time, Schweitzer had a fully functional gun in his office and may still have it there..

    As Huxley said, his attack completely ignores the merits of the study.
  13. ErikRay
    Report Abuse
    ErikRay - September 15, 2012 9:15 am
    It appears that the Governor’s intellectual abilities and his appreciation of academic freedom are commensurate with his horsemanship and roping skills. Perhaps this lame duck should waddle back up to his Georgetown Lake mansion instead of needlessly attacking educators for his vindictive pleasure.
  14. idiot state
    Report Abuse
    idiot state - September 15, 2012 8:49 am
    Oh oh...Brian's not gonna let this go, you can bet on it. A professor who openly criticizes Montana's backward and corrupt tax policies? Forget it-it goes against that Montana myth that Brian spews every time he gets the chance. YOu know, how MOntana's got a budget surplus, is "the envy of all the other states" and such....The truth, of course, is that Montana's one of the worst run states in the country (Barrons) and most businesses stay away from Montana in favor of more sane and reasonable states. Good for this professor!!
  15. Huxley
    Report Abuse
    Huxley - September 15, 2012 1:01 am
    I'm severely disappointed that Schweitzer would resort to such an attack, particularly one which completely ignores the merits of the study, but instead focuses solely on a technically incomplete written disclosure although this disclosure was clearly made before the relevant committee.
  16. Bandit218
    Report Abuse
    Bandit218 - September 14, 2012 10:28 pm
    I'm surprised the governor didn't take this study and brand it on the Capitol steps. He's so level headed and all.
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