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The Montana Human Rights Bureau found reasonable cause to believe the Attorney General’s Office engaged in unlawful discrimination during the hiring process following an investigation into the Montana Department of Justice.
The investigator with the bureau determined that the office did not hire attorney Andres Haladay because of his political beliefs, even though a hiring committee determined he was the best qualified for the job. That committee was ultimately overruled by former lieutenant attorney general Kris Hansen, who has since died.
Haladay was applying for the position of Agency Legal Services Bureau Chief in November 2021 and was asked to provide a cover letter, resume and an essay “regarding the responsibility of the government to the people of Montana.”
According to the Human Rights Bureau investigator, the essay reflected Haladay’s personal political beliefs, “which could generally be construed as liberal or progressive.” Haladay is also a former member of the Helena City Commission and told the bureau that his political beliefs were likely known in the community.
According to the written report, obtained by the Daily Montanan, the investigator noted, “Although Haladay was aware his personal beliefs conflicted with those of the current DOJ administration, Haladay felt he should answer the essay prompt honestly. As a result, Haladay’s essay discussed his opinion on (the) role of government as relates to issues such as abortion, climate change and other topics of political discourse.”
Haladay has also worked for the State of Montana as the deputy chief legal counsel for the Montana Department of Corrections. He has been an attorney for more than a decade.
The Montana Department of Justice did not respond Wednesday to inquiries or requests for interview on this story.
Three candidates were selected for interview by the committee and Haladay was ranked second. However, after the first candidate withdrew, he became the top candidate, but the third-ranked candidate, Pat Risken, was selected instead.
Haladay’s essay includes references to climate change, argues for protecting “a woman’s right to seek and obtain a lawful abortion from the provider of her choice,” as well as concluding the Montana Constitution “supports more than a responsibility of mere equal protection. Rather, it argues for a concept of equality that recognizes that a level playing field can only be level when it accounts for societal disparities that limit the opportunities and protections of thousands of Montanans.”
The interim Agency Legal Services Bureau Chief, who was a part of the hiring committee, described Haladay as “talented and stellar,” noting that he had plenty of litigation experience. She described Haladay to the investigator as a “perfect fit.”
Lieutenant Attorney General Kris Hansen, at the time the top deputy for the department, did not consult the hiring committee before passing up Haladay and instead offering the position to Risken.
Risken worked in the new position, according to court filings. However, he is not currently listed on the department’s website. According to state’s database, Risken’s salary is approximately $96,262 per year. Attempts to reach him on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
A human resources specialist working for the Montana Department of Justice said that while working with Hansen, she was “direct and to the point,” telling the HR specialist that “she did not want to explain her reasoning.”
Meanwhile, Risken, who was ranked lower, had a much different take on Montana in his essay:
Moreover, the committee raised concerns about Risken’s qualifications – concerns that were not raised in Haladay’s application.
“Glossed over a lot of the subsets of the questions … oral argument was not good,” according to materials produced by the hiring committee on Risken. “(A)rrogance could come through if an employee is not performing well.”
In addition, one committee member raised concerns about Risken’s management style and not working well with others.
Hansen told the human resources specialist that she “just overruled the panel’s decision.”
“When the DOJ asserts Risken was a better candidate for the Bureau Chief position, the available evidence suggests otherwise,” the investigator said. “When considering merit and qualification, the hiring panel raised concerns. Not only did the hiring panel rank Risken last among the candidates interviewed, but notes from the panel display several reasons for the DOJ to conclude he was not well suited for the position.”
The DOJ told the Human Rights Bureau investigator that it couldn’t have known about Haladay’s political views, therefore it could not have discriminated.
“Evidence also suggests this assertion by the DOJ lack(s) credibility,” the investigator said. “As noted above, the essays submitted by Haladay and Risken displays an easily discernible distinction between the political ideologies presented by the candidates. On top of that, Haladay was an elected official servicing for eight years on the Helena City Commission. As such, his political beliefs were public knowledge.”
Daily Montanan is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Daily Montanan maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Darrell Ehrlick for questions: email@example.com. Follow Daily Montanan on Facebook and Twitter.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is set to condemn North Korea's weapons tests in Seoul ahead of her first visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the Koreas on Thursday, just hours after the isolated country test-fired missiles.
Harris landed in the South Korean capital early on Thursday and will condemn North Korea's latest missile launch during planned talks with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, a White House official said.
She will also discuss Seoul's concerns over changes in U.S. electric vehicle subsidies, trilateral relations involving Japan, and China's action in the Taiwan Strait, the official said.
Aides said the visit to DMZ is intended to show unwavering U.S. commitment to South Korea's security but took on new urgency after the two short-range ballistic missiles were shot off North Korea's east coast on Wednesday.
U.S. President Joe Biden's aides have been shoring up alliances to manage China in the region, including over Taiwan. But South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol told CNN in an interview aired on Sunday that in a conflict over Taiwan, North Korea would be more likely to stage a provocation and that the alliance should focus on that concern first.
The missile test is the second since Sunday and comes two days after South Korea and U.S. forces conducted a military drill in waters off South Korea's east coast involving an aircraft carrier.
North Korea's Kim Jong Un has said it is developing nuclear weapons and missiles to defend against U.S. threats.
Following a stop at a military base in Japan, Harris called recent missile launches part of an "illicit weapons programme which threatens regional stability and violates multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions."
Harris' visit to the DMZ is the first by a senior Biden administration official and is expected to follow a meeting with Yoon.
Several former U.S. presidents, and Biden himself before he became president, have visited the DMZ, but former President Donald Trump became the first to have met a North Korean leader there when he held a third meeting with Kim Jong Un in 2019 as part of his unsuccessful effort to persuade Kim to give up his nuclear and missile programs.
The DMZ is often described as the world's last Cold War frontier and has existed since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a armistice rather than a peace treaty.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Josie Kao and Stephen Coates)
Coolio, the US rapper best known for the chart-topping 1995 song "Gangsta's Paradise," has died, his manager said Wednesday. He was 59 years old.
The Grammy-winning musician passed away in Los Angeles. No cause of death was immediately provided.
Coolio's friend and long-standing manager Jarez Posey confirmed the news to AFP without providing additional details.
Posey told celebrity news website TMZ that Coolio was found unresponsive in the bathroom of a friend's house on Wednesday afternoon.
Born Artis Leon Ivey Jr on August 1, 1963 in Pennsylvania, the artist spent most of his life in Compton, California, attending community college and working jobs including airport security before finding success in rap.
Coolio began his music career in California in the late 1980s, digging roots in the Los Angeles scene by 1994 when he signed to Tommy Boy Records.
His single "Fantastic Voyage" off his debut studio album "It Takes a Thief" charted as high as three on the Billboard Hot 100.
But it was "Gangsta's Paradise" the following year that would make Coolio a household name.
The rapper soared to global fame in 1995 when he released the song for the soundtrack of the film "Dangerous Minds" that starred Michelle Pfeiffer.
It was the year's top single, and scored Coolio a Grammy for best rap solo performance for the track at the subsequent awards gala.
With a hook lifted from Stevie Wonder's 1976 track "Pastime Paradise" off of that artist's seminal "Songs In The Key of Life," the hit sold millions of copies worldwide, topping pop charts in 16 countries.
"It's about life, because you're living in the gangster's paradise also," Coolio said about his song, speaking in 1995 on the "Howard Stern Show."
'It wrote me'
In an interview more than a decade later with Britain's "The Voice," Coolio said he had "no clue" that the song would go on to endure for so many years.
"I didn't write Gangsta's Paradise -- it wrote me," he said. "It was its own entity, out there in the spirit world, trying to find its way to the world, and it chose me as the vessel to come through."
"I thought it was going to be a hood record; I never thought it would cross over the way that it did -- to all ages, races, genres, countries and generations."
He never recreated the success of his signature track but later put out hits including "1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' New)" and "Too Hot."
An endearing star of gangsta rap, Coolio's high-spirited music videos brought him an increased following. He later pursued an acting career, including nabbing a part in 1997's "Batman and Robin" and making a number of television cameos including on the hit 1990s show "The Nanny."
The social media reaction to the rapper's death was one of shock, with 1990s rapper Vanilla Ice tweeting: "I'm freaking out I just heard my good friend Coolio passed away."
"Peaceful Journey Brother. #Coolio," wrote Questlove.