Just last Wednesday was Valentines Day’s, but the ghouls over at E City Beat ✅ seem stuck in the first act of The Grinch. Great Falls faces a lot of problems right now, from a housing crisis to a police force without mental health services support. Yet, “ECB Staff” which is typically code for “Commissioner Rick Tryon” decided they needed to release a hard-hitting report on two local philanthropists.
Keeping people angry and ignorant is a key Republican tactic. So, although dystopian, it should be no surprise that Republicans have turned their ire towards libraries. Free information, community space, help with things like taxes and legal paperwork, all of these services infuriate the right. Frankly, the less you read, the more likely you are to vote down ticket Republican. So while libraries are, undoubtedly, a-political entities simply serving the public good, they are now the #1 target for idiots like the staff at E City Beat.
Enter the “Vote Yes” campaign. This privately-funded initiative worked to promote the library levy which passed last summer. Not a single taxpayer dollar was used for this initiative. The library levy passed, and Commissioner Tryon has been going after the library ever since.
Most recently, ECB decided to drudge up the records of who donated to the “Vote Yes” initiative. This information is indeed public record, but what confounds this author is that ECB would attempt to shame local citizens for their philanthropy. Charitable giving to institutions like libraries and schools (and the groups that support them) should be the subject of praise and appreciation. In another journalistic faceplant, ECB even revealed that the two families donated to the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation and the United Way of Cascade County respectively. The horror! The shame! The selfless sharing of wealth!
ECB’s ire towards these donors is particularly funny considering their vocal support of the failed safety levy. The media campaign for that levy was NOT based on private donors. Instead, Tryon spent tens-of-thousands of OUR tax dollars to try to sway the voters. He failed. You still paid the price.
However, if ECB really wants us to start getting into who is donating to causes, it seems fitting we look at the ANTI-library campaign. You know the one. They had several billboards all around town. They falsely claimed that the library promoted pornography and drag queens. They also used the “No” symbol twice, grammatically negating their claims and reminding us of the importance of literacy.
The main funders of the anti-library campaign, the group “Liberty and Values MT,” were the Duncans. They donated a total of $3987.00. The Duncans are also the owners of Happy Tails Lodge. If you either support libraries or simply don’t believe in misinformation and homophobia, then consider NOT boarding your pets at Happy Tails. If you’re pulling your pet from their services, be sure to let them know that E City Beat’s article is the reason you’re taking your business elsewhere.
Also of note, Lola Sheldon Galloway donated $200 to the group. Considering the Galloways are millionaires, it appears they weren’t wholly committed to this project. Perhaps they considered it a bad investment? Importantly, Beth Cummings ALSO donated to the campaign. Cummings is the latest hire at the elections office. More on this clear conflict of interest in a forthcoming article.
I anticipate ECB will now claim this information is all “publicly available” and perhaps try to claim their article had no ill-intent. That’s bullshit. ECB wanted to make these donors uncomfortable, and likely wanted to turn public opinion against them. We trust that Great Falls citizens are smart enough to realize that philanthropy towards groups like United Way, the Great Falls Public School Foundation, and the library is a GOOD thing. The only time such donations are shameful is when they’re supporting groups that trying to cause harm and spread hate- groups like Liberty and Values MT.
Since we can’t count on our actual Commissioners to say this, we will instead.
THANK YOU to the generous donors that supported our library. We appreciate your use of private funds to support this great cause. You saved the city money. In stark contrast to the safety levy, you didn’t rely on taxpayer dollars for your initiative. Our city is better when the library is fully funded. Our city is better when those with the means support fantastic organizations like the United Way. We appreciate that you care enough about others to help support these wonderful institutions. There is NO shame in philanthropy, and we sincerely hope that you won’t be dissuaded from future donations because of ECB’s pathetic attempts to shame you. Great Falls is better when we take care of each other. We appreciate you being part of that.
This past November, the city of Great Falls voted on numerous elected positions as well as a public safety levy and public safety bond. Amid a property tax crisis, it was no surprise that the public safety levy failed. The proposed level would have required a massive property tax increase, a burden the levy’s biggest proponent, Commissioner Rick Tryon, continuously tried to downplay. Despite Tryon’s attempts to minimize the enormity of the ask, the public safety levy ultimately failed. 9,095 voters said “No” to the public safety levy. Only 5,620 voters said “yes” to the levy. Both the bond and levy failed.
Apparently Commissioner Tryon either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care how such levies work. Voters get to decide if they are willing to pay additional monies for these fundings requests. The voters resoundingly said “no.”
During the January 2, 2024 work session, Tryon suggested taking funds from the Great Falls Public Library and diverting that money to public safety. Such a suggestion entirely ignores the will of the voters. We already declined to provide even more money to public safety, and we did so just two months ago.
As with the public safety levy, the library itself relied on the voters to say “yes” or “no” to their levy. The voters spoke, and the library levy passed. Great Falls wants a fully funded library. Now Tryon is threatening to go back on a longstanding library management agreement, which provides seven mills for the library.
Tryon’s attacks on the library are undoubtedly politically motivated. In fact, Tryon was a key vote in ignoring the library’s recommendations for appointing a board member. Rather than rely on the expertise of the Board, Tryon decided to follow the party line. Despite not even attending interviews of the applicants, Tryon and Commissioner Joe McKenney both voted to appoint Noelle Johnson, an individual who was not recommended and who has significant extremist ties.
Perhaps Commissioner Tryon needs reminding that the voters have already responded to his request for public safety funding. They said “No.” Now its time to honor that response and explore real options that don’t involve stripping the library of necessary funding. Tryon may not value public libraries, but the people of Great Falls have already spoken, and we want our library funded.
The Blog Formerly Known as E-City Beat Should Change its Name to E-City Whiners
For years the blog formerly known as E-City Beat pushed right-wing propaganda with a healthy dose of personal attacks on anyone they didn’t agree with. But, when WTF406.com began responding and pushing back, E-City Beat writers Phil Faccenda and his pal Rick Tryon began whining and complaining. And like the bullies they are, they have combined whining with a healthy dose of chest thumping.
The most recent example is their attack on the Election Protection Committee (EPC), which is a volunteer group formed because of concerns about our new Clerk and Recorder, Sandra Merchant. She is not only an election denier with a political agenda but is also incompetent at running elections. There are already two lawsuits filed against the county because of errors she made. In addition, a judge ordered the county to provide a monitor to oversee the library mill levy election, and Great Falls Public Schools has requested the County Commission hire a professional election administrator and take the election duties out of the Clerk and Recorder’s office.
None of that concerns Faccenda and Tryon. The reason, as near as we can tell, is that they simply don’t like the people involved in The EPC. They ignore the fact that former Clerk and Recorder Rina Moore and her staff were constantly harassed by the election denier crowd prior to the election. They ignore the fact that virtually all of the staff in the office have been replaced by Merchant’s political cronies (including Randy Pinocci’s wife and daughter). Their recent article on the Election Protection Committee is full of misinformation, slurs and personal insults. Here’s an example from Faccenda’s latest article: “EPC is simply a group of self-appointed vigilantes who view politics as a blood sport where lying, cheating, and stealing are parts of their modus operandi.” Wow! Faccenda is welcome to his opinion and his vitriol, but he apparently doesn’t see the irony in his complaints about people expressing opinions he doesn’t like.
If this was just a one time thing, we wouldn’t bother to write this post. But Faccenda and Tryon have also attacked WTF406.com repeatedly. Mostly because of their long standing vendetta against one of the writers for WTF406, Jasmine Taylor. Faccenda writes in his recent article, “The Chairperson of EPC is the infamous Jasmine Taylor, who is well known for perpetrating dirty tricks against people and organizations that don’t reflect her wacko leftist views.”
We provide you with this link to Jasmine’s blog post challenging Faccenda’s and Tryon’s attack on a school board candidate back in May of 2022. ”After E-City Beat’s bizarre, ill-researched, and oddly sexualized attack on a school board candidate, I’m sitting here considering when (if ever) it is appropriate to discuss a political candidate’s penis. Before last week, I’d have easily said, ‘Never.’ This couldn’t possibly be relevant to a local election.” Yet, after E-city Beat clearly spent significant time staring the candidate’s well, package, it seems the conversation is at hand.” https://wtf406.com/2022/05/the-staggering-hypocrisy-of-e-city-beat/
Faccenda and Tryon are not used to getting challenged, which WTF406 has done repeatedly and consistently. So now they are whining about their free speech rights. No one, including WTF406, has challenged their right to spew Tucker Carlson’s talking points and other crap in their blog. Ironically, the Elections Protection Committee and WTF406 are simply exercising their right to free speech. But Faccenda and Tryon are so busy whining they can’t see their own hypocrisy.
Last week, our own Jasmine Taylor submitted an ethics complaint against Great Falls City Commissioner Rick Tryon. It’s a fact-filled delight, so we know you want to check it out. Here it is in its entirety. Do you think the complaint has validity? Let us know in the comments.
The Ethics Complaint:
Please consider the following a formal complaint of potential ethics violations by City Commissioner Rick Tryon. All information contained within is based on information and belief. In the interest of brevity, I have included hyperlinks of relevant articles. The following are only a small sampling of relevant examples, however a thorough examination of all Tryon’s authorship in connection with his employer should be undertaken as part of a formal investigation into this complaint.
Issue 1: Employment Relationship Between Tryon and Stray Moose Productions
During his tenure as City Commissioner, Rick Tryon has concurrently maintained an employment relationship with Stray Moose Productions. Tryon has written numerous articles for a blog, E City Beat. Although E City Beat was not previously a registered business name in the state of Montana, it appears that E City Beat is owned and operated by Stray Moose Productions. As seen below, E City Beat’s contact information indicates emails are directed to Straymoose.com.
Further, Tryon’s LinkedIn profile lists him as an employee of Stray Moose Productions. Tryon notes that he is the “Information Systems Consultant” and has worked for Stray Moose Productions since 1999. Therefore, it appears that an employment relationship exists between Tryon and Stray Moose Productions, which logically extends to E City Beat. E City Beat allows for paid advertising on their website, and likely generates income for its owners.
Although Tryon undoubtedly maintains his rights to free speech while serving on the Commission, he is also bound by the standards laid out in the City of Great Falls’ Code of Ethics.
Tryon’s employment by Stray Moose Productions and his contributions to the blog, E City Beat, appear to be in violation of the following ethical codes:
2.21.050 – Ethical standards.
In addition to complying with the provisions of Mont. Code Ann. Title 2, Chapter 2, officers and employees of the City of Great Falls shall comply with the following provisions:
No officer or employee of the City of Great Falls shall have an interest in a business organization or engage in any business, transaction, or professional activity which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his or her governmental duties;
No officer or employee shall act in his or her official capacity in any matter where he or she, a member of his or her immediate family, or any business organization in which he or she has an interest, has a direct or indirect financial or personal involvement that might reasonably be expected to:
impair his or her objectivity or independence or judgment, or
substantially conflict with the proper discharge of officer or employee’s governmental duties;
No officer or employee shall undertake any private employment or service which might prejudice his or her independent judgment in the exercise of his or her official duties;
Regarding 2.21.050(A), and of particular concern is the relationship between Tryon’s authorship for E City Beat and his ability to faithfully carry out the duties of a City Commissioner. Blog viewership generates advertising revenue. Blog contents, headlines, and stories undoubtedly draw viewership which directly affects the revenue of the blog. Topics that are salacious and controversial may draw larger viewership. Therefore, it is advantageous for authors to write in such a manner, and cover such topics, that will create the greatest amount of engagement for the business.
Tryon has discussed multiple high-profile issues occurring within the city on his blog. In fact, while Great Falls has worked to address the housing crisis, Tryon wrote multiple articles about this very topic. It is a substantial conflict for a city official to dually vote on city actions, ordinances, and even lawsuits while also profiting from and authoring media coverage about these issues. The employment relationship between Tryon and Stray Moose Productions appears to directly conflict with 2.21.050(C1-2). Tryon’s employer benefits financially from increased viewership. Therefore, Tryon’s employment appears to directly obfuscate his objectivity, independence, and judgement. If Tryon’s articles, in which he openly identifies himself as a City Commissioner, are reviewed by his employer, it is entirely possible that a business (Stray Moose Productions) is crafting narratives about city issues, with a city commissioner as the attributed author. Tryon cannot simultaneously act independently and objectively while writing about city issues on a blog for which he works, and about issues on which he is voting. This very same issue also conflicts with 2.21.050(D) which expressly forbids private employment or service which may prejudice independent judgment in the exercise of official duties. Below are just four examples of Tryon writing seemingly in his official capacity as City Commissioner, on a blog which generates revenue, and appears to be owned by Tryon’s employer:
The employment relationship between Tryon and Stray Moose Productions itself is concerning and worthy of investigation. However, even absent an employment relationship. Tryon’s conduct as a contributing author on E City Beat violates other ethical standards.
The most significant ethical violations exist when examining Tryon’s writing under the lens of 2.10.030 (B-D)
2.21.030 – Purpose and authority.
It is the purpose of this chapter to provide a method of assuring that standards of ethical conduct for officers and employees of the City of Great Falls shall be clear, consistent, uniform in their application, enforceable, and to provide those officers or employees with advice and information concerning possible conflicts of interest which might arise in the conduct of their public duties. Such ethical standards shall inspire and stimulate each officer and employee to: […]
Affirm the dignity and worth of the services rendered by government and maintain a constructive, creative and practical attitude toward urban affairs and a deep sense of social responsibility as a trusted public servant;
Be dedicated to the highest ideals of honor and integrity in all public and personal relationships so that each public servant may merit the respect and confidence of elected officials, of other officials and employees, and of the public; and
Recognize that the chief function of local government at all times is to serve the best interests of all of the people.
Examining first Tryon’s conduct in relation to 2.21.030(B) and 2.21.030(D), Tryon has made multiple public statements that do not indicate a “deep send of social responsibility as a trusted public servant.” One poignant example is the below article Tryon authored for E City Beat. After Neo Nazis littered a neighborhood with antisemitic and anti-trans flyers, Tryon erroneously accused the Great Falls Tribune as mischaracterizing this literature. As seen below, Tryon clearly identifies himself as a City Commissioner at the end of his article. Matters of public safety, including adherence to governmental laws regarding discrimination, are well within the purview of the city commission. It is a direct conflict for Tryon to address such matters on behalf of his employer, and even worse to abuse the public trust and openly disenfranchise members of the LGBTQ+ community who were deeply affected by this hate literature.
Even more concerning than Tryon’s more broad discriminatory statements is Tryon’s consistent targeting and harassment of local citizens that disagree with him. Tryon has continually and consistently used E City Beat to disparage and humiliate citizens that disagree with him. Many of these citizens have never run for public office, nor would they be considered a “public figure” by an interpretation of the definition.
Below are just two examples of Tryon naming public citizens in articles where he openly disparages them for disagreeing with him.
Tryon’s actions are a clear violation of 2.21.030(C) which requires Tryon to “Be dedicated to the highest ideals of honor and integrity in all public and personal relationships so that each public servant may merit the respect and confidence of elected officials, of other officials and employees, and of the public.” Perhaps the most telling example of Tryon’s violating the public trust is Tryon’s E City Beat article in which he includes an email sent to him from a constituent. You can read the full article here: https://ecitybeat.com/ban-gas-stoves-in-great-falls/.
Tryon cannot reasonably maintain public trust when he is willing to share emails sent to him in his capacity as a City Commissioner for fodder on his blog. It is wholly unacceptable for Tryon to make community members who contact him in his official role the subject of public derision. Tryon clearly abuses his position when he not only degrades those who disagree with him, but also seeks to humiliate those who reach out to him in earnest. The below screenshots show Tryon’s article, in which he again clearly identifies himself as a City Commissioner.
Tryon’s authorship on E City Beat has significantly undermined the honor and integrity of the commission and has diminished the respect and confidence of the public in his ability to perform his duties. It is incumbent upon the City of Great Falls to uphold its code of ethics, including fully investigating the employment relationship between Tryon and Stray Moose Productions/E City Beat. Further, Tryon’s attacks on the LGBTQ+ community, the unhoused, and multiple private citizens should be considered grounds for his expulsion from the City Commission. Such conduct is not only unbefitting a public servant, but also in clear violation of the city’s Code of Ethics.