Corey Stapleton, Montana Secretary of State, Doesn't Know His Department's Policies

Secretary Stapleton Can't Even Answer a Simple Question

April 22, 2018

Recentle, as part of his Things That Matter tour, Montana Secretary of State, Corey Stapleton, visited Butte. According to Secretary Stapleton's web site, the Things That Matter tour is supposed to be outreach to "help commerce thrive in every town."

Montana is our nation's fourth largest state. It makes sense to travel outside the capital city to better understand the businesses and people who make Montana tick! "Things that Matter" is the Secretary of State's outreach tour that does just that-spending time in every county, promoting democracy to all ages, helping commerce thrive in every town, and immersing in the unique cultures of each Montana community.

Business owners and community leaders are invited to these events where, according to the Secretary of State's invitations, Secretary Stapleton wants to talk about what can be done to improve businesses and the business environment, what the Secretary of State's office can do to help businesses and make things easier for businesses in Montana (and particularly at the location currently being visited), and what hardships area businesses are experiencing and how businesses can work together to overcome those issues, or how the Secretary's office can help businesses overcome those issues.

However, when asked by one of the business leaders present - an individual invited by Secretary Stapleton to ask questions and voice concerns - what his department policy was on responding to correspondence from his constituents, he was unable to answer.

In order to answer the question, he needed to know why it was being asked and if examples could be provided. In fact, he refused to provide any details of any sort until additional circumstantial information was provided, then only responded with "we strive to answer all correspondence in a timely manner," and "that delay is inappropriate," but absolutely failed to provide any information on any sort of actual policy or procedure. Not even a list of conditions and criteria and various response times that may be appropriate.

So, since I was asking the question, I elaborated, telling him I had sent a letter that was not responded to promptly. Of course, he still couldn't provide any even vague expectation I should have, let alone a policy related to responding to letters without more information. Seriously, why do you need much - if any - information to provide a policy on how correspondence should be handled?

I explained that I had sent this letter on January 16. On January 18, 2018 the letter was received by Secretary Stapleton's office. He asked how I could know when the letter was received, and I explained to him that this is a standard service available from the United States Postal Service, as well as most other couriers. I would have thought that a 50 yer old man who had served in the military and had a post-secondary education would have already known that (I can understand why some children today, even some college students today don't understand that, but I still think that is shameful).

I told Secretary Stapleton that I received a signed delivery confirmation from the US Postal Service, signed by L. Gaines representing the Montana Secretary of State's office. This document confirms the delivery and acceptance of the letter, and the date when it was delivered.

At this point, Mr. Stapleton let me know that they strive to respond to all correspondence in a timely manner, but gave no indication what may constitute "a timely manner."

I further explained that on February 20, 2018, I called the Mr. Stapleton's office since I had not had any reply. At this time I had given Secretary Stapleton's office and staff over a month to get a reply to me. The operator I spoke to was shocked that I had not gotten a response in a month and denied that I could know when (or if) a letter had been delivered. Eventually she assured me that I would have a call that afternoon, though it may not be a complete response. On March 6, 2018, I called the Montana Secretary of State's office again, since I had still not heard anything - not even the call I was promised to receive on February 20. I was told I would have a response by the end of the week.

Secretary Stapleton then agreed that the delay in responding was inappropriate. But then I had to inform him that it was now April 19, and his office had had more than three months to respond since they received the letter, not to mention two months since I had been promised a phone call "that afternoon," and over a month since I was promised a response by the end of the week.

Secretary Stapleton is very proud of how much he has reduced staff in the Montana Secretary of State's office, and while reductions in redundancies and cost savings are commendable, and reductions in government overhead is a good thing in general, it is abundantly clear that Secretary Stapleton has reduced staff to the point of crippling his organization and preventing his office from performing one of the most basic duties of any government office - responding to their constituency.