A settlement announced in U.S. District Court in Helena this week will not affect a related case that’s still pending in Gallatin County District Court.

The state of Montana has agreed to pay House Majority Leader Brad Tschida about $75,000 for the settlement of his lawsuit that challenged a state law requiring ethics complaints be kept confidential while they are investigated, according to the Associated Press. The settlement comes after the U.S. Circuit of Appeals ruled in May that the state law is unconstitutional.

Lawyers involved with the local case said it centers on statements the former commissioner of political practices made to the media in 2016 about Tschida while the federal case addressed the constitutionality of a state law.

Matthew Monforton, who represented Tschida in the federal case and filed the local lawsuit on his own, said it will continue to move forward.

“It’s important for the public to understand how weaponized the Democrats have made the Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices,” said Monforton, a former Republican state representative from Bozeman.

Special Attorney General Gene Jarussi, who is representing Motl, said the federal settlement has no bearing on the local case.

The cases stem from an ethics complaint Tschida, a Missoula Republican, filed with the state’s Commissioner of Political Practices against Gov. Steve Bullock in September 2016 — amid a tight governor’s race between Bullock, a Democrat, and Republican Greg Gianforte.

In his complaint, Tschida said Bullock and former Department of Commerce Director Meg O’Leary inappropriately used a state airplane to fly to a concert in Missoula in 2014. Bullock has said he and O’Leary also conducted state business on the trip. The complaint was eventually dismissed.

Although the Commissioner of Political Practices hadn’t yet released his ruling, Tschida emailed a copy of the complaint to other legislators in November 2016. Then-commissioner Jonathan Motl told the media Tschida had broken state law by releasing the confidential complaint while the matter was still under investigation.

In response, Tschida filed a federal lawsuit, alleging the state law violated his First Amendment rights.

While that case went forward, Monforton filed a related ethics complaint against Motl with the commissioner’s office. He accused Motl of engaging in illegal election advocacy by saying Tschida broke the law.

The commissioner’s office dismissed Monforton’s complaint in February. He appealed the decision to Gallatin County District Court. Tschida is not involved in the Gallatin County case.

Motl has requested that Gallatin County District Court dismiss the case and argues he did nothing illegal, according to court documents. Judge Rienne McElyea denied his request for dismissal. A hearing has yet to be set in the case.

Perrin Stein can be reached at 406-582-2648 or at pstein@dailychronicle.com. Follow her on Twitter @PerrinStein.

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