HELENA, Mont. — An international organization observing the U.S. midterm elections decided on Monday to pull its two Montana-based election monitors from the state after one of them pleaded guilty to drunken driving.
Ognjen Domuz, a 30-year-old citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina, pleaded guilty Monday to driving under the influence after he was stopped early Saturday morning in Helena. He was fined $785 and ordered to be evaluated for chemical dependency, Helena municipal court officials said. Specific details on his blood-alcohol level were not immediately available. The legal limit in Montana is .08.
Domuz is one of 36 observers with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe dispersed across the U.S. to monitor and report on campaign activities, media coverage, voter registration and Election Day procedures for the midterm elections.
Thomas Rymer, a spokesman for the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, said all OSCE observers must follow a strict code of conduct that requires them to obey the laws of the country being observed and to comport themselves in a respectful and professional manner.
"This is unacceptable," Rymer said of the charge against Domuz. "We are currently making arrangements to withdraw the observer from the field and immediately send him home."
The OSCE observers work in two-person teams, and the second member of Domuz's team also will depart Montana to work with the OSCE team in Washington, D.C., Rymer said.
The presence of the observers in Montana drew the attention of Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, whose office sent out a notice last week to county election administrators to report any interactions they have with the observers.
Stapleton's director of elections and voter services, Dana Corson, wanted to know a range of information from where the observers were staying to what information they were seeking.
Corson and Stapleton's chief of staff, Christi Jacobsen, declined comment.
The OSCE regularly observes the elections of the 57 nations that make up its members, including the U.S. The organization, which was created during the Cold War as a bridge between East and West, has monitored seven U.S. elections since 2002.
The observers will compile their observations in a report that will be shared with the public and the U.S. government. The Montana observers had already been in the state compiling information before Domuz's arrest, and that information will still be a part of the final report, Rymer said.