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Deputy reassignment prompts union grievances, state investigation

By Emily Adamson, KECI Reporter, eadamson@keci.com
Published On: Aug 05 2013 05:48:00 PM MDT
Updated On: Aug 12 2013 12:19:03 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

The Missoula County Deputy Sheriff’s Association (MCDSA) says the sheriff reassigned a deputy based on his political beliefs.

The union filed three grievances with the county alleging Sheriff Carl Ibsen reassigned former Public Information Officer Jason Johnson based on Johnson’s political beliefs. County officials confirmed the Montana Human Rights Bureau is conducting its own investigation based on similar claims.

For Sheriff Ibsen the allegations came out of nowhere.

“My initial reaction was surprised....right out of the blue,” said Ibsen.

The allegations included that Ibsen reassigned former PIO Jason Johnson based on Johnson's political beliefs. Johnson supports current Detective T.J. McDermot for sheriff and Johnson's plans to serve as undersheriff.

But Ibsen maintains he doesn't know where Johnson stands. “I have no idea what his political beliefs are. And I don't care.”

In a second grievance the MCDSA says Ibsen promoted current PIO Paige Pavalone without following procedures and opening the position to everyone. And in third document MCDSA says Ibsen changed the PIO job description from when he hired Johnson to when he hired Pavalone. Ibsen agrees some of the duties are different.

“A few changes; some of them that I thought would be appropriate,” said Ibsen.

But he says technically the outline isn't a job description just a list of responsibilities. “We've never done that. For it to be an official job description it has to be attached to the contract.”

The county prepared a draft agreement with the union. In it: guidelines for the PIO position, paying Johnson overtime compensation and an agreement to withdraw the grievances. But the MCDSA rejected it and is working on its own deal.

Sheriff Ibsen says he just wants it resolved. “I'm more interested that it ultimately gets settled. Than who it gets settled by.”

The Human Rights Bureau investigation is in its preliminary stages. It will likely wrap up by the end of the year.

Click here to read the grievances.