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Report alleges discrimination in Missoula deputy reassignment

By Scott Zoltan, KECI Reporter, szoltan@keci.com
Published On: Jan 17 2014 10:53:18 PM MST
Updated On: Jan 17 2014 11:01:27 PM MST
MISSOULA, Mont. -

A report from the Montana Department of Labor and Industry’s Human Right’s Bureau claims that Missoula Sheriff Carl Ibsen discriminated when he reassigned and removed Deputy Jason Johnson from his position as a Public Information Officer.

In the report, Investigator Dennis Unsworth writes “Based on my investigation, I find reasonable cause to believe unlawful discrimination occurred as alleged in the Charging Party’s complaint.”

Back in May, Johnson had filed a complaint with the Bureau, claiming that Ibsen demoted him from his job as a PIO based on his political beliefs.

Johnson’s Charge of Discrimination claimed that he and Detective T.J. McDermott told Ibsen in April about McDermott’s plans to run for sheriff with Johnson to serve as undersheriff. The charge states that Ibsen removed Johnson from his duties as PIO shortly after that conversation.

In a response to the Bureau, Ibsen wrote that he did not know what Johnson’s political beliefs are, and according to the new report, Ibsen wrote that McDermott and Johnson should “be ashamed of the turmoil they are creating within the Department for their own selfish goals…”

Ibsen claimed Johnson knew the position was temporary.

According to the Bureau’s report, witness testimony shows Ibsen expressed animosity toward Johnson’s intended running mate, and expressed that Ibsen would “do anything in his power to keep the opponent from being elected.”

The Bureau’s report also states that evidence supports Johnson’s claims that Ibsen retaliated against him after Johnson complained about the demotion to the Sheriff’s Office’s HR department.

“I just want the Sheriff's Office to be a place nobody's discriminated. Not just me, but anybody else that works there,” said Johnson.

Johnson says there will eventually be a hearing in Helena, with a human rights lawyer acting as a judge. He says he hopes the hearing will result in some kind of oversight from the Human Rights Bureau.

“I do support T.J. McDermott who is running for sheriff. Because of that, I was removed from a job I enjoyed. That's the root of it,” said Johnson.

NBC Montana called Ibsen for his reaction to the report, but he said that he could not comment for a number of reasons, including the fact that he has not read the report yet.