Another human rights complaint has been filed against the Missoula County Sheriff's Department.
It's the third complaint filed against that office in the last year. This time a female officer claims the sheriff and top brass discriminated against her because of her sex.
Officer Rebecca Birket consented to the release of the charge filed with the Montana Human Right Bureau Monday. The charge centers around Birket and a relationship she had with a married male deputy.
In July of 2012 Birket started her employment with the Missoula County Sheriff's Office. Her standard probationary period was supposed to end in July of 2013. The charge claims her probation was extended; she was suspended and threatened with termination.
In June 2013 less than a month before her probation was supposed to end Birket invited an un-identified married male deputy to her home -- Birket was off duty and the male deputy was on duty but on a meal break.
The two kissed.
The charge says that on July 3, 2013 both were questioned separately about the incident. Birket says Captain Brad Giffin and Captain Mike Dominick told Birket her actions violated a sheriff's office policy. The charge also says Giffin and Dominick accused Birket of lying about the incident.
Then three days later the document says Sheriff Carl Ibsen told her her probation would be extended another three months and that he was leaning against firing the male deputy, or her but that her punishment would be severe and painful.
About three weeks later a review board met to discuss the situation. Birket says she was the only woman there. Undersheriff Josh Clark presided.
The charge says Birket told the board in detail about the kissing incident. She says Undersheriff Josh Clark controlled meeting. During the hearing Birket says she told the board in detail about the kissing incident. She added that during the hearing Clark pounded his fist on the table and yelled at her. And by the end of it the review board decided Birket had been involved in an inappropriate relationship and should be fired.
Sheriff Ibsen had the final say and instead suspended her for two weeks without pay.
But it didn't end there. In a letter to the sheriff Missoula County Commissioners stepped in and revoked Birket's extended probation and the suspension. Commission Chair Jean Curtiss said in the time she’s served on the board the commissioners haven’t interfered like this before. But Curtiss said in this instance they had to because the ‘relationships policy’ Ibsen used to punish Birket violates state law.
“Under the advice of our HR director and our attorney that policy was against state law regarding discrimination based on marital status,” Curtiss said. “So therefore we felt that in this case we needed to intervene and not have that policy be used as a basis.”
Birket says she's still discriminated against at work because of the case. She’s asking for compensation for ‘her emotional distress, shame humiliation.’
The case is still in its preliminary stages.
This is the third complaint filed against the sheriff's department in the last year. Last week the sheriff's office reached a settlement with two others who claimed they were discriminated against because of their political beliefs.
As part of that deal Deputy Jason Johnson and Detective T.J. McDermott were both awarded $60,000. Both claimed they were discriminated against after McDermott announced he'd run for sheriff and Johnson would serve as his second in command if he won. Johnson claimed he was removed from his position as Public Information Officer because of his political beliefs.