County agrees to settlements in political discrimination cases


County agrees to settlements in political discrimination cases

MISSOULA, Mont. - Missoula County has reached an agreement with members of the Missoula County Sheriff's Office who claim they were discriminated against.

The county will shell out $120,000 in the deal. That money comes from its self-insured Risk Management Department.

It started back in May when Deputy Jason Johnson filed a complaint with the Montana Human Rights Bureau claiming Sheriff Carl Ibsen reassigned him from his job as Public Information Officer based on his political beliefs.

After less than five minutes of discussion Missoula County Commissioners voted and signed two settlements Thursday. One grants $60,000 to Johnson, the other grants the same amount to Detective Sgt. T.J. McDermott.

Both men claim discrimination based on their political beliefs -- McDermott's decision to run for sheriff and Johnson's decision to support him and serve as undersheriff if McDermott wins.

In addition to the $120,000, the Missoula County Sheriff's Office agreed to let the Montana Human Rights Bureau train or approve of training for the sheriff's office, which would be open to every employee but required for sergeants, lieutenants, captains, the undersheriff and sheriff.

The bureau will also monitor the sheriff's office for a year.

The agreement also states that Johnson and McDermott will dismiss the case and not initiate any new discrimination complaint based on the same facts.

All parties agreed to respond to questions about the case with a standard statement that it has been resolved amicably and to the satisfaction of all parties.

Johnson released the following statement: "I am agreeable to the resolution that was offered to me by Missoula County and I look forward to moving past this season of my career. I think the agreement speaks for itself."

McDermott also released a statement: "I think this was a satisfactory resolution.  I want to look forward to continuing my service to our citizens in a fair and just way.  I, like all law enforcement officers, am sworn to uphold and defend our Constitution.  One of the fundamental rights under our Constitution is that none of us will be treated differently because of our political beliefs.  I filed this claim because it was the right thing to do.  Now, we can move forward and I can do what I do best -- enforce the law and protect all citizens equally."

Late Thursday afternoon Ibsen responded via email saying: "Since this is a legally binding agreement, that all sides have agreed to abide by and must abide by, there really is only one thing I can say, 'This case has been amicably resolved to the satisfaction of all parties and all parties are committed to a professional workplace.'"

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