Investigation Finds That Missoula Sheriff T.J. McDermott Discriminated Against Josh Clark
The findings of a Human Rights Bureau investigation into the actions of Sheriff T.J. McDermott were released today, September 3, and indicate that Sheriff McDermott discriminated against his political rival Josh Clark when demoting him to a patrol position after the 2014 election. Missoula County Deputy Attorney Ericka Grinde says the county is still standing behind McDermott’s decision.
"Missoula County maintains that the assignment of Josh Clark to patrol duty as a senior deputy follows state law and also followed the requirements of the collective bargaining agreement," Grinde said.
Grinde says the county disagrees with the Human Rights Investigator about the level of rank that Clark actually earned.
"The divergence of the bureau and Missoula County is that the county maintains that the Sheriff has control in appointing those captain's positions and there was nothing requiring him to place Josh Clark, who's highest rank ,under the collective bargaining agreement, was a senior deputy, in a captain's position."
But Clark’s attorney Nicole Siefert says that the county’s argument is just a “red herring” that has already been addressed by the investigation.
"The report shows that when Sheriff McDermott demoted Clark, he did so for retaliatory reasons, and not because of his qualifications and merit," Siefert said. "McDermott was interviewed by the investigator and McDermott even said that 'he could not trust Clark to be a captain because of how he undermined deputies in leadership with Ibsen and other captains', that's a direct quote."
One of the highlights of the investigation is that it also indicates McDermott discriminated against Mike Dominick, a separate case that has already settled out of court.
Yet another interesting highlight is an interview with former captain Brad Giffin found on page 6 of the report. That interview indicates that Sheriff McDermitt pursued Giffin attempting to obtain a promotion after donating to Giffin's campaign, an action that could be considered quid pro quo.
Missoula County and Josh Clark have 30 days during which they can reach a settlement agreement. The county said they had not decided whether or not to pursue a settlement. Siefert expressed doubt that the county would be willing to pay “a reasonable amount for emotional distress.”