State Human Rights Bureau investigates deputy reassignment


MISSOULA, Mont. - The Montana Human Rights Bureau is investigating claims the Missoula County Sheriff reassigned a deputy based on his political beliefs.

Deputy Jason Johnson filed the complaint with Bureau in May, claiming Sheriff Carl Ibsen demoted him from his job as Public Information Officer (PIO) him based on his political beliefs.

Johnson's claim is outlined in the Charge of Discrimination. In it: Johnson says he and Detective T.J. McDermott told Sheriff Ibsen in April about McDermott's plans to run for sheriff and Johnson's to serve as undersheriff. The charge goes on to say that shortly after the conversation Ibsen removed Johnson from his duties as PIO.

Johnson wrote: "I believe respondent discriminated against me by demoting me because of my political beliefs."

But in a response to the Human Rights Bureau Ibsen wrote: "I do not know what his 'political beliefs' are."

The county's response also contains information from multiple witnesses in the Sheriff's Office as well as email communication about the PIO position and Johnson's reassignment.

Johnson's attorney has until Wednesday to file a rebuttal to the county's response. From there the investigation continues until the investigator has enough to issue a decision. The Human Rights Bureau tells me the case will likely wrap up in December.

Click here to read the Charge of Discrimination.

Three grievances are filed with the county on the same topic. The issue has not been resolved.