Human Rights Complaint Against Missoula Sheriff Dismissed, Appeal in Process
The Montana Human Rights Bureau has sided with Missoula County Sheriff T.J. McDermott in a dispute involving former Undersheriff Josh Clark. Clark has claimed he was unfairly demoted by McDermott after the two went head-to-head in a local Sheriff’s race. Clark’s attorney Nicole Siefert says that although the case was dismissed for lack of merit, the hearing’s officer sided with Clark on many issues.
"She found that it was an adverse action against Josh Clark. She found that he was qualified to be a captain and that other people who were promoted were not as qualified, but ultimately, she found that Sheriff McDermott is allowed to be, and this is a quote from the law 'foolish, trivial or even baseless' when making his decisions that the law allows him to do that, and that's where we disagree with her."
Sheriff McDermott says he is "not surprised" by the Human Rights Bureau's ruling saying "We have always acted within the law and this HRB hearing decision backs that up. However, we do find ourselves disappointed with the time, money and resources that are spent on these types of complaints.”
McDermott says the HRB ruling shows Clark was the highest paid Deputy on the force when he was put into that position and hopes the recent decision will be enough to allow the office to move on.
“It’s been an exhaustive process responding to false allegations and complaints by Mr. Clark who seems unwilling to accept the results of an election held over two years ago. We hope that moving forward, Josh Clark can find closure and that we can continue our jobs as peace officers without distraction, remaining focused on protecting the citizens of Missoula County.”
This is unlikely to be the end though. Siefert says she was “disappointed” by the decision and that an appeal is in the works.
"We proved that all the reasons that Sheriff McDermott used to demote Josh Clark were false, we proved that and the hearings officer said 'right or wrong, as long as Sheriff McDermott though that these things were right he can demote Josh Clark,' so we disagree on that and we will most likely be appealing."
An appeal decision will have to be made in the next fourteen days. Siefert says Clark has already agreed to appeal and that move will likely be made in the next few days “after the dust settles.”