By Whitney Bermes, Bozeman Chronicle, August 22, 2014
A former Gallatin County sheriff’s deputy is suing the office he used to work for and his former boss to get his old job back.
David Johnston filed a suit in Gallatin County District Court on Wednesday against the sheriff’s office and Sheriff Brian Gootkin.
According to the suit:
Johnston had been a deputy in Gallatin County for 10 years.
On July 9, Johnston and his former girlfriend, Deputy Kelly Munter, were working the same shift. Johnston found an unlocked door at Monforton School and Munter responded as backup.
While on scene, Johnston said he had difficulties with Munter. When he asked her to help clear the school, Munter responded, “(Expletive) you, I’m leaving.” Johnston then called dispatch to request a different deputy as backup.
After the incident, Johnston considered filing a formal complaint against Munter, but ultimately decided he wanted more time to think about it.
On July 15, Undersheriff Dan Springer and Lt. Jake Wagner told Johnston that a complaint had been filed against him with the human resources department and that he would be placed on paid administrative leave. They gave Johnston no details about the nature of the complaint but told him to expect to be out of work for two to three weeks.
On July 17, Wagner requested that Johnston turn over his recorder and its contents form the evening of July 9. Johnston said he wanted to seek advice from an attorney and make a copy of the recording prior to turning it over to Wagner.
“The sheriff’s office and the Bozeman Police Department have both recently been accused of, and acknowledged, deleting select portions of recorded conversations,” Johnston’s attorney Todd Shea wrote in the complaint.
That same day, accompanied by an attorney, Johnston retuned the recorder to the sheriff’s office and a copy of the recording was made for Johnston.
At that time, Johnston was given a letter of discipline advising him that a disciplinary hearing would be held on July 22 on the charge of insubordination because Johnston didn’t immediately surrender the recorder.
The day after Johnston’s disciplinary hearing, Gootkin fired him for not immediately giving the sheriff’s office his recorder.
Johnston said he has still yet to see a copy of the underlying complaint against him and has never been contacted by the human resources department regarding the complaint.
The lawsuit is requesting that Johnston be reinstated as a deputy and receive back pay, reinstatement of seniority, vacation benefits, insurance, sick leave, and all other benefits deputies receive, as well as attorney fees.
The sheriff’s office has not responded to the suit.