Missoula County deputy fired over statements plans complaint, says it's political retaliation



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MISSOULA, Montana — The Missoula County sheriff says a deputy who reportedly lied during an investigation into a jailer's DUI arrest has been fired.

Former public information Officer Paige Pavalone was placed on administrative leave for weeks before she was fired April 13. Her attorney, Josh Van de Wetering, said Pavalone denies the allegations and believes they were made in retaliation for her support of a candidate who lost the race for sheriff, former Undersheriff Josh Clark.

Van de Wetering said the department announced Pavalone's termination before she was able to file a grievance through her union. She planned to file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, the attorney said.

Sheriff T.J. McDermott said in a statement Monday that Pavalone was dismissed because her statements during the internal investigation compromised her ability to serve as a credible witness in court. He declined to comment further.

County Human Resource Director Patty Baumgart told the Missoulian that Pavalone's termination was not political. She said the move came because Pavalone lied during an investigation into the drunken driving arrest of a jailer after the two had dinner at a craft brewery.

Authorities have never disclosed what Pavalone said to investigators.

The sheriff's race between McDermott and Clark, who had support from outgoing Sheriff Carl Ibsen, created a bitter division within the agency.

McDermott and Undersheriff Jason Johnson, who previously served as public information director, each settled human rights complaints against the sheriff's office and county for $60,000.

Johnson's complaint alleged Ibsen demoted him after learning he would be named undersheriff if McDermott won the election. Johnson said he lost pay and was moved to a noisy work area.

McDermott's complaint was not released.

Clark also has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission. Clark retired in February after being demoted to patrol deputy when McDermott took office in January.

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