Missoula County union says deputy sheriff's reassignment was politically motivated

2013-08-04T06:05:00Z 2014-10-03T14:29:47Z Missoula County union says deputy sheriff's reassignment was politically motivated missoulian.com

The Missoula County commissioners have responded to two grievances that allege a sheriff’s deputy was removed from his position as the department’s public information officer because of his “political beliefs.”

The grievances contend that Deputy Jason Johnson’s removal and Deputy Paige Pavalone’s subsequent appointment to the job were a violation of the collective bargaining agreement between the Missoula County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association and the county.

“Quite frankly, I have no idea what his political beliefs are, and frankly I don’t care,” Sheriff Carl Ibsen said Friday in response to the complaints.

The grievances stem from an April 19 meeting where Sgt. T.J. McDermott and Deputy Johnson informed Ibsen of their decision to run for sheriff and undersheriff, respectively.

Johnson was removed from his position as the sheriff’s department spokesman on April 29 and is now working as a property crimes detective.

Ibsen, who said he hasn’t decided if he will run for sheriff again, adamantly denies the conversation sparked his decision to remove Johnson from the PIO position, and said the decision to appoint Pavalone was “to get more and more people comfortable with the media.”

“It’s real clear, it was clear to everybody … no one in the department is there forever,” Ibsen said. “Jason was the perfect fit to get it started.”

When contacted by the Missoulian, Johnson declined to comment on the proceedings.


The sheriff’s department also changed the public information officer’s job description in April. According to a third grievance filed with the county, that change also violated the collective bargaining agreement because the union wasn’t notified of the change prior to it being finalized.

The grievance includes copies of two job descriptions – one from 2011 when Johnson was appointed and another from 2013 when Pavalone was appointed as PIO. In the more recent copy, several exclusions can be noted, including the omission of the experience needed to be a public information officer.

Ibsen said the move was needed to broaden the pool of sheriff’s deputies qualified for the position.

In a written response to the grievance, Ibsen said there is no formal job description for the position, and as such there is no job description attached to the collective bargaining agreement.

“An additional related thought is that if the PIO position, rather than the person filing it, is truly an issue that the association feels strongly about, it seems that there has been ample opportunity for the MCDSA to request opening of contract negotiations in an attempt to codify the PIO position or to actually get it as a recognized ‘job description,’ ” he wrote.

“This is another (one) of the factors that makes us believe that it is an issue of who, rather than what,” he added later.

As for additional compensation the grievance alleges Johnson received for performing his duties as the public information officer, Ibsen said that was just from overtime.

“There is no (formal) job description, so there is no additional pay for it,” he said.

On Friday, Ibsen could recall no other positions in his department without a job description.


The Missoula County commissioners haven’t responded to the third grievance, but in response to the first two grievances, commissioners offered a settlement to the union, of which T.J. McDermott is president.

The terms state that the appointment to PIO will be considered a special duty assignment with no additional compensation, will last for two years or as determined appropriate by the sheriff, will be considered a transfer not a promotion and the appointment will be at the sole discretion of the sheriff.

The agreement also offered to pay Johnson $1,204.74 or the equivalent of three hours of overtime every week from April 29 to June 24.

The union rejected the county’s offer.

The commissioners again responded, encouraging the union to make a counteroffer.

“We believe that it is time for this matter to be resolved, either based on the sheriff’s last response or in arbitration, as outlined in the agreement,” the commissioners wrote.

Patricia Baumgart, the county’s human resource director, declined to comment on the particulars of the personnel issue, but said the county is eager to see the matter settled.

The next step, she explained would likely be arbitration, in which an out-of-state arbitrator would mediate the matter until it’s settled.

Reporter Kathryn Haake can be reached at 523-5268 or at kate.haake@missoulian.com.

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(12) Comments

  1. mtnguy
    Report Abuse
    mtnguy - August 10, 2013 2:24 pm
    I personally know Pavalone and am well aware of her abilities as a deputy sheriff. Pavalone is an outstanding deputy and had proven her abilities in many areas as a law a officer. I would take her as a back-up any day! This issue is NOT about females in law enforcement so let's stick to the original issues. People like Dollar try to cloud the issue out of shear ignorance or some other lame reason.
  2. Run - A- Mook
    Report Abuse
    Run - A- Mook - August 05, 2013 2:23 pm
    John, I don't mean to pick on you, but,,,, my dictionary defines the following as----

    1. ahs {sorry could not find it.}
    2. has {haz: unstressed, haz, before "to" has} 3d pers. sing., pres. indic., of have.
    3. the y. { space bar finger misfire.}
    4.i [Shift bar finger misfire.]
    5. know undersheriff {forgot the, the.}
    6 was to now be [ was now to be a]
    7. eklected {sorry could not find it.}
    8. sicne [sorry could not find it.]
    9. make {make's}
    10. be come {become}
    11. johnson [shift bar misfire "Johnson"]
    12.nerit { the closes I could find was "neritic" - that part of the sea
    adjoining the coast and extending to a depth of 200 meters}
    John there are more, but I can't take the time to point all of them out.
  3. MedicRN
    Report Abuse
    MedicRN - August 05, 2013 12:05 pm
    I hate getting into the these male v's female things. In no ones particular defense, I happen to have a friend who is a police officer and is female. She received commendation for chasing down and apprehending a rapist. She never drew her firearm or taser. She tackled a man twice her size, fought and layed him out, then cuffed him and threw him in the back of her patrol unit all before back-up could get on scene. Her reply to the news paper was, "I had the upper hand." I will end my debate on that issue there.

    I don't suspect that preferential treatment is the issue in this case as others have suggested. What decision would be in the best interest of the public and what would be best for the SO? Politics....I suck at them...I think I will just be quiet.
  4. student4
    Report Abuse
    student4 - August 05, 2013 9:54 am
    women of working age during the nineteen fifties many, many employed, it was not unique to be a employed female in the 'fifties
  5. johnny Dollar
    Report Abuse
    johnny Dollar - August 05, 2013 12:13 am
    No woman can do what I can do physically. Period. Law enforcement sometimes requires a strong person.....to wrestle a man down, pull someone from a car or simple bring peace into a hot situation. A woman cannot command this respect, that is why they always want a job like this, where they can sit in the office all day and collect a man's pay. Which begs the question......why does Johnson want this job anyway? Get on the streets and do your job Johnson.......or turn in your badge. You cannot "Serve and Protect" the public from an office chair at the shop. I love to see good cops making their presence known and responding like professionals when called upon.
  6. Objective observer
    Report Abuse
    Objective observer - August 04, 2013 3:49 pm
    Thank GOD you don't work for the Sheriff's Department. Jeesh!
  7. Roger
    Report Abuse
    Roger - August 04, 2013 2:36 pm
    Women do receive special treatment in this society, but I don't know if that's the case here. I say, let's just make the standards the same for everyone, regardless of race, sex, etc. And no policies that favor females, such as passing over more-qualified males in order to hire females, etc.
  8. John P Weber
    Report Abuse
    John P Weber - August 04, 2013 12:32 pm
    This is a position that should be rotated among the deputies on a regular basis so that they do get experience with dealing with the media. I think deputy Johnson ahs done well has the PIO, but there is no proof that he was moved to another deputy position within the dept because he and another male informed the Sheriff the ywould be running for sheriff and undersheriff. Which brings up, i didn't know undersheriff was to now be an eklected position sicne it is an appointed position. Mcdermits and Johnson make it sound like undersheriff would be come an elected job, which is wrong. johnson has no legs, so to speak to stand on over this issue of being taken off as PIO and the Missoula County deputy sheriffs union should not be backing Johnson in his complaint since there is no nerit to his complaint.
  9. maikeru1979
    Report Abuse
    maikeru1979 - August 04, 2013 11:44 am
    johnny Dollar..how many times in your life has a girl kicked your butt? just wondering with an attitude like the one you showed in your post you obviously think it is still the 1950s.

    Dectective Johnson is just pissed that he got pulled from a cushy job he had where all he really had to do is talk to the media. now he actually has to work.
  10. Waltzing Matilda
    Report Abuse
    Waltzing Matilda - August 04, 2013 9:18 am
    Truth be told, Jason Johnson and T.J McDermott have filed these grievances for political reasons. The only way these two clowns could get elected is to create a controversy. If brains were dynamite, between the two of them they could not blow their nose.

    When he was appointed as PIO, Johnson knew that it would be a temporary position. Any officer that is not regularly involved in police work will quickly lose his or her police skills. Johnson had minimal police skills to begin with, so Ibsen probably saved his career.

    This reminds me of the old adage, “If you help a disabled duck across the fence, he will usually defecate in your hand as a thank you.
  11. wildmtn
    Report Abuse
    wildmtn - August 04, 2013 7:42 am
    Awww did a woman take your job? Caveman mentality. I'm sure quite a few "chics" could prove you (personally) wrong. Welcome to the 21st century where some "chics" do while some men whine about the unfairness of it.
  12. johnny Dollar
    Report Abuse
    johnny Dollar - August 04, 2013 12:00 am
    Ibsen said the move was needed to broaden the pool of sheriff’s deputies qualified for the position????

    What does this mean Ibsen?

    Answer - it means he got pressure to put a chic in this position to balance out their statistics. Wat is at stake is federal monies, and all public sector parasites love the fed money.

    So Johnson has to "Take one for the team."

    But the more important questions linger on......such as:

    Why is a woman in the sheriff's department at all? She cannot perform like a man (physically) and this is just a fact.

    Therefore.......she (and others) are taking a man's job. And of course they have to benf the qualifications for her.......it is akin to affirmative action?

    Right.....throw your rotten tomatoes at me. Then tell me that you want the chic cop to come to your home when you dial 911. Really gives you that confidence that everything is going to be fine....right? No......wrong.
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