Miles’ cases conclude, no charges filed in DCI investigation

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Open cases related to the administrative leave and firing of Beaverhead County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Miles against the sheriff’s office and former sheriff were settled Feb. 18.

Separately, the Montana Attorney General’s office decided not to file criminal charges related to a state investigation into witness tampering and false statement claims at the sheriff’s office.

Miles filed an unfair labor practice charge against the sheriff’s office under former Sheriff Frank Kluesner with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry Board of Personnel Appeals in 2018. He also filed an age discrimination complaint with the Department of Labor and Industry Employment Relations Division Human Rights Bureau.

Beaverhead County Commissioner Mike McGinley, County Attorney Jed C. Fitch, Sheriff Paul Craft, Teamsters Local 2 Union Business Agent Aaron Ralph, Miles and Deputy Bill Knox (see related story) all met Feb. 18 to “resolve outstanding labor and employment issues related to the former sheriff’s administration and the deputies,” according to a press release. “Deputies Miles and Knox committed no wrongdoing and all record of allegations made by the former sheriff’s administration have been resolved in favor of the deputies and the deputies have been made whole.”

“They really want to get back to continuing to do their job in Beaverhead County,” attorney David Vicevich said of both Miles and Knox.

Miles was put on administrative leave, and later fired, by Kluesner over claims of lying during an official investigation and making false statements. The Dillon Tribune wrote a series of stories about the Miles-Kluesner dispute in the Aug. 29 to Oct. 10, 2018, editions.

Kluesner said Thursday he had been traveling and did not know the result of the cases, and declined comment.

Discrimination case settled

The discrimination complaint alleged Miles was disciplined and fired to “make room” for former Undersheriff David Chase’s son in law, Hunter Balmer, to become a deputy in the sheriff’s office. Balmer was a detention officer; he left the county and took a position in Polson.

The complaint also alleged the sheriff wanted to replace Miles with a younger employee, and fired Miles because he supported now-Sheriff Paul Craft over Kluesner in the November election.

The Human Rights Bureau investigator Andria Hardin wrote in a final investigative report there was “no reasonable cause” to believe unlawful discrimination occurred as alleged.

When there is a “no cause” finding, Miles had the right to file a district court lawsuit or ask for the Human Rights Bureau to reconsider the report, Vicevich said. Miles and Teamsters Local 2 representatives were considering a district court case, in addition to a National labor Relations Board complaint related to Miles’ firing. The settlement, whose details were not disclosed, resolve all of those cases.

Unfair Labor Practice case resolved

The Board of Personnel Appeals unfair labor practice claim by Miles against the sheriff’s office related to Kluesner revoking Miles’ Criminal Justice Information Network (CJIN) access after Miles was fired, and not reinstating it when the Beaverhead County Commissioners ordered Miles back to work. CJIN is a necessary tool for law enforcement, and would create an unsafe situation having a deputy on duty without access, officials said previously.

Kluesner said at the time he could not reinstate Miles’ CJIN access because a security waiver letter needed to be issued to allow it, and Kluesner wrote he could not “in good faith support a security waiver letter” in an Aug. 13, 2018 letter to the county commissioners.

New Sheriff Paul Craft said the CJIN waiver requirement was changed in October 2017, so the waiver was no longer necessary. Craft reinstated Miles’ CJIN access Jan. 1, 2019, when Craft took office.

State criminal investigation concludes

Fitch asked the Montana Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to look into claims of witness tampering and false statements at the sheriff’s office, after holding closed hearings related to Miles’ administrative leave and firing with the county commissioners. He did not specify whose statements would be investigated, except to say “it’s not Mike Miles.”

Fitch said Thursday DCI completed its investigation, and turned over the results of that investigation to the Montana Attorney General’s office and Sheriff Paul Craft.

“I asked the investigation be turned over to the attorney general’s office for review and not come back to me, because I thought that would be unfair. I wanted (the attorney general) to make the charging decisions. They decided it was not in the best interest to file criminal charges” based on the facts and circumstances, Fitch said.

He added DCI’s investigation reviewed statements from former Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Dan Mulkey specifically. Mulkey retired Jan. 31, Craft told the Dillon Tribune previously.