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Judge won't toss police chief lawsuit against Goguen

by Scott Shindledecker Daily Inter Lake
| March 4, 2020 1:00 AM

A lawsuit filed by Whitefish Police Chief Bill Dial against Whitefish businessman and philanthropist Michael Goguen will go forward.

Flathead District Court Judge Robert B. Allison on Thursday denied Goguen’s request that the complaint be dismissed.

Dial sued Goguen in December 2019, alleging Goguen attempted to derail a criminal investigation and also tried to get Dial fired from his job.

Judge Allison reviewed five counts that Goguen, through his attorney, Richard Hegger, believed warranted dismissal of the suit. But Allison found no merit in them.

“We vehemently disagree with numerous statements made to the media by Mr. Goguen and his attorney,” Dial attorney Marcel A. Quinn said in an earlier email to the Daily Inter Lake. “It is our intention to try the case against Mr. Goguen in the courtroom. In the end, we believe the evidence will speak for itself.”

Goguen, through the law firm Holland & Hart of Billings, filed a response Jan. 9 to Dial’s lawsuit, asserting Dial’s complaint is “nothing short of a malicious attempt to retaliate against Goguen for complaints made about Dial’s performance as a public servant and to eliminate Goguen’s rights under the First Amendment and Montana Law.”

The response continues, stating “Dial is not a king immune from criticism. Instead, he is a public official serving in a position of public trust as Whitefish’s Chief of Police. And as such, he is susceptible to criticism just as he is accountable to the citizens he serves.”

Goguen’s request for dismissal claimed Dial’s “efforts to silence Goguen and punish him for seeking redress from the Whitefish city government and state of Montana have no basis in law. Even at this stage where his allegations are taken as true, Dial’s claims are defeated by the First Amendment and Montana law regarding privileged communications.”

Dial’s lawsuit alleges Goguen attempted to thwart a 2017 criminal investigation that resulted in the “negotiated resignation” of a Whitefish Police Department lead detective. The complaint alleges that when Goguen learned the detective, identified as Shane Erickson in a complaint with the Montana Public Safety Officer Standards and Training Council, had resigned and he wasn’t able to secure favoritism with the Whitefish Police Department, Goguen engaged in retaliatory conduct aimed at maliciously, intentionally and purposefully interfering with Dial’s economic interests and employment with the department.

Goguen and Hegger previously spoke with the Daily Inter Lake about claims made in the lawsuit. Goguen maintains he’s done nothing wrong and was instead the victim of an extortion effort and an orchestrated attempt to discredit him, which Goguen says involved Dial and a former business associate.

Dial alleges Goguen befriended Detective Erickson, donated money to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force that would have created a job specifically for Erickson, and took him on an all-expense paid elk hunt in Colorado on his private jet — all at the time a criminal investigation was supposed to be occurring. Dial’s lawsuit asserts Goguen’s conduct caused Erickson to fail to open any report and properly investigate the matter, and that Erickson turned a blind eye to potential crimes and failed to document several communications he had with Goguen that were related to the investigation.