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Deputy settles retaliation complaint

Sun., May 1, 2011

Dispute ends in exchange for $400,000

BILLINGS – A Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Department deputy who filed a retaliation complaint against his superiors with the state Human Rights Bureau has settled the dispute in exchange for $400,000 and policy changes at the agency.

The Billings Gazette in a story published Saturday reported that Deputy John Smith reached the agreement that has been signed by Yellowstone County Commissioner Jim Reno.

Smith filed the complaint in 2008, contending he was punished after testifying in a federal discrimination lawsuit brought by three Hispanic deputies against the department, and who were eventually awarded nearly $1 million.

Smith’s complaint alleges he was punished by Capt. Bill Michaelis because he agreed to testify in the federal human rights case brought by three other deputies, who claimed they were discriminated against because they are Hispanic.

In mid-May of 2008, the three added a complaint against Michaelis, saying that he referred to them as “the three Mexicans.”

Smith said Michaelis made the comment to him during a meeting in late April of that year and that he was prepared to testify. On June 4, 2008, the Billings Gazette reported that Michaelis had been added as a defendant in the federal case.

“Less than 36 hours after the publication of the article … Michaelis took disciplinary action against Deputy Smith,” charging him with dereliction of duty, the complaint said, calling the action baseless, contrary to department policy and intended to retaliate against Smith for agreeing to be a witness in support of Deputies Chris Romero and Roger Bodine and Transport Officer Dave Valdez.


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