Why Pavalone Attorney Filed Suit in Lewis and Clark County Instead of Missoula [YouTube]
The backlash from fired Missoula County Sheriff's Deputy Paige Pavalone's lawsuit filed late Wednesday in Lewis and Clark County District Court has begun with a question from the attorney representing Missoula County.
In a press release from Communications Coordinator Katie Klietz, she relayed a statement from attorney Steve Carey of the Carey Law Firm that reads as follows:
"We have had an opportunity to review the lengthy Complaint filed by Paige Pavalone. First, we note that she has filed it in the wrong county. The Missoula County Attorney, the Missoula County Sheriff, and the Missoula County Human Resources Director all live in Missoula County, as does Ms. Pavalone. We have no idea why she filed her Complaint in Helena.
Missoula County will vigorously defend against the allegations contained in the Complaint. We look forward to bringing the facts to light with regard to the underlying situation that led to Ms. Pavalone's termination.”
Carey Law Firm, P.C.
Attorneys for Missoula County
KGVO News reached out to Pavalone's attorney, Josh Van de Wetering on Thursday afternoon who responded to Carey's question about why the lawsuit was filed not in Missoula, but in Lewis and Clark County.
"I filed the suit in Lewis and Clark County because the law allows you to do that," Van de Wetering said. "When you file against the state or one of its political subdivisions, such as Missoula County, you can file in that county, or Lewis and Clark County. I chose to file in Lewis and Clark County."
Van de Wetering was careful to emphasize the fact that he has great respect for the judges and courts in Missoula County.
"The judges in Missoula County are good and we have an excellent judicial system, and my choice to file in Lewis and Clark County is not a reflection on the quality of Missoula's judiciary in any way," he said. "But, the Missoula courts, obviously, work very closely with the Missoula County Attorney and the county sheriff, and because of that closeness the judges will probably have to recuse themselves anyway, and so I decided to file directly in Lewis and Clark County instead of having those issues in Missoula."
The Missoula County Sheriff's Office issued a press release in mid April that explained Pavalone's firing.
After several media inquiries on the status of former deputy and public information officer, Paige Pavalone’s employment at the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, we can offer the following information at this time:
Deputy Pavalone was terminated on April 13, 2015 for conduct disclosed and statements made during an internal investigation into the February 2015 arrest of a co-worker. The Sheriff and County Attorney’s Offices have determined her ability to serve as a witness in the criminal justice system has been compromised by her actions and the County Attorney has placed Deputy Pavalone’s name on a “Brady list”. A “Brady List” means there is evidence affecting the credibility of a law enforcement officer as a witness because they knowingly lied in an official capacity.
Based on violations of her oath of office, the law enforcement code of ethics and the likelihood she would be impeached as a witness upon disclosure by the prosecutor that her name appears on a “Brady list”, the Sheriff has determined that Pavalone can no longer effectively serve in the capacity of deputy sheriff."
In a previous interview on the KGVO Radio Talk Back Show aired on April 21, Van de Wetering expressed outrage over Pavalone's firing from the sheriff's department.
"If you're going to fire somebody, you have to have a good reason," Van de Wetering said. "The sheriff's department doesn't have any good reason. Paige (Pavalone) is highly educated, she's been highly decorated, she hasn't had any disciplinary problems in the sheriff's department whatsoever, until literally the day T.J. McDermott took office. Ever since he removed Paige from the Public Information Officer position, he and Undersheriff Jason Johnson have made allegations against my client that are utterly unsupported and utterly false."
Van de Wetering said he has no specific timeline as to when the lawsuit will come to trial.