Case Closed

Fired Columbus cop does not appeal Police Commission ruling upholding city’s termination
Alastair Baker
Thursday, October 31, 2019
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Fired Columbus Police Officer Paul Caraway has not filed an appeal in district court following the Columbus Police Commission ruling that upheld the Columbus Police Commission’s decision.

The 4-year case is now closed, with Caraway losing a federal wrongful termination lawsuit, an appeal of that ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Columbus Police Commission.

Attorneys for either side did not comment on the final outcome.

The Police Commission met in August to hear testimony from Caraway, former Columbus Police Chief Bill Pronovost, Mayor Gary Woltermann and former police dispatcher/current Columbus City Court Clerk Patty Rozema.

In it’s ruling, the Police Commission listed seven reasons for upholding the termination:

1. Caraway’s attacks on Pronovost in his Nov. 11, 2015, letter would have made “it impossible” for Caraway to effectively continue as a police officer and in particular, Caraway(‘s) “credibility no longer exists,” according to the document.

2. Caraway’s admitted participation in sexual conversations with his sexual assault accuser were “unbecoming a police officer” and “cause for dismissal, especially in light of Pronovost’s prior warnings and direction on Caraway’s conduct around women.

Further, Caraway’s admitted comments to another female that she was “hot” and needed a “spanking” was unprofessional and unacceptable — regardless of what the female thought of the comment.

3. Caraway’s admitted meetings with a married female at a public park while on duty were inappropriate, as Pronovost had testified that such meetings need to take place at the department.

4. Caraway failed to inform a female of the reason for a traffic stop, in violation of Montana law. This woman later accused Caraway of stalking and/or harassing her and obtained a temporary restraining order that was subsequently dissolved.

5. Caraway was non-compliant with Pronovost’s orders by spending 30 to 40 minutes in dispatch for “b…s…sessions” despite prior instructions to limit time in dispatch and to cease sexual comments to dispatchers immediately.

6. Caraway’s admitted failure to submit a report following his accuser’s report of underage drinking (and) was the second time in one-year Caraway failed to file a report.

7. The letters submitted by the Billings Stillwater Clinic, the Stillwater County Sheriff, and the Montana Attorney General Office speak for themselves and were not solicited in any way by the city.

Caraway was fired in November 2015 following a three-month investigation into a sexual assault allegation filed by a dispatcher. The Montana Department of Justice (DOJ) conducted the criminal investigation at the request of then Chief Pronovost. The DOJ declined to file charges due to what it called credibility issues with both the dispatcher and Caraway, according to a letter from the Montana Attorney General’s Office.

Upon completion of the criminal investigation, an internal investigation was conducted. The results of that internal investigation led Woltermann to fire Caraway for misconduct and dereliction of duty.