Ex-Cop to police commission: I’m 100% innocent

By: 
Alastair Baker
Thursday, July 25, 2019
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Yellowstone Communications photo by Alastair Baker

Fired Columbus Police Officer Paul Caraway testifies at Monday's Police Commission hearing.

The Columbus Police Commission held a review of the Paul Caraway case on Monday to determine if the fired cop should be reinstated as a police officer and receive back pay.

The 3-person commission has 30 days to issue a ruling. The hearing was overseen by visiting Judge Jim Seykora, but it is the commission that will make the decision to either affirm the firing, modify it or overturn it.

The hearing came at Caraway’s request and with the provision that if he is reinstated, he will resign immediately.

The city argued against reinstatement.

At Monday’s hearing, the Police Commission listened to nearly six hours of testimony from Caraway, former Columbus Police Chief Bill Pronovost, Mayor Gary Woltermann and former police dispatcher/current Columbus City Court Clerk Patty Rozema. Rozema testified on behalf of Caraway.

Caraway was terminated from the police department in Nov. 2015 for misconduct and dereliction of duty, following an internal investigation that was sparked by a sexual assault allegation made by a sheriff’s office dispatcher (not Rozema) in July 2015.

Caraway has already lost a federal wrongful termination case against the city, as well as a federal appeal of that ruling.

The dispatcher is also suing the city, alleging among other things, that it did not fire Caraway soon enough to protect her. The dispatcher has already lost a discrimination claim with the state Montana Human Rights Bureau.

BACKGROUND

Caraway was fired in November 2015 following a three-month investigation into the sexual assault allegation conducted by the Montana Department of Justice (DOJ). 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 by the police chief. The results of that internal investigation led Mayor Gary Woltermann to fire Caraway for misconduct and dereliction of duty.

Two of seven specific factors listed in a pre-termination letter given to Caraway included sexually inappropriate conversations and comments to a female dispatcher at work, as well as unauthorized meetings with another woman while on duty.

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