A lawsuit in which the chief of the Whitefish Police Department makes accusations about a wealthy venture capitalist whose philanthropy has spanned the Flathead Valley is raising more questions than it answers, particularly now that the defendant, Michael Goguen, has disavowed the complaint and is setting forth his own version of circumstances accusing the police chief of malicious wrongdoing.
Whitefish Police Chief Bill Dial filed the civil suit Dec. 16 against Goguen, accusing the high-profile community member of attempting to influence a criminal investigation involving Goguen by currying favor with the detective leading the inquiry. Goguen’s alleged efforts to influence the investigation, Dial asserts, included befriending the lead detective and inviting him on an “all-expense paid elk hunt in Colorado with a private jet, lodging, meals and guides.”
“All this was done while the criminal investigation was supposed to be ongoing,” Dial’s complaint filed in Flathead County District Court states.
“Goguen’s conduct was intended to and, in fact, did influence the criminal investigation,” the complaint continues. “It caused the lead detective to fail in his duties and responsibilities to the Whitefish Police Department to fairly and neutrally investigate the case. Goguen’s conduct caused the lead detective to fail to open any report, fail to properly investigate the matter, turn a blind eye to potential crimes, and fail to document multiple communications he had with Goguen related to the investigation, notwithstanding direct orders from his supervisor to do such things.”
The lawsuit says when Dial discovered that the lead detective failed to “properly and fairly investigate the criminal matter and had allowed Goguen to improperly influence the same,” the detective’s employment with the Whitefish Police Department ended.
“Bill Dial took appropriate action to ensure Goguen, like all other individuals, is held to the same standards when it comes to criminal investigations and to ensure favoritism not be allowed based on a person’s wealth, status or position,” the lawsuit states.
Goguen was served with the lawsuit Dec. 19 after a flurry of media reports had already detailed its allegations, and in an interview with the Beacon denied the merits of the complaint and the existence of any criminal investigation. Meanwhile, he and his attorney provided documents detailing a bizarre sequence of events involving Dial, Goguen, the former detective, and other individuals, including a man who is at the center of a federal criminal indictment alleging an extortion campaign against Goguen, and with whom Chief Dial apparently communicated.
In a Nov. 16, 2018 email correspondence between Dial and the federal defendant, Bryan Nash — the documentation of which an attorney for Goguen, Richard Hegger, provided to the Beacon — the police chief wrote that Flathead County authorities and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were investigating Goguen. The email from Dial is in response to persistent requests from Nash regarding Goguen’s involvement in criminal activity, the basis for which Goguen and his attorney say is false, and the veracity of which the federal indictment also undermines.
Dial then forwarded his emailed correspondence with Nash to another individual who at one point had a business relationship with Goguen, but which soured after Goguen says he learned the man falsified information about his military background and other relevant details about his personal history.
In Dial’s note to the man, the police chief wrote: “Having a little fun with Mr. Nash.”
According to Goguen, following receipt of the email from Dial, Nash used the information to fuel his harassment and extortion campaign against Goguen. In the federal complaint against Nash, officials allege he sought to accomplish his extortion objectives by alleging Goguen committed rape against one woman and murdered another, but the investigators dismissed them as lacking merit.
“One of the women is in fact deceased but has no known connection to [Goguen],” according to the June 2019 criminal complaint against Nash. “In the abundance of caution, the FBI interviewed the other woman, who Nash claimed was drugged and raped while she was underage. The woman told the FBI no such crime was committed, but stated she has been repeatedly contacted by Nash regarding the alleged crime.”
Goguen learned that Dial had provided information to Nash purporting the existence of criminal investigations through a records request, which he made in an attempt to pinpoint the source of the misinformation.
“Chief Dial made a highly damaging false statement about me to someone who he knows is committing what appears to be a criminal campaign against me and ultimately was subject to a federal indictment because of his actions against me,” Goguen told the Beacon. “He writes in his email that he was ‘having a little fun’ with Bryan Nash, but that ‘fun’ was to my severe detriment in terms of reputational damage.”
For his part, Dial’s lawsuit contends that Goguen, upon learning of the detective’s termination of employment with the Whitefish Police Department, “engaged in a variety of retaliatory conduct, aimed at maliciously, intentionally and purposefully interfering with Bill Dial’s economic interests and his employment as the Chief of Police of the Whitefish Police Department.”
According to Dial, Goguen met with Whitefish city officials, including the mayor, city manager and city attorney, demanding the police chief be fired and “threatened to sue the city of Whitefish for millions of dollars in the event the City did not terminate Bill Dial’s employment.”
Dial’s suit goes on to say that Goguen hired an attorney to file a complaint against Dial with the Montana Public Safety Officer Standards and Training Bureau (POST). The June 2019 complaint, provided to the Beacon by Goguen and Hegger, offers a lengthy rebuttal to Dial’s allegations and accuses the police chief of his own inappropriate conduct, including violations that Goguen alleges are grounds for revocation of his POST law-enforcement certifications.
While Goguen denies threatening to sue city officials if they did not fire Dial, he said he met with them after learning of the email exchange between the police chief, Nash and the third individual, who worked in some capacity for the Whitefish Police Department and had a friendship with Dial.
Hegger said the meeting with city officials did not include any demands or threats of legal action, but rather the expectation that some disciplinary action needed to be taken in response to the emails. After some time passed, Hegger said city officials assured him the matter had been forwarded to the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) at the Montana Department of Justice.
The DCI has since assigned an agent to investigate the allegations against Dial, and pending that investigation the POST complaint Goguen filed against Dial, as well as a separate POST complaint filed against the former detective, have been put on hold.
Perry Johnson, executive director of POST, said such an administrative action is not uncommon when other agencies outside of POST’s purview are involved in separate but related investigations.
“That is a dynamic that our rules allow, and it’s because we don’t want to insert ourselves into anything that might compromise other existing investigations,” Johnson said.
Documents related to the POST investigation repeatedly reference Nash, as well as an alleged coconspirator, Amber Baptiste, a woman who in 2016 brought a separate lawsuit against Goguen alleging a breach of contract in a salacious money-for-sex scandal that made national headlines. In September, a California judge dismissed the case after Baptiste refused to undergo medical examinations or produce any relevant documents necessary to the legal discovery process.
Since news of Dial’s recent lawsuit against Goguen broke, the city of Whitefish has distanced itself from the matter, explaining in an emailed statement: “The lawsuit was brought in Chief Dial’s personal capacity and NOT on behalf of the City of Whitefish. Chief Dial has retained a private law firm to represent him and will prosecute the lawsuit on his own time and with his own resources.”
The attorney representing Dial, Marcel Quinn, said she could not provide any information “outside what’s in the four corners of the complaint.”
Hegger said Goguen has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit, and will also file counterclaims against Dial.