The wealthy philanthropist Michael Goguen is asking a Flathead County District Judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed last month by Whitefish Police Chief Bill Dial, who in a Dec. 16 complaint accuses the high-profile community member of meddling with a criminal investigation into Goguen’s alleged misconduct.
Goguen has disavowed the allegations and set forth his own version of circumstances, portraying Dial’s lawsuit as vindictive, malicious and lacking merit, while offering new evidence that he says exonerates himself and turns the table on Dial.
In a motion filed Jan. 9, Goguen’s attorneys asked District Judge Amy Eddy to dismiss Dial’s complaint on the grounds that it constitutes “nothing short of a malicious attempt to retaliate against Michael Goguen for complaints made about Dial’s performance as a public servant and to eliminate Goguen’s rights under the First Amendment and Montana law,” according to the filing.
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.”
While Goguen denies threatening to sue city officials if they did not fire Dial, he said he met with them after learning of an email exchange in which the police chief allegedly peddled misinformation about Goguen that was damaging to his reputation.
Goguen said he brought the incident to the attention of city officials in an effort to raise their awareness about what he characterized as unprofessional and potentially libelous behavior from Dial.
“But Dial is not a king immune from criticism,” Goguen’s motion states. “Instead, he is a public official serving in a position of public trust as Whitefish’s Chief of Police. And as such, he is susceptible to criticism just as he is accountable to the citizens he serves. Litigation should not be allowed to proceed on Dial’s complaint because it rests on the completely unsustainable proposition that a public employee in a position of trust is immune from criticism and that a citizen cannot complain about the performance of a public employee to his employer or certifying body without fear of liability.”
According to Dial’s complaint, Goguen attempted to influence a criminal investigation into his own actions 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 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.
Following the detective’s departure, the complaint alleges that Goguen arranged for him to work for a company with which he has ties.
Meanwhile, Goguen has gone public with evidence 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.
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.”
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.