Whitefish Police Chief Asks Judge to Allow Evidence in Goguen Case

Responding to a motion to dismiss lawsuit against wealthy philanthropist, Bill Dial says he’s restricted from bringing forth evidence to support legal claims

By Tristan Scott
Whitefish Police Chief Bill Dial. Beacon File Photo

Whitefish Police Chief Bill Dial says a judge should allow evidence and other confidential criminal justice information to come forward in his case against Mike Goguen, the prominent community benefactor Dial says launched a “malicious campaign” against him to tarnish his reputation and destroy his career.

Dial filed his Jan. 30 legal brief in response to Goguen’s motion to dismiss the case on procedural grounds, with the latter arguing that the police chief’s lawsuit is vindictive, malicious and lacks merit while offering up a counter-narrative suggesting Dial acted inappropriately and perhaps illegally in his official capacity — an allegation that is at the center of a separate investigation by state Justice Department officials.

In his own recent pleading, Dial says Goguen is attempting to subvert the legal process, and argues the full scope of his complaint won’t emerge until the litigation proceeds to the discovery phase, allowing both sides to exchange legal information and evidence relevant to the claim, but which is precluded from the initial filings.

Further, Dial says discovery in lieu of dismissal is appropriate in the case because much of its thrust will be laid out through information that constitutes “confidential criminal justice information” related to ongoing criminal investigations.

“Dial is currently preparing a petition for the Court to authorize facts and evidence related to his allegations, which information could not be freely pled in the Complaint. Dial’s allegations are by no means ‘hollow.’ Each and every allegation is supported by facts and evidence,” according to Dial’s brief in opposition to Goguen’s motion to dismiss.

“If Goguen wishes to obtain additional specificity of the allegations or misinformation regarding the evidence supporting Dial’s claims, his recourse is discovery, not dismissal,” the response continues.

Goguen’s attorneys last month asked Flathead County 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 their filing.

Litigation involving the two high-profile community leaders was set into motion last December when Dial filed a civil suit accusing Goguen of attempting to influence a criminal investigation by currying favor with the case’s lead detective. Goguen’s alleged efforts to influence the investigation, Dial asserts, included befriending the 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.

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 was at the center of a federal criminal indictment alleging an extortion campaign against Goguen, and with whom Chief Dial apparently communicated.

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 spread 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.

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.”