Judge Denies Goguen’s Motion to Dismiss Whitefish Police Chief’s Lawsuit

Attorney for Chief Bill Dial says ‘we look forward to proceeding with the claims on the merits’

By Tristan Scott

A Flathead County District Judge on Thursday denied Michael Goguen’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit by Whitefish’s police chief, whose December 2019 complaint accuses the wealthy philanthropist of interfering with a criminal investigation and trying to get the city’s top law enforcement officer fired.

Goguen denies the allegations set forth in the lawsuit by Whitefish Police Chief Bill Dial, and in an effort to discredit them has disclosed documents that are part of his own separate complaint against Dial to the Montana Public Safety Officer Standards and Training Bureau (POST), which describe communications between Dial and individuals at the center of a federal criminal indictment into an extortion campaign against Goguen.

Further complicating matters, the POST proceedings have been placed on hold pending the outcome of yet another state investigation by the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) at the Montana Department of Justice.

In his Feb. 27 order, Judge Robert Allison said those matters and others do not meet the criteria for dismissal of Dial’s complaint, which the judge wrote should proceed according to Montana’s statutes.

“We are pleased the Court denied Michael Goguen’s motion to dismiss, which attempted to circumvent the litigation on procedural grounds,” Marcel Quinn, an attorney for Dial, wrote in an email to the Beacon. “We look forward to proceeding with the claims on the merits.”

Dial filed the civil suit Dec. 16 against Goguen, accusing the high-profile community member and venture capitalist 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.

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 said his friendship with the former detective had no bearing on any criminal investigation, and denies being the subject of one — a claim corroborated by FBI reports filed in a separate case involving a man who was found to be harassing and criminally extorting Goguen by disseminating falsified information.

“The only criminal investigation involved crimes in which I was the victim,” Goguen told the Beacon.

According to Goguen, his first introduction to Dial came in mid-2017 at the police chief’s behest and involved Dial’s solicitation of a donation from Goguen to a local charity, with which Dial was involved. At that time, Goguen said he brought up the federal investigation surrounding a man named Bryan Nash, who was later indicted on charges of extorting and stalking Goguen.

In a federal complaint against Nash, officials allege he sought to accomplish his extortion objectives against Goguen by spreading allegations that Goguen committed rape against one woman and murdered another, claims the investigators inquired about and later dismissed as lacking merit.

In Goguen’s initial interaction with Dial, he says he explained to the police chief that Nash was spreading the defamatory information to area law enforcement agencies, including the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, and asked whether they had spread within his department. Goguen says Dial introduced him to the detective to discuss the matter.

Much later, Goguen said he learned of a Nov. 16, 2018 email correspondence between Dial and Nash — the documentation for which an attorney for Goguen, Richard Hegger, provided to the Beacon. In that email, the police chief told Nash that Flathead County authorities and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were investigating Goguen.

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 and intelligence background, as well as 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.

“That ‘fun’ was to my severe detriment in terms of reputational damage,” Goguen told the Beacon.

The email prompted Goguen and his attorney to complain to Whitefish city officials and ask whether disciplinary action should be taken in response to the emails.

According to Dial’s lawsuit, which seeks damages for libel, slander and defamation, as well as the infliction of emotional distress and abuse of process, Goguen met with Whitefish city officials, including the mayor, city manager and city attorney, to demand 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.”

Goguen said the meeting with city officials did not include any demands or threats of legal action.

After some time passed, Hegger said city officials assured him the matter had been forwarded to the DCI, which assigned an agent to investigate the allegations against Dial. 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.

According to Judge Allison, moving forward with the civil case will not impact those investigations.

“Proceeding judicially would have no bearing on POST’s process nor would the POST decision have direct bearing on the validity of the abuse of process claim” against Goguen, Allison wrote. “Defendant’s motion to dismiss [the] complaint is denied.”