Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
A Havre assistant chief of police said he plans to appeal to the state District Court the finding of an investigator for the state Department of Labor and Industry’s Human Rights Bureau that there was no reasonable cause to believe unlawful discrimination occurred in the hiring of Havre’s interim police chief in May 2008. Stan Martin, the assistant chief of internal affairs and investigations for the Havre Police Department, filed the complaint on July 18, 2008, alleging that he was not selected as chief of police because he is Native American. Jerry Nystrom, who last week was appointed permanent chief of the Havre Police Department, was selected interim chief in May 2008. He was appointed chief the week following the Human Rights Bureau investigator’s decision that there was no reasonable cause to believe discrimination occurred in the selection of interim chief. On Jan. 14, investigator Andrea Strowd wrote in her report on her investigation that “based on my investigation, I recommend a finding of no reasonable cause to believe unlawful discrimination, as set forth in Martin’s complaint, occurred in this case.” According to Strowd, the complaint Martin filed did show that he, as a member of a protected class Native American applied for a position and was not selected, with the selection going to someone who is not in a protected class. That presents a plausible case to investigate the issue to find if discrimination occurred. The burden then falls to the respondent to show that non-discriminatory reasons were used in the selection, Strowd writes. She concludes that the evidence shows that Nystrom was selected because he was the most qualified, not because of discriminatory reasons. Martin, who was assistant chief at the time, was appointed interim chief by Havre Mayor Bob Rice when then Chief of Police George Tate announced his retirement on April 18, 2008, the report says. Martin and Jerry Nystrom, Gabe Matosich and Bill Wilkinson, also Native American, were all candidates from the police force for the position of chief of police. Matosich later withdrew his candidacy. Martin, Nystrom and Wilkinson were interviewed by a panel consisting of Rice, Police Commission member Rick Pierson, City Council President Allen “Woody” Woodwick and Havre Fire Chief Dave Sheppard. The panel unanimously selected Nystrom, a Caucasion, as the best applicant. In his complaint, Martin alleged that he had heard people say that Rice had made derogatory comments about Native Americans, and that he believed Rice also did not want him selected because he stood up to Rice and told him “he would not be micro-managed.” Others testified during the investigation that they had not heard Rice make racist statements about Native Americans. The members of the panel that interviewed the candidates said they selected Nystrom because they believed he was better qualified. Although Martin has been on the force longer he was hired in 1987. Nystrom was hired in 1993, after having worked as a reserve deputy and full deputy for the Hill County Sheriff’s office from 1988 through 1991 Nystrom’s work on the Tri-Agency Safe Trails Task Force investigating drug crimes added to his experience. Nystrom’s answers to questions, including his stated plans to improve the image of the Havre Police Force in the community and plans to reorganize and improve the efficiency of the force, also led to their decision to select him for the job, the report says. The investigation also found concerns from witnesses that Martin was often absent from the police department without any notification where he was, as well as claims he often fell behind in paperwork and had little experience handling a budget, the report said. Martin told the interviewing panel that he would delegate budgeting responsibilities to people with more experience in that area, the report said. In her conclusion, Strowd wrote that Nystrom’s work administering the task force made him the best-qualified candidate for the position, as the panel conducting interviews decided. She also wrote that “Martin’s habit of disappearing from work without notification , ” his acknowledgment that he “is not fluent in budget ” and his delegation of most responsibilities to others were sufficient grounds to deny him the chief of police position.