The acting Whitefish police chief and the longtime former chief of the department are under investigation by state officials after alleged bribery involving another Whitefish man who faces separate federal fraud charges.
Bridger Kelch, the acting police chief, and former chief Bill Dial, who recently retired, both face allegations from the department’s Office of Public Safety Officer Training and Standards (POST) of Justice of Montana.
If POST officials determine the allegations are fact, it could cost Kelch and Dial their state law enforcement certifications.
The Montana Department of Criminal Investigations said it had investigated the allegations but had not found sufficient evidence for a criminal prosecution.
POST sent letters to Dial and the Town of Whitefish on August 25.
Whitefish City manager Dana Smith told Daily Inter Lake in an email that the city has opened an investigation as POST required. The city has 30 days to respond to the allegations.
“The investigation is ongoing, but based on the initial examination and information obtained so far, the allegations do not appear to be supported by evidence,” Smith wrote. “The City will complete its independent internal investigation and provide a response to POST within 30 days.
“The City continues to have confidence in the ability of Acting Chief Kelch to lead our Whitefish Police Department with integrity and the public safety of our community is the top priority.
THE POST OFFICE allegations claim that Kelch, Dial and Whitefish businessman Matt Anthony Marshall conspired to trap junior officer Shane Erickson in an apparent ethical violation involving another Whitefish businessman.
POST also alleges that Kelch provided false information to the State Department of Criminal Investigations during its investigation into Dial’s conduct. A third allegation indicates that Kelch provided Marshall, a private citizen, with a key card for the Whitefish Police Department and a radio with access to Whitefish Police Band signals.
Dial, 72, has until September 29 to dispute the allegations. He said he would fight the allegations and added that even though he had no plans to work in law enforcement again, he would not give up his POST certification.
“I will not give up my POST certification because of unsubstantiated allegations,” Dial wrote in an email to Daily Inter Lake. “It’s just about refusing to allow people to draw the wrong conclusions without first getting all the facts from all parties involved.
“I still believe in the Constitution of the United States and a person is innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, the norm has become guilty until proven guilty and I will not simply succumb to the ‘norm’ after devoted 41 years of my life to law enforcement and fighting the good fight, ”said Dial.
Much of the deal involves text messages between Dial and Marshall. Marshall was the CEO of Amyntor Group, a security firm which, according to court documents, was dissolved in 2018. The text messages show a relationship between the men and their alleged efforts to discredit a former Whitefish police officer who was investigating an incident. case involving another wealthy Whitefish businessman.
Marshall did not reply to a message for comment.
But according to Dial, the text messages were taken out of context and the investigation was not objective.
“There is so much to tell in this story that I feel confident once all the facts are revealed there will be no more questions about what happened and who the real bad actors are. in this situation, “Dial told the Daily Inter Lac.
MARSHALL EAST facing his own legal problems after federal officials charged him with wire fraud, money laundering, tax evasion and aggravated identity theft.
Authorities allege that Marshall convinced a Whitefish businessman that he had been a former CIA and US Marine agent. The businessman would then have transferred to Marshall a total of 2.3 million dollars to finance “official” missions for the accused to carry out rescue operations and other operations abroad.
But prosecutors say Marshall was never employed as a CIA agent or deployed or associated with an elite US Marine force reconnaissance unit, and the missions never took place. Prosecutors said Marshall used the money for his personal expenses and travel, as well as loans and gifts to friends and business associates.
Marshall has pleaded not guilty to the charges in Missoula U.S. District Court on August 23.
Dial said he met Marshall by “pure fluke” through former Whitefish police officer Clint Peters, who is now the Columbia Falls police chief. Dial said her relationship with Marshall was one “I won’t apologize for”.
Dial went into more detail about how he met Marshall.
“Marshall was leaving downtown and stopped to help Officer Peters in a car accident,” Dial wrote. “At one point they ended up having a conversation about firearms training and tactics. Officer Peters was one of our department firearms instructors and had a discussion with l ‘Former Deputy Chief Mike Ferda and Lt. Bridger Kelch on maybe having Marshall and some of his staff spend a day on the range with a few of our officers to check on their qualifications and skills in d ‘fire arms.
“I wasn’t involved in this, but I was told that Marshall and a few of his guys were very good at guns and tactics,” Dial wrote.
Dial said that after Marshall agreed to take training with his officers for free, he personally attended one of the training days and “was extremely impressed with their firing level and tactical skills.”
IN THE Montana POST bureau chief Perry Johnson’s letter to Dial, Johnson detailed the allegations.
According to POST’s complaint against Dial, in August or September 2018, Erickson told Dial he was asked to go on an elk hunt that would be paid for by a civilian, “G”. The hunt was valued at around $ 15,000. According to notes from a September 5, 2018 memo in Erickson’s personnel file, Dial told Erickson that it was not against the policy for him to attend the hunt.
The allegation included Marshall and Dial exchanging text messages after meeting at Marshall’s home. The messages indicate that Marshall and Dial believed Erickson’s acceptance of the trip would be an ethical violation, but allegedly agreed not to notify Erickson so he would accept the gift.
Johnson wrote in the allegation letter: “As a long-time POST board member, Chief Dial was well aware of POST’s corruption standards and its burden of proof. Once Erickson accepted the gift, Marshall and Chief Dial thought they could accuse ‘G’ of bribing an officer, Erickson. “
Dial told Inter Lake he does not recall a meeting at Marshall’s home.
“I want to make this clear so that I don’t be accused of being dishonest, because not being able to remember a minor incident has been called a willful lie,” Dial wrote. “I know that former Detective Erickson spent several times at Marshall’s house discussing the allegations of a prostitution case he was running against Marshall’s former business partner.”
This former business partner is Michael Goguen, resident of Whitefish.
“I think there was an allegation involving Mike Goguen paying for sex, but we never confirmed it,” said POST bureau chief Johnson.
Erickson worked for the Whitefish Police Department for 11 years. According to City Manager Dana Smith, her employment began on September 10, 2007 and ended on November 1, 2018.
According to his LinkedIn page, Erickson has been a senior analyst at DeliverFund since December 2018. DeliverFund is a private intelligence firm that disrupts human trafficking markets by providing intelligence to law enforcement authorities.
POST is an independent oversight body for state public security officers. The council, part of the Montana Department of Justice, sets employment and training standards for all public safety officers.
Journalist Scott Shindledecker can be reached at 406-758-4441 or [email protected]