Montana Disaster Services Chief of Staff Resigns

By MATT VOLZ | May 15, 2013

Paul Grimstad, the chief of staff for the embattled Montana Disaster and Emergency Services, submitted his resignation Monday, an agency spokesman said.

Grimstad will leave the agency on June 30, said Maj. Tim Crowe of the Department of Military Affairs.

It is not clear whether Grimstad’s resignation is related to a workplace assessment conducted after a 2012 study found distrust and dysfunction within the division.

Grimstad also is named in a lawsuit by a former DES employee who alleges another worker received special treatment because of an affair with Grimstad.

“He tendered a resignation. That’s all I know,” Crowe said.

Grimstad was head of the Montana Highway Patrol before he became DES chief of staff.

Last year’s workplace “climate survey” was ordered by then-interim Adjutant Gen. Joel Cusker after he learned of eight lawsuits filed by former employees. A current DES employee also complained privately to Cusker about a hostile work environment and sexual harassment.

Some workers said the tense atmosphere affected the agency’s ability to respond to disasters and emergencies, a claim that Crowe has strongly denied.

The 2012 assessment was made public in February through a legislative committee.

The three-page outline, based on one-on-one employee interviews with an independent consultant, described a divisive workplace in which some employees fear retaliation and bullying by managers, sexual discrimination and possible mismanagement. But the report concluded that DES did not qualify as a hostile work environment.

Gov. Steve Bullock and the Department of Military Affairs ordered a new survey after the 2012 assessment was made public. Employees throughout the Department of Military Affairs were instructed to answer an online questionnaire by April 17 that asked about their work environment and the conduct of their supervisors.

The results of the survey have not been released.

Neither Grimstad nor DES Director Ed Tinsley has responded to queries for comment, directing all communications through Crowe.

The governor’s office did not seek Grimstad’s resignation, Bullock spokeswoman Judy Beck said. She declined further comment.

Former longtime DES spokeswoman Monique Lay claims in a lawsuit filed earlier this year that her position and that of her supervisor were eliminated in 2011 after they complained that a temporary employee was receiving special treatment in exchange for sex with Grimstad.

Grimstad previously acknowledged the affair in a court proceeding. Crowe has said Lay’s claims were found to be unsubstantiated by a state hearings officer who investigated the allegations.

The lawsuit is pending in state court.

Grimstad left the highway patrol in 2009 after 25 years of service, including four as its chief.

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