Pondera County Commissioners have suspended Sheriff Carl Suta pending the outcome of his official misconduct case.
About two dozen people came in attend the brief meeting. Only one person spoke up about Suta during the hearing. She stated that Suta had given out her personal information to a person stalking her. When she approached Suta, she said that he apologized.
After that, the commissioners voted to suspend Suta pending the outcome of the case involving a charge of official misconduct against him. Commissioners also voted that Suta will receive his pay during his suspension.
Suta was charged last week with a misdemeanor count of official misconduct.
According to court documents, Pondera County Attorney Mary Ann Ries referred the allegation of misconduct by Suta to the Division of Criminal Investigation of the Montana Department of Justice.
Ries told the agent she had received an e-mail from a Child & Family Services caseworker about a father bringing a complete law enforcement investigative file with him to the office.
The father reportedly told the caseworker that Suta had given him the file, even though Toole County was handling the investigation
It also appeared that Suta had set up forensic interviews with the children in the case, even though Suta was not an investigator. When the agent interviewed Suta, Suta said he had once given the father the file.
Suta said that the normal procedure is to contact the County Attorney, but he did not in this case.
When the agent questioned Suta about the laws governing the dissemination of confidential criminal justice information, Suta allegedly ended the interview.
Suta has declined to comment about the charge.
Suta has filed for reelection as Sheriff; so far, two other candidates have filed: Robert Skorupa and Ross Drishinski.
Here is the relevant section of Montana Code that the County Commissioners are following:
45-7-401. Official misconduct. (1) A public servant commits the offense of official misconduct when in an official capacity the public servant commits any of the following acts:
(a) purposely or negligently fails to perform any mandatory duty as required by law or by a court of competent jurisdiction;
(b) knowingly performs an act in an official capacity that the public servant knows is forbidden by law;
(c) with the purpose to obtain a personal advantage or an advantage for another, performs an act in excess of the public servant's lawful authority;
(d) solicits or knowingly accepts for the performance of any act a fee or reward that the public servant knows is not authorized by law; or
(e) knowingly conducts a meeting of a public agency in violation of 2-3-203.
(2) A public servant convicted of the offense of official misconduct shall be fined not to exceed $500 or be imprisoned in the county jail for a term not to exceed 6 months, or both.
(3) The district court has exclusive jurisdiction in prosecutions under this section. Any action for official misconduct must be commenced by an information filed after leave to file has been granted by the district court or after a grand jury indictment has been found.
(4) A public servant who has been charged as provided in subsection (3) may be suspended from office without pay pending final judgment. Upon final judgment of conviction, the public servant shall permanently forfeit the public servant's office. Upon acquittal, the public servant must be reinstated in office and must receive all backpay.