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Former MHP trooper claims retaliation after giving survey summary to union

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Posted at 7:21 PM, May 31, 2024

HELENA — The Montana Highway Patrol and the Department of Justice are accused of retaliation in the firing of a trooper Alicia Bragg. Documents indicate Bragg, who served as MHP’s union president, was terminated for providing a copy of a trooper employment satisfaction survey summary to her union without DOJ approval.

Bragg notes there has been a stark contrast with the current Montana DOJ administration compared to the past.

“The last few years, it’s been a different rodeo. Just with communication and changes with our agency and everything above us,” Bragg told MTN on Friday.

Bragg is a ten-year veteran of the Montana Highway Patrol. She started as a dispatcher before transitioning to trooper.

For the past three years, she’s also served as the union president for MHP, functioning as a liaison between the agency and the Montana Federation of Public Employees.

(Alicia Bragg speaks with MTN about firing.)

MHP trooper claims retaliation after being fired for providing document to union

MHP recently conducted a climate survey to address low morale and high turnover. Those results were shared with a steering committee that included Bragg.

“They told me they chose me partly as my role as union president so we could easily communicate information that came out of the steering committee and then partly as my role with headquarters,” noted Bragg.

The survey results, which were first reported by the Daily Montanan, reflected poorly on management with 45% of respondents saying they were not optimistic about leadership or the direction the agency was going. According to the report, 297 individuals were invited to participate in the survey and the survey received around an 80% response rate.

“I was shocked that the numbers were as high as they were for people being discouraged about their jobs,” said Bragg. “It just confirmed everything we were feeling. We were communicating it with each other but not communicating it further up.”

Bragg said troopers were told the survey would be anonymous but many were worried they could face retaliation for being honest in the survey.

“The executive summary was 37 pages long and the real document is nearly 400 pages long,” explained Bragg. “They promised transparency from the beginning and were telling us to be patient and they’d release it eventually, but up to when I got terminated they still hadn’t released the full document.”

MHP and DOJ staff told recipients of the executive summary not to share it with anyone else.

Bragg admits she shared the executive summary with the union, but notes sharing documents with the union that may impact policies is very common.

“We communicate documents back and forth year-round. We don’t have to be in negotiations for a new contract. We’re constantly communicating. It’s at least once a week,” noted Bragg.

The survey was publicly funded and the executive summary contained no personal information about troopers or leadership.

On March 29, the executive summary of the survey results was published by the Daily Montanan. Shortly after, Bragg was put on leave and then terminated. Bragg told MTN that she sent the executive summary only to MFPE, and asserts she did not share the document with the media.

Following Bragg’s termination, a complaint against MHP and the DOJ was filed with the Montana Board of Personnel Appeals.

“MHP management is retaliating against a decorated trooper for doing her job as a union president. It is illegal to retaliate against a union president for sharing information related to her members’ working conditions with her union staff,” said MFPE President Amanda Curtis.

According to documents, The DOJ, which oversees the Montana Highway Patrol, denies these claims, stating Trooper Bragg was dismissed for “violating a direct order not to disseminate the document.”

MTN asked the DOJ to directly address the accusations but a DOJ spokesperson said, “We do not comment on personnel matters.”

Bragg remains committed to improving conditions for her colleagues. She has filed an internal grievance and the complaint is under review.

“Someone asked me if I regretted my decision at all and absolutely not,” Bragg explained. “I needed to make sure that the troopers were taken care of and i still want the troopers taken care of.”