Sergeant Dan Duryee, one of the four officers in the Lake County Sheriff’s Department defending themselves in federal court over wide-ranging allegations of misconduct, submitted a letter of resignation last week, Undersheriff Dan Yonkin confirmed today. His last day wearing a Lake County badge will be Jan. 3.
In September 2010, Duryee admitted to making false claims about serving in the military. A few colleagues in the Lake County Sheriff’s Department had suspected Duryee’s detailed combat stories were fabricated, and in May 2010 they asked the Montana Public Safety Officer Standards and Training Council, or POST, to investigate.
“It is evident that Duryee was allowed to be a member of the Special Response Team and a sniper without attending any formal training, based on his false claims of military service and combat experience,” POST concluded. “It is also evident that Duryee was given command of the Special Response Team” based on those claims.
Duryee’s colleagues said he had been telling made-up war stories for more than a decade, but in a letter to Sheriff Jay Doyle, Duryee admitted to only once telling a “fish story.” He wrote, “This was a lie...I make no excuses for what I did. It was wrong and disrespectful. I deeply regret this story.”
POST recommended revocation of Duryee’s law enforcement certification because he’d violated the code of ethics, undermined public confidence in law enforcement and harmed the agency’s and officers’ reputations. But that was beyond what Doyle thought was appropriate. His internal investigation concluded that Duryee hadn’t committed a crime, that his lie was “just a story” and that there were no grounds for discipline. Still, in early 2012, POST served Duryee with notice of a certification revocation hearing, which has yet to take place.
POST’s investigation uncovered other alleged misconduct by Duryee. A Lake County Sheriff’s deputy said in a sworn statement that in 2006, Duryee arrived at the scene of a suicide, bagged up some of the victim’s skull fragments and allegedly gave them to Deputy Becky McClintock, who thought human remains might help train her cadaver dog.
In May 2011, Duryee was taken to court after he entered a Polson apartment through a bedroom window and allegedly used excessive force in apprehending a man suspected of domestic assault—but it was the wrong apartment, and the wrong man. That case was dismissed two months ago.
But Duryee’s still embroiled in the federal court case five current and former officers in the Lake County Sheriff's Department brought against Duryee, Sheriff Jay Doyle, Undersheriff Dan Yonkin and Detective Mike Sargeant in February 2012. The plaintiffs—former officers Mike Gehl, Steve Kendley and Terry Leonard, and current deputies Levi Read and Ben Woods—claim that the defendants retaliated against them for bringing forward evidence of wrongdoing within the department, ranging from Duryee’s lies to several officers’ involvement in a poaching group known as the “Coyote Club.” The defendants acted “in concert and with criminal purpose,” the plaintiffs argue, violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. A trial is expected to begin in March 2013.