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Bryngelson, Fleming file complaints against Lee, City of Boise to Idaho Human Rights Commission

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Two former BPD captains who spoke out against former Police Chief Ryan Lee filed discrimination complaints with the Idaho Human Rights Commission against the City of Boise last month.

The retired captains, Matt Bryngelson and Tom Fleming, filed with the IHRC on November 8th and November 9th, respectively. They each hired Boise attorney J. Grady Hepworth of Boise legal firm Hepworth and Associates – the same firm that has said it is representing Office of Police Accountability director Jesus Jara, who was placed on administrative leave last week.

BoiseDev obtained both complaints from the City of Boise under Idaho’s Public Records Act. Some identifying information was redacted.

Graphic: Interconnected parties in Boise Police investigations

On November 19th and 20th, Bryngelson was scheduled to speak and attend a conference for white nationalists in Tennessee. Bryngelson’s attendance and past racist words and writings for the American Rennaisance group were noted by an independent researcher who focuses on hate groups in a Twitter thread on November 19th. The next day, Boise Mayor Lauren McLean issued a statement denouncing Bryngelson’s words and actions and shortly after announced an investigation into Bryngelson and if his actions impacted police work, as well as if there were any similar issues with other personnel in the Boise Police Department.

This comes as the latest revelation in a web of allegations of misconduct, resignations and the possibility of termination for Jara ensnaring the Boise Police Department in recent weeks. It began with news breaking early this year that former Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee was under investigation by the Idaho State Police for assaulting a Sergeant in a training briefing and eventually led to an outside firm being brought in to investigate racism in the department. In between, there’s been a complex series of players, accusations, legal disputes and media reports on conflicts between Lee and a group of officers inside the department.

Separately, Fleming filed a whistleblower complaint against the City of Boise, as the Idaho Statesman and KTVB reported.

Bryngelson’s complaint

Now retired Boise Police Captain Matt Bryngelson. Courtesy of Boise Police Department

Bryngelson, who was the only on-camera source for an extensive KTVB report on officer complaints against Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee in September, echoed some of the same complaints he made in the story in his filing with the Idaho Human Rights Commission.

His complaint alleges the city and its employees, including Lee (who was asked to resign as chief in September by McLean and is no longer employed by the city) and Deputy Chief Tammany Brooks discriminated against him due to his mental health disability. The complaint noted Bryngelson is in a “protected class” under the Age Discrimination Employment Act and Americans with Disabilities Act. Bryngelson was born in 1972 and is 50 years old. The ADEA applies to individuals over the age of 40.

The complaint says in 2021 Bryngelson “became despondent and suicidal as a result of the harassment and workplace hostility from Chief Ryan Lee,” and he was “diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety, which impaired ‘major life activities’,” including caring for himself, sleeping, communicating and working.

Bryngelson said his wife helped enroll him in treatment at the Cottonwood Hospital, a behavioral health facility in Meridian. He later was given inpatient treatment at Deer Hollow Recovery in Layton, Utah, according to the claim.

He was released and cleared to return to work in late 2021.

Upon his return, Bryngelson claimed, he was subjected to “objective and outrageous hostility from Chief of Police Ryan Lee as a result of his disability and pursuit of medical treatment.”

The complaint says Lee did not keep his disability confidential, and “spoke about it with co-workers.” Bryngelson told the Idaho Human Rights Commission Lee and Brooks were “badgering” him about “how much longer” he was going to stay with BPD.

Bryngelson said the interaction caught him off guard, and said he had no desire to leave the department until he was eligible for “points” retirement in September 2025.

The complaint said he complained to human resources, which then sent the complaint to internal affairs. Internal affairs at the time was led by Fleming, who is also now a client of the Hepworth firm, who then reported Bryngelson’s complaints to Lee.

The complaint says Bryngelson then took his grievances to the Office of Police Accountability under the direction of Jesus Jara. Jara is also now represented by the Hepworth firm.

“It was soon discovered that the OPA failed to keep the complaint confidential and that OPA had informed Chief Lee and (Brooks) of Capt. Bryngelson’s complaint,” the filing read.

After the OPA complaint, Bryngelson said Brooks confronted him and banged his fist on the desk and said “You sat here in this office and told the chief you would give us a date when you are leaving!” Bryngelson claimed Brooks ordered him to provide a resignation date by that afternoon.

Bryngelson said he complied and said he’d resign on September 1st and he felt he had “no outlet for protection.” He then said he was sidelined by the department and that his mental health slipped. He ultimately left the department on August 15th.

Fleming’s complaint

Tom Fleming and Ryan Lee earlier this year. Courtesy Boise Police Department

The Fleming complaint, filed by the Hepworth firm the next day on November 9th, follows a similar pattern to the Bryngelson’s. It notes he was born in 1968, which would make him 54 years old, and in the same classification status as a person over 40.

Fleming’s complaint differs, noting he had a full knee replacement in November of 2021, which also impaired “major life activities” like walking, standing and lifting.

Fleming’s complaint said he “filed complaints and participated in investigations” related to possible violations of laws, rules, regulations “and waste of public funds” in the City of Boise in late 2021 and early 2022, including “believed criminal acts and violations of law committed by former Boise City Police Chief Ryan Lee.” The filing did not provide details of Fleming’s allegations of “waste of public funds” entailed.

At that time, Fleming headed up the city’s internal affairs division at BPD, and as BoiseDev reported last week, referred a separate complaint by Sgt. Krik Rush against Lee for an incident in November of 2021 to ISP for investigation. Fleming also told KTVB he complained to the Office of Police Accountability about Lee.

The complaint alleges Lee “began harassing Capt. Fleming about his age and disability” in about April of 2022,” and “made disparaging comments about physical manifestations of his knee surgery (such as a minor limp),” and began pressing him to take early retirement. The complaint says Lee made “disparaging remarks” like “I know you have had a few surgeries lately.”

Fleming said he objected to that and said his health was fine, and he could perform his duties.

The filing alleges Lee continued and asked “How much longer do you plan on staying here?” and Fleming said he planned to stay with the department until March of 2024 – one year past the State of Idaho’s Rule of 80. (The rule of 80 allows some public employees to take retirement when their years of service plus their age equals 80.)

Fleming’s complaint says this created a hostile work environment, and Lee raised his voice, yelled at him during meetings and used profanity.

Fleming alleged Lee interfered in his work, including Lee involving himself in an investigation Fleming launched into an officer who transferred from Portland – Lee’s former department. Fleming said Lee pressured him into preferential treatment for the officer and “accused Capt. Fleming of committing a ‘racist act,’ which Capt. Fleming reasonably perceived as a threat.” The complaint does not detail how Fleming’s investigation of the officer might have been seen by Lee as racist.

Fleming’s complaint said Lee repeatedly told him that “if this all gets too tough for you, you can always go to PERSI (the state’s retirement fund for public employees) and look at retirement.”

The complaint said Fleming felt Lee’s actions were due to “his age, physical disability, and/or because Capt. Fleming’s participation in other protected activities…”. The complaint did not detail what “other protected activities” Fleming might have been engaging in that Lee might have objected to.

This led to Fleming deciding to resign and leave BPD “on or about” July 15th.

Fleming’s complaint also said he suffered damages, including past and future wages, lost retirement and pension and lost future earning capacity, and that he is seeking damages for emotional distress, damage to reputation and defamation and general anxiety caused by the City of Boise’s actions.

What happens next

The Idaho Human Rights Commission’s process starts with an intake investigator evaluating the concerns at a high level.

The commission can decide whether to file a charge – or not. If a formal charge is filed, an investigation starts. From there, the parties are offered mediation.

If that is successful, the case is closed. If not, the investigation continues. Ultimately, the IHRC will make a determination, finding either probable cause, no probable cause or an administrative dismissal.

BoiseDev’s Margaret Carmel contributed reporting

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Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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