By Martin Kidston/MISSOULA CURRENT
The editor of the Missoulian newspaper was suspended until “further notice” this week, according to an internal email acquired by the Missoula Current.
Staff members not wishing to be identified said the paper’s editor, Matt Bunk, was seen with a firearm in the office last week. Carrying a firearm on company property is against Lee Enterprises’ corporate policy.
“I want to let you know that (Bunk) is going to be out of the office until further notice,” an internal email from Missoulian Publisher Mark Heintzelman stated. The email did not specify the reason.
The email, distributed to staff members this week, added that employees with the Billings Gazette would provide “assistance” to the “Missoulian product.”
Heintzelman hired Bunk from a twice-weekly paper in Libby late last year after demoting former editor Sherry Devlin for undisclosed reasons. Devlin had worked at the Missoulian since 1979, working her way up to become the paper’s first female editor.
Devlin later filed a lawsuit against Lee Enterprises on Feb. 19 in Missoula County District Court. According to the Missoula Independent, the suit alleges that Heintzelman “unfairly demoted her once he took control of the paper, cut her pay in half, and then filled the editor position with a younger, less qualified male (Bunk).”
In his email to staff, Heintzelman said employees from the Billings Gazette would provide assistance to both the Missoulian and Ravalli Republic, both of which are owned by Lee.
“Additionally, I am going to be out of the office until April 11,” Heintzelman told employees. “During my absence, Mike Gulledge (publisher of Billings Gazette) will be here next week.”
The email said Jim Gaasterland, the company’s regional human resource office, would also take up residence at the Missoulian “so he is easily accessible.”
According to Missoula Police Department dispatch records, seven police units responded to Bunk’s home at 7:54 p.m. on Feb. 27. He was not arrested.
“Report of a loud verbal disturbance,” records state. “Officers responded and identified an adult male who was arguing with his girlfriend over the phone, in the garage. The officers spoke to all parties; including the male’s girlfriend whom he was arguing with, and peace was restored.”