A History Lesson, Part 2

This is Part 2 of a series about our local Justices of the Peace. You can find Part 1, below. (With thanks to Firefly who gets at least half the credit (blame?) for this 'series')

As we rejoin our local Justices of the Peace in 2000, things are not going well. The tension is palpable, making Justice Court a difficult place for everyone to work.

Then, in November 2000, all hell breaks loose. According to the November 3, 2000, edition of the Great Falls Tribune, Justice of the Peace Sam Harris filed a sexual harassment complaint against his fellow JP, Mike Smartt.

According to the eventual Montana Supreme Court Decision in the case, here's what happened:

[Court Administrator, Sue] Stevenson had been employed by the Cascade County Justice Court for 22 years and has been the office manager for at least ten years....On Friday, October 13, 2000, Stevenson mentioned to Harris that she was having difficulty with the automated backup system on the network. She indicated that staff members often leave programs open on their computers, which cause the backup program to fail. She also told Harris that a staff person in the computer support department had told her that Judge Smartt's computer must have been in one of the programs on a previous occasion when the backup program failed. She requested Harris's help in shutting down Smartt's computer so she would not delete any open documents. Smartt had left earlier in the afternoon.

Stevenson and Harris entered Smartt's chambers and went around his desk to check his computer terminal. The terminal screen was darkened in the “energy save” mode. Stevenson touched the mouse to reactivate the screen and clicked on the toolbar. At that point, three pornographic pictures came up on the screen. Two of the pictures showed individual men masturbating and the third picture showed two men engaged in oral sex. Stevenson said, “Oh my God,” and ran from the office. ...Harris printed the screen to record what he and Stevenson had seen, and then he hit the power button on the computer and shut it off. Harris returned to Smartt's chambers on the following Sunday and accessed the short term history file in the Internet Explorer program on Smartt's computer. He found and recorded twenty days of website activity, including approximately 105 websites that appeared to be “quite obviously pornographic.” Throughout the next few days, Harris returned to Smartt's chambers and monitored any new internet activity. ...Subsequently, Harris filed a sexual harassment complaint against Smartt with Cascade County and a complaint with the Judicial Standards Commission. Additionally, Harris made a report to the FBI because the names of some of the websites accessed on Smartt's computer indicated that they were meant to portray child pornography. The FBI obtained a search warrant and seized Smartt's desktop computer and his laptop computer. The FBI found that the two computers contained in excess of 18,000 pornographic images or files. The images found did not contain child pornography, although an FBI agent stated that they “pushed the limit.”

In the November 3, Tribune article reporting the story, Harris was quoted extensively. He stated that "the extent of [Smartt's] addiction is shocking." He cited in Smartt "the lack of ethics and morals necessary to perform (the) job." According to the article, Harris in his complaint "maintained that Smartt used the Web sites during work hours on a county-owned computer." He complained about "sites with references to explicit sex, nudity and erotica."

"The public has a right to know what's going on in the county with our elected county officials," said Harris. According to Smartt, though, Harris had confronted him and stated he was "completely unfit to sit in office." Smartt said Harris threatened him that his resignation was "the only way to avoid loss of your name, your practice, your family, and your business (Haggarty Motors)"

Ultimately, Harris's sexual harassment claim was dismissed by the county. But his complaint to the Judicial Standards Commission was not. That complaint ultimately went to a hearing, a year later in November 2001.

More to come...


Anonymous said...

I think Harris entered into Mike's office without permission, but no charges were filed against Harris. It seems to me that Harris should have to be accountable for his actions in this matter, yet he has never been held accountable for any of his less than honorable actions.

Treasure State Jew said...

I had never put 2 and 2 together about Haggarty Motors. I didn't realize that was his business.