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Local News

Kate Smith Harassment Case Continued until August

County employees testify in attempt to permanently bar activist from administration building

The workplace harassment case against activist Kate Smith was continued yet again Tuesday, after a second three-hour day of testimony offered by Santa Barbara County employees in an effort to get a permanent restraining order barring Smith from the county Administration Building, 105 E. Anapamu St.

Kate Smith
Kate Smith

On behalf of the county, Victoria Tuttle argued for a restraining order against Smith as a result of confrontational encounters with various employees, which they testified made them uncomfortable and even fearful. Some said they had prejudicial feelings against Smith before having much face-to-face contact, given her often emotional public comments at Board of Supervisors meetings in the building.

Smith herself is expected to testify in an early August hearing, and the four county employees who signed declarations against Smith include the producer of board meeting videos and administrative assistants for 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, the board’s main office and county counsel.

Judge Denise Motter, a Superior Court commissioner, frequently cautioned Smith, who is representing herself, to refrain from testifying while asking questions and straying off track from the specific incidents mentioned in the cases against her.

In her cross examinations, Smith again emphasized that she was never told she was acting inappropriately, is often emotional and rather loud-speaking because of mental and medical issues, and was interested not in the witnesses themselves but their bosses or information to which they had access.

Since those who testified against her had little personal contact with her, much of their perception of her was based on her public comments, according to their testimony.

Many incidents were mentioned that were not included in the declarations, including times she brought a sword and a ceramic hammer to board meetings as props.

Araceli Velasco, receptionist for the Board of Supervisors’ main office, perhaps had the most contact with her of the four employees, and said she felt uncomfortable, anxious and afraid in several instances.

“I do find you annoying, but based on those three occasions I talked about, I was afraid as well,” she said.

Smith said she felt she was a “victim of low tolerance for dramatic flair” and pointed out that none of the witnesses had had training to deal with people with disabilities — although some received training for dealing with “difficult people” after the incidents earlier this year that are the basis of the case against her. Smith’s insistence that there’s “a bigger picture here” seemed to fall on deaf ears as Motter urged her to stick to the few interactions stated in the declarations.

Motter won’t allow most of the witnesses Smith expected to call, since they weren’t witnesses to any of the incidents in question, and she told her to focus on the matter at hand in her upcoming testimony and closing arguments: whether protective orders were needed, and if harassment had taken place.

“There’s a pattern of activity here,” Motter said. “If you did the things they said you did, there’s a pattern of harassment.”

The matter will go before the court in early August, and Smith has been banned from the entire administration building since the matter was filed in April.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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