FAIRFIELD-- Harry Smith and Bert Jester appeared in Jefferson County District Court today and entered guilty pleas to charges of Felonious Misconduct in Office, a Class D Felony.
At sentencing following the guilty pleas, District Court Judge Dan Morrison deferred judgment, placing both defendants on probation for three years. The conditions of probation include an order that Smith and Jester each make a charitable contribution of $1,000 or perform community service or charitable work in Jefferson County equivalent to $1,000 at the rate of $6 per hour. A deferred judgment can result in the felony charges being erased from the defendants' criminal record after successful completion of probation.
The charges were based on allegations of falsification of records at the Fairfield water treatment plant during 1997 and 1998. Harry Smith worked as the treatment plant manager, and Bert Jester was assistant manager.
In response to a complaint alleging that monitoring records were being falsified, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources investigated Fairfield water treatment plant records and did an on-site inspection and interviews in September 1998. The investigation confirmed that monthly operating reports did not accurately represent actual turbidity data taken from the plant's recording equipment. In many cases, it was apparent that actual values were being adjusted to appear to fall below DNR standards for turbidity. (Turbidity relates to clearness of the water and is an indicator of material contained in the water requiring further analysis.)
Further investigation was conducted by the Iowa DCI, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Iowa Attorney General's Office. The investigation determined that Jester and Smith knew that false entries were made in water treatment plant records. The Attorney General's Office filed criminal complaints naming Smith and Jester on October 2, 1998. The DNR stated at the time that Fairfield's water is considered safe.
District Court Judge Morrison accepted the guilty pleas today at the Jefferson County Court House in Fairfield. The maximum penalty for a Class D Felony is five years in prison and a $7500 fine. The Court previously had ordered a presentence investigation.
After the Court accepted the guilty pleas, the State recommended suspended sentences of incarceration, probation, and fines of $1000 for each Defendant. The defendants requested deferral of judgment and probation.
The State does not intend to pursue additional criminal or civil penalties related to the falsification of records, other than license revocations by the Department of Natural Resources. On October 1, the Iowa DNR issued an order suspending the water treatment plant operator certifications for Smith and Jester and commenced action for revocation of certifications. Smith and Jester also were suspended from their positions at that time; they were terminated from their positions on January 31.