COMMENTARY: Steve Miller
Las Vegas Tribune
July 25, 2001
A "Woman Scorned…"
The following commentary reflects my personal observations and personal opinions on a subject I consider very sensitive. This article is in answer to many questions about an event that occurred on the last day of my recent trial. I take no pleasure in its writing.
On April 10, 2000, attorney Thomas Murphrey deposed Linda Smith in a matter unrelated to my recent defamation trial. Smith is currently the Resource Development Directory of Opportunity Village Association for Retarded Citizens. She testified under oath about an unfortunate event that took place in 1986, the last year I served as President of the Board of Directors of Opportunity Village (OV). The following is a portion of her testimony:
Question by Mr. Murphrey - I thought I heard you state during some of your other answers that Mr. (Steve) Miller had revealed an affair you were having. Did that mean that you actually were having an affair at the time all this occurred?
A. - Steve was probably the last person in Las Vegas to know that my husband and I had been separated for two years, and that I had been dating the gentleman in question, have been dating him since, which we've been going together now for 20 years, and live together.
Q. - This person, I take it, was John Wasserburger; correct?
A. - That's right.
Q. - Wasn't he a substantial benefactor to Opportunity Village?
A. - His Company supported Opportunity Village.
Q. - But wasn't Mr. (Glenn) Smith also a benefactor too?
Objection by Smith's attorney.
Question by Mr. Murphrey - What we're trying to get at is the issue of two benefactors being involved in something that could have a negative impact on Opportunity Village.
A. - Glenn is a contributor and has been and continues to be. We worked together and we've never felt that we needed to announce to our donors that we were no longer living together, or it had no affect whatsoever on my ability to raise funds for Opportunity Village. It never stopped a dime from coming into Opportunity Village, the fact that my husband and I were separated.
Q. - But you did state a moment ago that Mr. (Steve) Miller wasn't aware that you were separated?
A. - I didn't feel like I needed to contact Steve Miller to tell him my personal relationship.
Q. - We're not saying you were.
A. - I didn't go out and broadcast to the world who I was dating, and I don't see why I need to tell - make a point of telling people.
Q. - Do you recall Mr. (Steve) Miller stating that he had received complaints from some of the donors and some of the parents of (clients) complaining about the situation?
A. - Do I remember him saying that in a particular meeting?
Q. - Yes.
A. - No. I'm not saying he - I don't recall that. I don't know.
Q. - So it's possible he did. You just don't recall?
A. - I think I would have recalled so, therefore, I don't think he did.
Q. - But you have no knowledge of any complaints from anyone?
A. - I know there were no complaints.
Q. - No complaints made to you?
A. - That's right.
Note: Glenn and Linda Smith remained legally married for nine years following revelation of the affair. The Smiths never filed for legal separation and I had no knowledge of their arrangement.
My history at OV goes back to 1967 when I was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Clark County Association for Retarded Children. In 1970, the Board voted to change the name of the organization to Opportunity Village. Up until my retirement in 1986, I had been elected six times to be Vice President and twice to be President of OV's Board. I was never employed by OV, I served only as a volunteer.
Linda Smith was hired as a paid staff member at OV in 1980. By the year 2000, Smith's salary was $86,000 plus benefits.
In 1983, I sponsored and produced the film "Christopher" in honor of Glenn and Linda's mentally retarded son. The film was a personal portrait of a loving family with a special child. It was a featured part of the Glenn Smith Concert of Love though 1986.
Glenn Smith was personally responsible for raising hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for OV through his highly successful concerts that were produced by his wife Linda.
The gentleman that was involved with Linda was the CEO of large local Company and a member of my Board of Directors. As with Glenn Smith, this gentleman was also a generous contributor and benefactor to OV during my tenure as President. He served on my Board with other notable members including Judge Lloyd D. George, Fred Louis, and Bill Martin. I took great pride in serving with such fine people.
During my last year as President of OV, I began receiving confidential complaints from board members, benefactors, and parents of clients about Linda having an affair with one of my Directors. At first I was offended by the complaints because I only knew Glenn and Linda Smith as a loving married couple with two wonderful sons.
I ignored the complaints. I felt that since I had less than three months remaining to serve as President, and since I was going to retire from the OV Board in January to run for City Council, I did not need to become involved in a potential scandal. Nonetheless, I kept receiving confidential complaints.
I was becoming very concerned. I knew that I had a fiduciary responsibility to report such complaints to Linda's supervisor. I reluctantly arranged for a confidential personnel meeting. At the meeting I was very careful with my words. I told the Executive Director the substance of the numerous complaints and suggested that, if they were true, proper action be taken. I said no more. I felt I had fulfilled my duty.
Immediately following the meeting, to my horror, the Executive Director apparently told Linda a misquoted version of our conversation. Then something even more alarming happened. Glenn angrily phoned to accuse me of calling his wife a "whore!" I furiously denied his accusation saying that someone had misstated what I had said! I was devastated by Glenn's call.
I knew that I had been gravely betrayed. I also knew that I could no longer work with an Executive Director who would breach my confidence. Since I was about to retire from OV in less than three months to concentrate on my political campaign, I decided it was time to take an earlier retirement. I tendered my resignation the next day.
Since that day in October 1986, I have continued to support OV, but I also believe that I have been suffering the wrath of a "woman scorned." On more than one occasion Linda Smith's name has surfaced as a source of untrue information about my volunteer activities at OV.
The most recent example took place on the last day of my libel trial. The trial was centered on the last minute tactic Jan Jones used to win the 1991 Las Vegas mayoral election. At trial, District Judge Michael Cherry allowed Jones to call a surprise witness on the last day. The witness was Linda Smith.
During a sidebar discussion, my attorney Sam Harding forcefully objected to Smith testifying at the eleventh hour saying that she had a personal vendetta against me. He also noted that she had no direct knowledge of the 1991 libel and would testify with the sole purpose of besmirching my character and reputation based on the unrelated 1986 incident at OV.
Nonetheless, Judge Cherry was convinced by Jones' lawyer to let Smith testify. Then the judge disclosed that Linda’s suitor was one of his closest friends. He cautioned that if Smith mentioned the gentleman’s name during her testimony, he would have no other choice but to recuse himself which would cause a mistrial.
Mr. Harding asked the judge why he would allow a last minute addition to Jones' witness list? The judge responded that since Steve Miller had called fifteen friendly witnesses, and since not one of Jones' friendly witness showed up (Steve Wynn, Jeff German, Mary Boetsch, Brian Greenspun, and Sig Rogich were no-shows), it would only be fair to let Jones call a last minute friendly witness.
Amazingly, an inadvertent error at Cox Cable allowed the portions of the sidebar discussion about Smith, and the judge's friendship with her suitor, to be broadcast live on Channels 1 & 39. This technical error could possibly have informed Smith of the potential ability to cause a mistrial by her simply mentioning her suitor’s name.
Some believed at the time that Jones was losing and that a mistrial would be to her advantage.
After learning of the TV coverage of the confidential discussion, we were very disturbed. Sam Harding filed an emergency motion with Judge Cherry asking that Smith be disqualified because she may have watched TV and heard the discussion about a potential mistrial. Two days later the judge ruled that Smith would be allowed to testify as long as she did not mention her suitor’s name. He asked the lawyers to make sure his friend's name did not surface during her testimony.
Smith took the stand and tried to discredit my years of service to the mentally retarded. Sam Harding was left with no choice but to impeach her testimony by showing her bias toward me. He read her testimony about my concerns from the earlier deposition, but left out her suitor’s name. She reluctantly confirmed that those were her words before stepping down from the witness stand.
The trial ended on that sad and confusing note. We believed at the time that the jury had disregarded Smith’s testimony because of its irrelevancy to the case in chief and her shown bias toward me. We were greatly mistaken!
Ironically, the error of allowing Smith's prejudicial last minute testimony about unrelated events will probably be one of the best reasons for the Nevada Supreme Court to reverse the jury's 6-to-2 decision and order a new trial.
Hopefully I will be able to someday prevail in this endless lawsuit and stop the practice of last minute slander during Nevada political campaigns. I also hope that Linda Smith learns that she was seriously misinformed about my statements and concerns fifteen years ago, and come to realize that I have never harbored any ill will toward her or her family.
Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman and Clark County Regional Transportation Commissioner. He was voted the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada in 1991.
Visit his website at: http://www.SteveMiller4LasVegas.com