Two city-county employees have been given reprimands for having a camera posted in hopes of capturing paranormal activity in the county health department, Chief Executive Matt Vincent said Tuesday.
Vincent said an internal investigation concluded — as the county attorney had said in August — that no crimes had been committed. When asked if the matter could be characterized as off-the-wall or something serious, he said both.
“I mean, for God’s sake, whenever you are talking about ghosts it’s off the wall,” he said. “But it’s serious in that the public gives trust in us and we need to take that seriously, and setting up cameras in public buildings to catch paranormal activity I don’t think is gaining the public’s trust.”
The investigation began after a motion-sensitive camera was found Aug. 21 in a vacant, little-used room in the Butte-Silver Bow County Health Department at 25 W. Front St. It was determined later the camera belonged to a nonprofit group called the Butte Paranormal Investigative Team, which set it up after work hours.
According to a memo about the investigation from Interim Human Resources Director Penny McElroy, one employee indicated that she worked with a local group to see if there was any paranormal activity in the building.
“She thought it would be fun,” the memo said. Another employee knew about it.
But an employee who found the camera was concerned someone was spying on employees, notified interim Health Department Officer Dan Powers and turned the camera over to Butte police after reviewing pictures on the camera’s smart card.
County Attorney Eileen Joyce concluded on Aug. 26 that no crimes had been committed, but someone sent an anonymous letter to Vincent and several media organizations concerning the camera. That prompted a more in-depth investigation.
McElroy and Joyce reviewed pictures on the smart card on Sept. 12 and there were pictures of three employees together. There was nothing unusual and it appeared the employees were all doing something work-related.
The paranormal group people said they were initially contacted via their Facebook page and set up the camera thinking they had permission to do so, the memo said. The camera was to be there initially for just an hour but “they forgot the camera that night when they left.”
McElroy said she could not determine the significance of placing the camera in the vacated home health area of the building, but someone speculated there are hard feelings between health department nurses and home health nurses.
“She suspects they feel if there are evil spirits at the health department they are where the home health nurses had their offices,” the memo says.
The investigation concluded no laws were broken and employees who had pictures taken by the camera “may have legal recourse outside of Butte-Silver Bow if they chose to do so.”
Vincent said the employee who instigated the incident was given a written reprimand and the employee who went along was given an oral reprimand.
But he said a “wider message” would be given to all employees that, “You know what — we are professionals working with the public’s trust, let’s start acting like it.”
— Reporter Mike Smith may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 496-5511.