Police chief blocks records release

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Friday, March 20, 2009
— The village of Darien has made public a list of six reasons why the village board voted to fire Police Chief Steve DeVoy.

But the documents supporting those charges—thousands of pages—have yet to be released.

On March 6, The Janesville Gazette requested the documents under the Wisconsin Open Records Law. Village attorney David Danz has said the village wants to release the information.

On Thursday, DeVoy's attorneys filed a civil action in Walworth County Court. The suit seeks an injunction against the village to block the release of the documents to the Gazette.

That is something public employees have a right to do when it comes to personnel records, but village attorneys and attorneys for the Wisconsin Newspaper Association contend DeVoy is not an "employee." Rather, he is the head of a department, the attorneys said.

That means the statutes don't apply, village and newspaper attorneys have said.

"We do not believe he has the right to object to the release because the statutes take department heads out of the protected class," Danz said.

It will be up to a judge to decide, Danz said. A court hearing on the matter had not been scheduled as of this morning.

In the complaint filed in court Thursday, DeVoy contends the documents should not be released because:

-- The documents contain "raw investigative data" that could include hearsay, rumor or bias.

-- DeVoy hasn't been served with all the material, so he wouldn't have a chance to verify or challenge it.

-- The documents contain information about people who aren't under investigation. The documents could violate their privacy.

-- Some people named in the documents could be called upon to testify in court.

-- DeVoy is subject to a disciplinary hearing as a result of the village's investigation.

-- The requested material was presented to the village board in closed session.

-- The village failed to explain how it applied "the balancing test." That refers to the method the courts use to determine whether it's in the public's interest to release the documents or keep them sealed.

Last updated: 9:50 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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