Janesville49.7°

Kennedy rules to release Darien records

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ANN MARIE AMES
March 27, 2009
— The public will get to learn more about why the Darien Village Board fired Police Chief Steve DeVoy.

But it’s going to be a few days.


Walworth County Judge Robert Kennedy on Thursday morning ruled that documents supporting the board’s decision are open to the public. But statutes allow DeVoy to add information to the documents, Kennedy ruled.


Kennedy ordered the village to again notify DeVoy that the records are to be released to The Janesville Gazette and to notify him that he has the right to add documents to the pile that has been requested.


DeVoy will have five days to augment the records from the time he is notified. He may not delete information or edit the documents, village attorney David Danz said.


The Gazette on March 6 requested the information under the Wisconsin Open Records Law. On March 19, DeVoy’s attorneys filed a civil action seeking an injunction against the village to block the records’ release.


In many cases, state statutes give public employees the right to do just that: block requests to protect their privacy.


But not in every case.


Thursday morning, Kennedy agreed with attorneys for the village that DeVoy’s employment records are not protected because he is a department head.


While the Wisconsin Open Records Law is an “extremely important” statute, it’s complicated and not one that attorneys or judges cite on a day-to-day basis, Kennedy said.


The judge said DeVoy’s case provided him the opportunity to study the open records law in more detail than he has in the past. He speculated that was the case for the attorneys representing the village and DeVoy.


“It’s always good to learn more about this subject,” Kennedy said.


As the requestor, the Gazette could have become a legal party to the hearing but chose not to do so.


The records in question are a sample of e-mails, links to Web sites and other electronic information the village gathered during an investigation of DeVoy. The sample includes more than 2,000 documents gleaned from nearly 200,000, Danz said.


Experts showed the village board the sample, Danz said.


On March 7, the board voted 5-2 to fire DeVoy based on five charges. On March 19, the board voted 5-2 to add two charges.


The charges include viewing inappropriate material on a work computer during work hours, insubordination, having a relationship with a subordinate and failing to provide leadership.


Investigators found the inappropriate material in the middle of a different investigation. On Dec. 1, village employees found surveillance cameras in the police department lobby and in DeVoy’s office.


DeVoy was suspended with pay while the village investigated the legality of the cameras.


The Walworth County Sheriff’s Office installed the cameras because DeVoy suspected village President Bob Metzner and Sgt. Mike Maltese were accessing police records without permission, according to sheriff’s office reports.


The cameras did not record any useable information and the case was dismissed as unfounded, according to sheriff’s office records.



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