Hearing set for Darien chief

Print Print
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
— More than seven months after being suspended with pay, Darien Police Chief Steve DeVoy will get a chance to publicly defend himself.

Attorneys on Tuesday scheduled a weeklong termination hearing for the embattled chief. It will start July 20 at the Darien Senior Center, 47 Park St., Darien.

The public is welcome, said William Stanley, a Madison attorney who has been hired by the village to work as the prosecutor.

The village has hired Scott Herrick as the hearing official. Herrick, among other things, is the attorney for the Madison Police and Fire Commission.

The hearing could mark the end of months of controversy in the small village in western Walworth County. DeVoy was suspended with pay Dec. 1.

DeVoy has worked at the Darien Police Department for more than 20 years and has been chief since 2003.

Herrick will review documents compiled by the village supporting the March 7 termination of DeVoy. DeVoy will be able to defend himself against allegations of violating village policy.

The village board March 7 voted 5-2 to fire DeVoy, although he still is being paid pending the outcome of the hearing.

The village has listed six charges supporting the decision including violation of village computer policy and creating a hostile work environment.

Investigators have compiled from department computers more than 8,000 documents supporting the charges, information technology expert Dean Williams said.

Williams is an independent contractor hired by Hazelbaker & Associates, a Madison law firm the village hired as part of the investigation.

Many of the documents are copies of e-mails and documents that show who was sending and receiving the e-mails. They include racist, sexist and otherwise offensive jokes. Some e-mails contain nudity, although they are not pornographic movies.

The e-mails include everything from pictures of dancing kittens to graphic photos of people with extreme injuries.

Other documents show DeVoy used his work computer to create logos for local businesses, write letters to the editor signed by village trustees and sign up for the Wisconsin lottery.

"The problem was the quantity of information that was inappropriate," Williams said.

While DeVoy was apparently reading and forwarding the material, e-mails he sent indicate he was aware of the village's policy against doing so.

"PLEASE DON'T make changes to the department's computers w/o my approval first," DeVoy wrote, according to investigative documents. "To include, wallpaper and screen savers. Remember these computers are for business purposes and not personal entertainment."

The e-mail was signed "chief" on Feb. 13, 2006.

Other e-mails document an apparent sexual relationship between DeVoy and an employee. The two exchanged "I love you" notes. Later e-mails indicate the relationship went sour. In one e-mail, DeVoy wondered why he'd lost sleep over the relationship.

Darien timeline

Beginning July 20, a hearing officer will decide whether the Darien Village Board was in the right when the board fired Police Chief Steve DeVoy.

Here is what's happened so far, according to documents obtained by The Janesville Gazette:

Nov. 18—The village board unanimously votes on a list of directives meant to improve oversight of the police department. Among other things, the board requests a copy of the department policy manual and copies of officers' daily logs.

Nov. 22—A Walworth County Sheriff's Office detective installs surveillance cameras in the Darien Police Department.

DeVoy had gone to the sheriff's office for advice because he suspected village President Bob Metzner and Darien Sgt. Mike Maltese of searching through police records.

DeVoy places "bait"—a manila envelope bearing Metzner's name—on his desk, but the cameras don't record anyone touching the bait.

Dec. 1—A village employee finds a surveillance camera in a potted plant in the Darien Police Department lobby. Minutes later, employees find a second camera in the chief's office.

Metzner suspends DeVoy. Village employees seal DeVoy's door with plywood and caution tape.

Dec. 2—The village board unanimously upholds Metzner's decision. DeVoy should not work in the office while investigators study the cameras, board members agree.

Dec. 11—The sheriff's office ends its investigation, finding no evidence of a crime.

Feb. 18—Nine village employees and a retired employee file claims for damages against the village and Walworth County. The claim states the hidden cameras violated their Fourth Amendment rights.

March 7—The village board votes 5-2 to fire DeVoy. The village lists four charges supporting the decision, including: DeVoy conducted unauthorized surveillance of village offices; DeVoy violated the village employee manual by misuse of the department computer system; DeVoy created a hostile work environment and exposed the village to liability by having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate employee; DeVoy failed to lead the department.

March 9—Metzner joins the Fourth Amendment violation notice of claim.

March 19—The board adds two more charges to the list against DeVoy: insubordination and failure to work for the benefit of the village while on duty.

April 3—In response to Janesville Gazette requests filed under the Wisconsin Open Records Law, Walworth County Judge Robert Kennedy determines that documents supporting some of the charges should be opened to the public.

Last updated: 10:27 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

Print Print