RUTLAND (AP) _ The Vermont Supreme Court on Friday, Oct. 11
upheld a lower court ruling giving the Rutland Herald newspaper
access to records connected to an investigation into the Rutland
city police officers who were disciplined for viewing and sending
pornography at work.
The justices denied an appeal by the city, which raised concerns
about the privacy rights of city employees.
The Rutland Herald first sought the records three years ago
after an investigation into former Sgt. David Schauwecker, who was
charged with two misdemeanors and fired. The Rutland Herald reports
that state police could not prove the pornographic images that they
say they found on Schauwecker's work computers were child
He pleaded no contest to a neglect of duty charge.
Police disclosed in 2010 that two other officers had been
disciplined for viewing pornography. The newspaper sought documents
related to the case and the trial court found that the interest in
disclosure heavily outweighed any privacy interests that the
employees had in their actions and identities, the Supreme Court
said. The city appealed that decision to the Vermont Supreme Court,
which agreed with the lower court.
"As the trial court found, there is a significant public
interest in knowing how the police department supervises its
employees and responds to allegations of misconduct. This is
particularly true given the repeated instances of similar
misconduct within the police department over a five-year period, as
well as the apparent scope of the misconduct,'' the court said.
Internal investigation records reveal that one employee
downloaded between 5,000 to 10,000 pornographic images onto his
work computer, including possible child pornography, the court
said. State police investigated and decided they lacked sufficient
evidence to charge the officer.
"One cannot reasonably expect a high level of privacy in viewing
and sending pornography on work computers while on duty at a public
law enforcement agency,'' the court said.
The Rutland Herald said Friday that it is petitioning the city
for the records. The city attorney did not immediately return a
phone call seeking comment.