RUTLAND — A case involving the release of internal investigation records at the Rutland City Police Department is heading back to the state’s Supreme Court for a second opinion.
A week after Rutland civil court judge William Cohen issued a decision that granted the Rutland Herald — and the public — partial access to records sought involving police officers who viewed pornography on city owned computers while at work, the city this week filed a notice of appeal with the high court.
“The Supreme Court still has to consider whether the records are exempt under the personnel exemption,” City Attorney Andrew Costello said Tuesday.
The newspaper’s publisher, John Mitchell, said the Herald expects to pursue its two-year-old battle for access to the records.
The case only recently returned from the state’s highest court, where the justices remanded Cohen’s earlier decision that released both the internal and criminal investigations involving computer use at the department. In their ruling, the justices found that a criminal investigation conducted by the Vermont State Police into suspected child pornography was permanently off-limits to public scrutiny.
In the police case pursued by the newspaper, the officer under investigation wasn’t charged criminally after a review of suspected images by the Vermont Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
In their remand, the justices gave explicit instructions that Cohen exclude documents involving the “investigation and detection of a crime.”
In a decision Cohen issued late last month, he ruled that the criminal investigation records were exempt from public review. But he ruled that records from an internal investigation into the violation of rules regarding computer usage by city employees was a matter of public record.
“The public has an intent interest in knowing how the city police department investigates its own employees for workplace-related misconduct. This is especially true with respect to the public’s interest in knowing the processes by which the department undertakes and completes its internal investigations,” the judge wrote.
But Costello and Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras have said that the high court never ruled on their arguments that personnel records — such as the internal investigation files — were also exempt under the Public Records Act.
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