Local 2489, AFSCME v. Rock County

In Local 2489, AFSCME v. Rock County, 2004 WI App 210, 277 Wis. 2d 208, 689 N.W.2d 644, thirteen employees of the Rock County Sheriff's Office, who were disciplined for viewing "inappropriate images" on work computers, sought to prevent the release of "copies of reports generated by . . . the investigations." Id. The employees argued that the Janesville Gazette should be denied access to the records, in part, because the public interest in "protecting the privacy and reputations of the employees" outweighed the public interest in disclosure. Id. The court said, "Though the public's interest in not injuring the reputations of public employees must be given due consideration, . . . it is not controlling. When individuals become public employees, they necessarily give up certain privacy rights and are subject to a degree of public scrutiny." Id. This is especially true when the "misconduct . . . 'allegedly occurred in the location where the public has entrusted the employees to work and during the performance of their public duties, and therefore should be more subject to public scrutiny.'" Id. The Wisconsin court rejected efforts to keep the records private. It ordered the release of the records with the proviso that the names of the disciplined employees be redacted. Id.