According to the suit filed by Gazette lawyer Sean McGinley and the firm DiTrapano, Barrett and DiPiero, there is no exception "expressly provided for" the records in the state Freedom of Information Act. McGinley argues that the records should be released because of a "heightened public interest because they concern a state agency's investigation of its own employees for complaints of alleged misconduct while in a position of authority.
"Society's interest in disclosure of the public records requested outweighs the government's interest in keeping the records confidential," according to the suit.
McGinley also argues that the State Police are required to turn over the records because "there is no governmental interest in nondisclosure for the purpose of dealing with the detection of and investigation of a crime."
The State Police provided a copy of their seven-page annual statistical report concerning the professional standards section's activities, which was also initially requested.
According to the six-page public report produced by the professional standards section in 2009, 13 troopers were dismissed that year based on sustained allegations, up from 3 the previous year. An additional 19 resigned prior to discipline. There were a total of 112 incidents where action was taken in 2009, according to the report.
The number of total complaints for the department has gone down, from 257 in 2007 to 165 in 2009. Of the 226 allegations contained in those complaints, about 50 percent were sustained and 24 percent were not sustained. Only 6 percent were exonerated.
After the initial Freedom of Information Act request was mailed May 25, the Gazette tried several times to get the information before filing the lawsuit on Wednesday.
Joe Delong, deputy secretary with the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, again denied the request in August.
"The state police have reviewed further information and determined that they will not be able to break the information down any further," DeLong wrote in an e-mailed response. "As I stated in the e-mail below there are several factors that must be taken into account when determining what information is in the public interest and what is protected personnel file information."
On Sept. 24, the Gazette requested the quarterly, yearly, bi-annual reports produced by the internal review board. Hoyer again denied the request in a letter dated Oct. 4. "You may institute proceedings for injunctive or declaratory relief in the circuit court in the county where the public record is kept," Hoyer wrote.
In the last five months the FBI has started at least two investigations into possible civil rights violations by on-duty troopers.
The Charleston Gazette reported in July that the FBI is investigating allegations by Travis W. Barker that he was chained to the floor of the Princeton detachment and beaten by Trooper C.N. Workman in July 2008.
On Oct. 13, Joe Ciccarelli, FBI supervisory senior resident agent in Charleston, confirmed that former troopers A.H. Young and K.E. Young are being investigated for allegations stemming from their arrest of Brian Joseph Wilson, 32, of Charleston on July 28.
The Youngs, who are brothers, arrested Wilson and charged him with operating a meth lab, possession of pseudoephedrine in an altered state, conspiracy and assault on a police officer.
Reach Gary Harki at gha...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.