Last week Todd Wellington reported on fired St. Johnsbury police officer Justin Hoyt and his ongoing battle to overturn his dismissal. Hoyt is represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees - Council 93, which is forcing the issue.

Hoyt was fired, we've learned, because he wrote a phony police report and disobeyed a direct order from a superior.

The transgressions cost Hoyt his credibility and forced State's Attorney Lisa Warren to drop all pending prosecutions involving him. According to reports, Warren dismissed four pending charges for which Hoyt had written affidavits and were awaiting trial.

Warren was told of Hoyt's exploits by St. Johnsbury Police Chief Clem Houde who, rightly, had resulting concerns about Hoyt's credibility.

The dropped cases were the nail in Hoyt's coffin.

Hoyt's firing was upheld by an arbitrator in a "final and binding" process. The Union, challenged to interpret the meaning of "final and binding" has challenged the arbitrator's decision. Their argument, essentially, is that Hoyt's discipline should have been kept confidential. They say the state's attorney never should have been told about Hoyt's lie or countermand. If she had not been informed, their thinking goes, then she would not have had to drop cases and Hoyt would still have a job.

So that you understand exactly what kind of people union representatives are, this is all worth repeating. According to the union: a police officer can act in reckless, dangerous and immoral ways and the public should not, under any circumstance, know anything about it. The Chief of police should never disclose the information, even if it means putting an innocent person behind bars. The only relevant standard for police is that they can conspire to keep egregious and dangerous secrets.

These are the purest conditions to breed corruption and a disgusting perversion of open record exemptions in Vermont.

Houde and Warren took the high road and handled the situation with integrity. They inspire confidence in the system.

The union, in its staunch defense of lying and disobeying orders, would pervert the spirit of "confidentiality" in ways that would significantly jeopardize public safety and confidence in the justice system.

Every day we see clear abuses of the open record law in Vermont. This is the latest. Until Shumlin makes good on his promise to clarify and simplify the countless exemptions to our right-to-know, it won't be the last.


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