Controversy surrounds Vt. DOC employee's social media post - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Controversy surrounds Vt. DOC employee's social media post

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A correctional officer's online posts about the man accused of killing five teens on the Interstate has landed him in hot water.

Investigative reporter Jennifer Costa discovered the state employee is now on temporary relief of duty. 

While he was in the hospital, Steven Bourgoin went from patient to prisoner.  WCAX was there as state police served the accused wrong-way driver with an arrest warrant.

"Right now Mr. Bourgoin is in the custody of the Vermont Department of Corrections while he's at the hospital," said Chittenden County Prosecutor T.J. Donovan on October 11.

Seconds after our story hit Facebook Vermonters started weighing in. One comment stood out.

It says:

"The excuses are already flowing. I don't give a **** that the guy has PTSD. There are five dead kids. Take your **** mental health victim stance and shove it. This dude better die in jail."

WCAX found out the man who wrote this post is Michael Groner, a Vermont corrections officer paid by taxpayers to keep inmates safe. He works at Southern State Correctional Facility. The same prison where Bourgoin is currently being held without bail.

We called the Department of Corrections for answers. Commissioner Lisa Menard dodged multiple requests for an on camera interview. During our initial phone conversation she told us, "I don't think I knew about this comment..."

In a follow-up email Menard writes:

"In discussing the post you read to me with staff here, it was confirmed that we were aware of the post. Appropriate action was taken."

WCAX discovered Groner, a shift supervisor, was placed on administrative leave three days after his Facebook post appeared and then disappeared. That's almost a week before Bourgoin was transferred to the prison. Menard will not say if Groner's leave is connected to the controversial social media post or why she didn't know about it.

Again, in an email Menard writes, "we do not condone these."

WCAX learned Corrections' social media policy comes down to whether the individual identifies themselves as a DOC member. If they do and the post reflects negatively on the department that would trigger an investigation. But it they don't and say they work for DOC, Corrections says comments would be protected by the First Amendment unless, according to Menard, "it constitutes a credible threat or any other safety or security concern, it would be reviewed further."

WCAX wanted to know which category "this dude better die in jail" falls into. Or if Corrections referred the incident to police. We never got an answer.

WCAX wanted to talk to Michael Groner to get his side of the story. After our request, he disabled his Facebook page and his telephone number is unlisted.

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Documents: Mental health organization never screened suspect

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Vt. police serve arrest warrant to wrong-way driver suspect

Harwood holds vigil to mourn teens killed in wrong-way tragedy

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