WAUKESHA (WITI) -- A Waukesha School District employee is caught on surveillance turning a camera away from a warehouse full of equipment, then lying about it.
The visual evidence is stunning, but a FOX6 investigation finds it took the district more than 440 days to get rid the worker for good. And not just any worker -- he was the district locksmith.
It's not exactly the Tower of London and the Crown Jewels aren't stored inside, but the property stored in a non-descript warehouse on College Avenue does belong to taxpayers of the Waukesha School District.
Posted signs inside the building warn workers not to remove equipment without permission.
Keith Jamieson should have known the rules.
Afterall, he spent 26 years as a maintenance worker for Waukesha Schools.
That is, until he was accused of removing computer equipment without permission in late 2012. But it's what he did to a security camera that got him in the most serious trouble.
Surveillance video obtained by FOX6 News shows the bristles of a broom pass in front of the lens of a security camera that's trained on main floor of the warehouse. Moments after the broom head passes by, the camera shifts and ends up facing the wall instead of the warehouse.
District officials say this same thing had happened two dozen times, but for more than six months they had no idea who was doing it. Not until they set up a second camera.
On December 18th, 2012, surveillance video maintained by the school district shows Jamieson taking what the school identified as a computer keyboard and network switch worth hundreds dollars. Jamieson insists it was just two keyboards, and that he believed he had authorization to take them.
In the video, Jamieson can been seen looking up toward the first camera -- the only one he knew existed. He then leaves the building.
Moments later, he returns to the warehouse, grabs a custodian's push broom, and raises it high in the air toward the original security camera. Within seconds, that camera spins toward the wall, effectively disabling it.
When district officials confronted Jamieson about the video, he denied turning the camera. The episode was especially troubling to school officials because Jamieson wasn't just a maintenance guy, he was the district's locksmith. His duties included maintaining the security cameras.
As a state arbitrator would later put it, "The security guy disarmed the security system."
"Any fourth grader can see what's going on here," said Chris Kliesmet, President of a conservative political action group called Citizens for Responsible Government.
His biggest concern is what happened next.
"In the private sector, if you get caught stealing office supplies, you're gonna get fired," Kliesmet said.
Waukesha school officials did fire Jamieson, but not for stealing. Rather, he was fired for tampering with the camera and lying about it afterwards.
Still, Jamieson wasn't about to go away quietly.
He's a union activist. A Youtube video taken during the massive protests outside the state capitol in 2011 shows Jamieson at the podium, leading pro-labor chants with an adoring crowd.
When he was fired in 2012, Jamieson was treasurer of the Waukesha chapter of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. He was also an executive board member of the state AFSCME Council.
When school officials confronted him about tampering with the security camera, he
initially denied it. When shown the second camera, he cut off the interview and claimed he was being "set up" in retaliation for a complaint he filed against his boss two weeks earlier.
"'Classic response in a union environment," Kliesmet said. "When you're caught doing something wrong, scream retaliation."
Six days after he was fired, Jamieson filed a grievance for "unjust termination." And the union went to bat for him.
"You don't begrudge any organization, a union or anyone else, defending their members," Kliesmet said. "When it's just."
Eight months after the video surfaced, Jamieson and the union sat down with school officials, their lawyers and an arbitrator for the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission.
The district claimed that Jamieson had a "history of dishonesty" dating back to 1993, when he was suspended for 15 days for removing district property without permission.
In 2010, he was suspended for two days for hiding a co-worker's jacket, then lying about it to police. Jamieson's refusal to come clean turned an office prank into a two-month police investigation, that ended with Jamieson being cited for obstructing police.
Jamieson did not return calls seeking comment for this story, and when we caught up with him in person, he walked away and ducked inside a door. Neither the local nor the state AFSCME offices returned our phone calls.
But in briefs filed with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, the union argued that a couple of incidents "dredged up" from Jamieson's 26-year work history do not show a "pattern of lying."
And while the camera tampering is "serious," the union argued, it was not cause for termination.
"This is not rocket science," Kliesmet said. "Yet it was made to be rocket science."
Arbitrator William Houlihan tells FOX6 it is highly unusual to have visual evidence like this in a labor dispute. And the video apparently played a significant role in his decision to uphold the firing.
"But look at the tortured path they took to get to what everyone knew the outcome should be," Kliesmet said.
Jamieson is no longer the treasurer of AFSCME Local 2485 and his seat on the state AFSCME is vacant, due to his resignation. It is unclear if this incident is connected to his resignation.
He did manage to find another maintenance job just down the road, at St. Mary's Parish. In fact, we saw him taking out the garbage on the grounds of St. Mary's Catholic School, though school officials were quick to point out that he's a parish employee. The parish declined to comment.
While the Waukesha School District internal investigation does accuse Jamieson of stealing school property, he was not fired for theft of property, but rather tampering with the camera and lying.