Complaint: Minnesota utility worker filmed kids using toilet
ALEXANDRIA, Minn.—Fourth-grade students and adults were filmed using a toilet during the 2016 Douglas County Groundwater Festival, in Alexandria, Minn. Alexandria Light and Power Utilities' former water treatment plant superintendent is facing criminal charges in connection with the videos.
Keith Patrick Avery, 65, who retired in July 2017, has been charged with one felony and one gross misdemeanor count of interference with privacy. Charges were filed Wednesday, April 25.
Fourth-grade students from several Douglas County area schools, including Alexandria, Parkers Prairie and West Central Area, attended the annual festival, which was mostly held at the Runestone Community Center. Some groups also attended a session at the treatment plant, which is where the cameras were set up, according to court records.
ALP officials say that investigators were unable to specifically identify any individuals in the video, and that there is no evidence the recordings were disseminated to others.
According to court records: An information technology employee for the utility was cleaning the computer Avery used and found three video clips taken in the bathroom at the ALP water treatment facility. Videos recorded footage of the toilet and under the sink area of the bathroom from May 4, 2016, the date of the Groundwater Festival.
Students in the videos were wearing Groundwater Festival shirts, and the videos showed multiple adults and children using the toilet. Two video clips were taking from a camera across from the toilet and the third clip was taken from a camera that would have been installed under the sink and aimed to record the toilet.
When speaking with an investigator, Avery confessed to placing the cameras, according to the criminal complaint.
"Defendant admitted that he put a camera on the pipe so that he could view the sink and toilet area during the Groundwater Festival," the records said. "Defendant said that he may have put the camera in the bathroom for two years."
ALP put out a statement from General Manager Al Crowser on Thursday, April 26, in response to the charges.
"ALP is shocked, angry, and saddened over this development," Crowser said. "But we can assure the public that the utility has exercised and will continue to exercise every effort to prevent this from ever happening again. We are confident that this year's Groundwater Festival may go forward as planned."
He added that the company was grateful for the key work done by investigators.
Schools began notifying parents and teachers Thursday, April 26.
"This is very sad and disturbing news to be sharing with you," West Central Area Schools Superintendent Barry Schmidt wrote in a letter sent to parents of students who are now sixth graders.