Madera County Superior Court Judge James Oakley ruled last week that a report outlining how Madera County District Attorney Michael Keitz interacts with his staff, will not be released to the public.
Keitz sued the Madera County Board of Supervisors to stop the release of the report that the supervisors ordered two years ago from Fresno attorney Dan Rowley and paid nearly $30,000 for. At the time, supervisors said the report was ordered in an attempt to determine why the county's human resources department had received numerous complaints about Keitz.
Oakley ruled the report, known as the "Rowley Report," is protected by attorney-client privilege and will remain confidential. Rowley is known as an expert in workplace disputes and has performed about 175 investigations for private and public employers.
The request by Keitz and his attorney to keep the report sealed was in response to a request from the Madera Tribune to the board of supervisors to release the report after supervisors voted in closed session to pay $1.4 million for legal fees and settlements of employee lawsuits against Keitz and the county.
On Nov. 20, supervisors ordered Madera County County Counsel Doug Nelson to turn a copy of the report over to the Tribune, but Nelson told the paper he would not comply with the request having been notified of the pending restraining order being sought by Keitz.
Nelson eventually chose to recuse himself and his office from the situation, forcing the supervisors to obtain the services of outside attorney Matthew Fletcher of McCormick Barstow.
Oakley granted a temporary restraining order on Nov. 27 after Keitz's attorney told Oakley that releasing the report should be stopped because of the irreparable harm that would be caused to Keitz.
At the time, the attorney, Martin Mayer of Jones & Mayer, a law firm in Orange County that specializes in legal issues involving public entities and law enforcement, said the issue has nothing to do with Michael Keitz, personally, but has everything to do with the law.
"It has to do with the sanctity of the attorney-client privilege," Mayer said. "Is is similar to the doctor-patient privilege or the priest-penitent privilege."
Mayer said Section 3-310 of the California Rules of Professional Conduct is clear about an attorney's duty to protect the client-attorney privilege.
Fletcher, feels the county owns the privilege, not Keitz, because the county hired Rowley.
At the time of the temporary restraining order, Madera County District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler said he was frustrated that Keitz has cost the county a lot of money since he became the district attorney and that the report should be made available to the board.
"I think the report that was ordered and paid for by the county and the citizens of the county, should be made available to at least the people that are in control of spending the people's money -- the board of supervisors," Wheeler said.
Oakley ruled that Keitz and the county were both protected by attorney-client privilege and the report was exempt from public disclosure through the California Public Records Act.
"Judge Oakley's ruling upholds the well established law of attorney-client privilege and thereby protects the privacy and confidentiality of personnel information," Keitz said after the ruling was announced.
NOTE: Betty Linn, publisher of the Sierra Star, is married to Oakhurst attorney David Linn, who is running against Michael Keitz in next year's DA race.