Regarding the report

By Madera County District Attorney Michael Keitz / Guest CommentaryMay 29, 2013 

This past Thursday, the Sierra Star ran a story regarding the decision of the Madera Superior Court, which issued a permanent injunction preventing the Madera County Board of Supervisors, or the administrator of Madera County, from releasing a report under contention. The article speculatively states that the Rowley Report "was ordered by the Madera County Board of Supervisors in an attempt to determine why the county human resources department had numerous complaints about Keitz."

The Sierra Star stories, both past and present, seem to miss several very important points of California law in an effort to craft a story that paints my efforts as merely that of protecting my professional reputation. The most significant point of law is that of privilege, and on whose behalf this legal battle had to be made.

Judge Oakley held that both the County of Madera and the Office of the District Attorney held attorney-client communication and work product privilege. This means that both parties to this action had a responsibility to the employees of Madera County who were involved in the workplace investigation.

I believed this was a fact that went beyond my personal beliefs or reputation. It also required me to act in a manner that respected the investigatory process and the rights of employees, who expected their involvement would be confidential and not subjected to second-hand speculation by the press or their fellow employees.

With regard to the issues concerning lawsuits and settlements, there have been numerous actions filed against managers, department heads, and elected officials of Madera County over the years. Furthermore, over the past six years, the District Attorneys of nine other California counties, including Fresno and Tulare counties, were the subject of at least 14 lawsuits brought by employees.

Lawsuits are costly. For this very reason, Madera County carries insurance, just as any homeowner would. The Sierra Star has implied that recent settlements cost the taxpayers $1.4 million. This is wholly untrue, as the legal actions against the county and my office have been covered by insurance.

Furthermore, just because a settlement has been paid does not mean that fault exists. A homeowner might be sued for a slip and fall accident, but, that does not mean the homeowner did anything wrong. In our litigious society, settlements are commonly reached to bring a case to a conclusion and minimize the cost of the suit.

My mission as the district attorney has been and continues to be to seek justice for the people of Madera County. This requires that I run the district attorney's office with the highest degree of ethics and integrity. I offer no apologies for insisting that my staff conduct the business of the office in a manner that reflects these qualities.

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