Did you see this?

It’s huge.

Let me explain. I was on Editors Roundtable a while back discussing the delay and the events leading up to the release of the Kroll report with U-T Editorial Page Editor Bob Kittle. Kittle was sure – and correct more or less – that the report would name names and be rather tough. But I was stuck on a question after we left the studio: I wondered how harsh the Kroll report could possibly be without libeling and defaming the people it was discussing.

Then, when it did come out, I saw the firm didn’t much worry about that. It outright accused a few of people of breaking laws. I just was left asking why the consultants decided to make legal determinations about some people (city staff) and not about others (elected officials).

But I should have gone with my initial question a bit more: How could Kroll get away with calling people, who hadn’t yet been tried and convicted, fraudsters?

I might have gotten my answer yesterday: Kroll can do it, because if the firm is sued, the city of San Diego has to pay the bill! I thought Kroll had decided it had some kind of shield against defamation claims. Nope, the only shield may be that they knew San Diego taxpayers would have to pay for their liabilities.

Uh oh. We already shelled out $20 million for this report. What’s in store for us now?

Andrew Donohue reported yesterday that Kroll has received a letter from an attorney of one of the accused employees stating that Kroll defamed him or her with its report.

The letter states that Kroll is preparing a response to the claims and should “this former employee pursue any alleged claims, we would like to discuss further with representatives of the City its obligations pursuant to Kroll’s letter of engagement dated February 10, 2005.”

I know there are some lawyers who read this blog. Please, please send me over a reason why the city can’t be held liable for any alleged defamation of these former city staffers.

SCOTT LEWIS

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