Here’s the statement:
I will not put the taxpayers and the County at risk by compromising our attorney-client privilege on this or any other matter. I respect the fact that personnel matters must be kept confidential.
As I pointed out in my story, the county’s explanation for not making the results of the investigation public is that to do so would be to waive its attorney-client privilege, something it’s never done before and doesn’t intend to do.
Let’s dig into that.
When the county conducted its investigation into the allegations about California Children’s Services, it involved county attorneys in the investigation from the start. Indeed, county attorneys told the investigators looking into the allegations to mark all their correspondence and their final report as “confidential attorney client communication.”
By involving attorneys in the investigation, and by marking the work product that came out of the investigation as confidential attorney client communications, the county can now claim that those documents do not have to be released under the California Public Records Act. That’s because communications between a lawyer and a client are exempted from disclosure under the CPRA.
However, a client can choose to waive attorney-client privilege at any point. In other words, in this case, if the county wished to, it could waive the privilege it’s using to keep the documents secret and could make the documents public.
But Cox said in his statement that to do so would “put the taxpayers and the County at risk.”
I wanted to know why releasing a report on an investigation into alleged kickbacks at a public agency that provides wheelchairs for children with disabilities would put the taxpayers and the county at risk. I asked Cox’s spokesman Luis Monteagudo.
Monteagudo didn’t want to get into a “legal discussion.” He simply said Cox didn’t want to waive attorney-client privilege, and that the county hasn’t waived privilege before.
But that “legal discussion” is exactly the dialogue I’m attempting to have with the supervisors. They have made the decision to keep this investigation secret by not waiving their privilege, and I’d like to ask them why that is.
I asked Monteagudo if he could get Cox on the line so we can have that discussion. He said he’d try.
That’s now one “no comment” (from Bill Horn) and now Cox’s statement that he supports withholding the document.
Two supervisors down, three to go.