El Dorado waits on judge’s ruling
El Dorado County and its grand jury are waiting for Superior Court Judge Suzanne Kingsbury to resolve differences between the two.
County Counsel Louis Green filed a suit against the county grand jury, after the jury subpoenaed former Chief Administrative Officer Mike Hanford and Green last fall to testify about closed session business of the Board of Supervisors.
Green said the county officials’ closed session testimony is protected by attorney-client privilege so he could not release the information, not even to the grand jury.
Kingsbury said there are no cases she’s aware of that have set a precedent in such matters, so it is up to her to decide whether the attorney-client privilege applies to the grand jury.
“To my knowledge this has never happened before,” Kingsbury said. “It makes for a little bit more study and time-consuming process.”
Grand jury foreman Kenn Womack would not divulge what information the jury was seeking, but said it was pertinent to the investigation of county matters, which is the grand jury’s duty. Womack said closed session information should not be withheld from grand jury investigations.
“It is a legitimate inquiry and when the public sees the report it will understand where we were going with the inquiry,” Womack said. “Attorney-client privilege does not apply in grand jury proceedings, which is the basis for us requesting the information.”
Green said the county filed the suit because the two entities could not settle the disagreement outside of court.
“These are important legal issues and we need a court to resolve them,” he said. “There is no animosity between the county and the grand jury.”
She said she would make the decision as expeditiously as possible because of the limited term of the grand jury.
The grand jury is charged by the state of California to evaluate the procedures, methods and systems used by the county government to determine whether the county can do business more efficiently. These investigations and the final report must be completed between July 1, 2000 and June 30, 2001.
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