Attorney General threatens county supervisors with lawsuit for not waiving attorney-client privileges to assist corruption probe

SAN BERNARDINO • Frustrated that the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors has not waived attorney-client privileges to aid a far-reaching corruption probe, state Attorney General Edmund Gerald “Jerry” Brown, Jr. sent a letter blasting county supervisors and threatening to take the matter to court. (Click here to read the letter.)

“The appearance of impropriety here is simply inescapable and will be purged only when the board agrees to make this information available to us,” states Brown’s letter, dated Tuesday. “We simply seek the truth … This is a matter of intense public interest that we believe transcends legal advantage.”

On March 12 the Attorney General and San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office jointly requested that county supervisors waive attorney-client and mediation privileges related to the lawsuit at the center of an ongoing corruption investigation, which Brown has called the largest bribery scandal in county history.

Prosecutors have alleged that two managers with the Rancho Cucamonga developer Colonies Partners used extortion, bribery and other corrupt means to obtain a $102 million settlement from the county in 2006 over a four year flood control dispute. Investigators said they needed to obtain legal documents and interview experts and attorneys shielded by the privacy rights.

On March 23 county supervisors said they were not prepared to comply with the waiver request but wished to set up a meeting with investigators to discuss the matter. County officials also expressed concern over how waiving the rights could impact ongoing civil suits to recoup part of the $102 million settlement.

Following two, two-hour meetings between county counsel and prosecutors, the board on April 13 again delayed making a decision.

“Our request for a waiver from you was a matter of courtesy, comity and efficiency, and the failure to respond favorably is both a matter of concern and has caused an unacceptable delay in the progress of our investigation,” Brown’s letter states.

Tuesday’s letter, written by Senior Assistant Attorney General Gary Schons on behalf of Brown, cites multiple court rulings justifying dropping the attorney-client privileges of public officials when such materials are directly tied to a criminal investigation.

The letter concluded by stating that unless county supervisors agree to the waiver request at Tuesday’s board meeting, prosecutors will immediately take legal action to get the privileged information.

Natasha Lindstrom may be reached at (760) 951-6232 or at nlindstrom@VVDailyPress.com.

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