This is in response to Supervisor Tom Wheeler’s recent letter to the editor. Unfortunately, there continues to be misinformation and inaccurate reporting in the media, which has distorted the truth about lawsuits filed against me and the County of Madera.
To begin with, no fault or liability was ever found as a result of the lawsuits. As has been the case with other lawsuits, the Board of Supervisors made the decision to settle these suits in order to reduce the costs of litigation.
The misconception that these types of lawsuits have been isolated to my office has been continuously promoted. However, the truth is quite different. In fact, the Sheriff’s office, DA’s office prior to my tenure as DA, and other County departments as well as the Board of Supervisors, have all been the target of frivolous lawsuits. Settlements and legal expenses for some of those lawsuits have been similar in nature to those associated with the suits against my office. Taken in the entire perspective, such lawsuits are fairly common.
Further, the representation that taxpayers paid the cost of lawsuits is also inaccurate. The County of Madera, like other government and private entities, wisely insures itself against the risk of costly lawsuits. Many homeowners do the same, in case they are sued as the result of someone being injured on their property. The cost of lawsuits against my office and others, have been paid primarily by insurance.
Regarding the “Rowley Report,” misinformation is prevalent. The report was authorized by both me and Madera County Counsel. This investigation was similar to other such investigations which have occurred in the County in response to threatened lawsuits. The litigation and related expense around release of the report could have been avoided, had the then-‐present members of the Board of Supervisors voted to follow the advice of the County’s lawyers. The Board of Supervisors were specifically advised that the report could not be released, a fact which was later confirmed by the Judge’s ruling. Additionally, no lawsuit was ever filed against the County or the Board of Supervisors for legal fees related to the litigation. These fees were paid as required by existing law.
Finally, there is a misconception is that I am not present in the courtroom. The fact of the matter is that I am frequently present in court to ensure the prosecution of criminal cases in Madera County is handled appropriately. I routinely participate in the charging, review and oversight of cases, and other functions of criminal prosecution.
Thank you for the opportunity to respond.
Michael Keitz, Madera County District Attorney