San Diego County Grand Jury stopped by court order

Report on attorney's bills may never be public

SAN DIEGO - The San Diego County Grand Jury is a defendant in a lawsuit by the City of Imperial Beach. The city has asked the court to keep the grand jury from releasing information about Imperial Beaches legal bills.

10News checked as far back as we could and never found a County Grand Jury ordered by a court to suspend the release of an investigation they were working on.  This is the time of year when the jury is  releasing report after report, the result of their work over the past year.  But this report on the legal bills for Imperial Beach may never be seen by the public.

Judge William Dato issued a temporary restraining order requested by the law firm of McDougal, Love, Eckis, Boehmer & Foley representing Imperial Beach to shut down, for now, any effort by the Grand Jury to make public what they were working on.  The results of a grand jury investigation remain secret until published.   

Click to view the order: http://bit.ly/144mtgT

The unusual nature of this request had Team10 digging into available court records to see what we could find.

Here is what we can tell you: The grand jury was interested in the attorney fees and the sources of the money to pay the attorney fees involving Imperial Beach’s new redevelopment agency.  What caused this interest is unknown .

As part of their investigative process, the grand jury asked the San Diego County auditors to review all the legal billings.  The city says, in the court records, they had too much work to do, so they hired a “temporary agency employee ..to assist in various tasks..”

One of those tasks was responding to the auditor and grand jury requests for legal invoices.  The temporary employee sent everything over to the auditor to review but

Imperial Beach would soon argue it was a mistake. The city argued these papers included “legal invoice from the law firm of McDougal, Love, Eckis, Boehmer & Foley”

The city demanded the invoices back, saying the work done by the law firm was not releasable because it involved attorney-client privilege.

By now, the county counsel had joined up with the county auditor to decide what they should do. At first county counsel agreed to return the documents but then something happened to change their mind.  What happened is another unknown.

We do know that county counsel argued the documents were not privileged but simply the work product of the attorneys therefore they could be used by the grand jury in preparing their report.

Who wins? Who loses? The answer could be at a court hearing this coming Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in Judge Dato’s court room.  

Team 10 contacted San Diego Grand Jury, San Diego County Counsel, the San Diego County Auditor’s Office and the law firm of McDougal, Love, Eckis, Boehmer & Foley.

No one would comment for this story.

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