MADERA -- A judge on Friday temporarily stopped the release of a report that criticizes how District Attorney Michael Keitz interacted with his staff about three years ago.
At issue is a report written by Fresno attorney Dan Rowley, who was hired by the county to investigate employee complaints against Keitz.
Friday, Madera County Superior Court Judge James Oakley said Keitz's reputation could be harmed if the report was made public prematurely. But the judge also said keeping the report secret could impact county supervisors' mission to have open government.
Oakley listened to arguments from both sides but gave no indication when he will make a final ruling.
The legal battle is the latest chapter in Keitz's four-year tenure that has seen him win appointment as DA in 2009, win his first election and run up nearly $1.4 million in taxpayer-footed legal bills while settling civil lawsuits brought by two former prosecutors and a secretary.
Keitz, 58, did not attend Friday's hearing.
During the arguments, attorney Martin Mayer, who represents Keitz, contended the report is confidential because it aided his attorneys in settling one of the lawsuits against him. Mayer also said Keitz believed his communication with Rowley would be kept confidential because of attorney-client privilege.
But attorney Matt Fletcher, who represents the county, said the county owns the privilege because it hired Rowley. Therefore, county supervisors have a right to waive the privilege, Fletcher said.
Keitz also was the subject of the report, not the client of the attorney hired by the county, Fletcher said.
Mayer called Fletcher's arguments "absurd" and "terrifying."
If the county is allowed to waive the privilege, Mayer said, it would have a chilling effect on any employee who believes his or her communication is confidential when talking to a county-hired attorney.
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