Opinion - Is the county Covering Up for Joe Harn?

by Placerville Newswire / May 24, 2018 / comments

[Kirk Callan Smith]

Here is what I’ve learned so far.

At a candidates’ forum in El Dorado Hills this past April, Dan Dellinger mentioned record requests he made related to those years of rumors of alleged harassment complaints made about Joe Harn and said the county blocked his request with the claim of attorney client privilege.

But that privilege can be waived by the client, the county. So I asked the current Chair of the Board of Supervisors, Michael Rinalli, who was at the same forum to do that. And then within a couple weeks I learned that several others had also made records requests for information related to the same subject.

There must, if I added them up, be about a dozen requests spanning at least two years. Each approached the topic in different ways to solve this puzzle and each was blocked. Troubled by the evasiveness, the apparent cover-up, I made an oral request on May 8th at a Board of Supervisors' meeting for he same information, incorporating by reference all requests made to date related to this topic.

I did because this looked like stonewalling, raising the attorney client privilege just as Richard Nixon became famous for doing in hiding massive crimes in the Watergate scandal. The County Counsel responded with a thoughtful three-page letter, including copies of responses given to some of those requests to date.

The excuses, or reasons, for not producing the records boil down to two: [1] the public interest exemption and [2] attorney client or attorney client work product privilege exemption. How those exemptions apply here were naturally not detailed for to do so might likely give away what is being withheld. If the information is not damaging, to any person, to the county, or to both, why not release the information?

Joe Harn says that all those things said in a series of grand jury reports about this topic are simply not true. So why not release all of these records and clear his name? It unfair to him not to release the records, to reveal all of the facts.A. Why not?

One possible reason is that it is a common practice for those paying settlements to solve pesky problems, like potential lawsuits, to do so on the condition that the amount of money paid out not be publically disclosed. Why? Well, let’s say, for example, that a party -- like a business or a county -- paid out $250,000 to settle a harassment complaint.

Those paying would not want that figure to be known because if it was followed by another complaint of that kind, the complaining person would get an idea about how much the potential defendant would be willing to pay. In addition, large payouts could encourage a rash of meritless claims. Ok, but is that the reason here? We don’t know.

A second common reason is that settlements sometimes include Non-Disclosure Agreements to hide things a party would not made public. It was hard after decades of horrible, despicable behavior to expose the Harvey Weinstein scandal and prevent more years of abuse because of those nasty NDA’s that allowed it to go unabated tragically so long. Weinstein example may not be typical necessarily but is used as an illustration because it is probably the best known example of NDA's that the #MeToo movement has made famous. Well, have Non-Disclosure Agreements been used by the County regarding these issues? We don’t know. We should not have to speculate, it’s not fair to Joe. He has unfairly been under a cloud with these rumors for years. And covering up the facts is certainly not in the interest of us votes, is it?

Kirk Callan Smith, 5-23-2018.


Gary Coverdale: "There’s so many illegal things Joe has hidden in his closet...all true! I’ve seen many with my own eyes being the Assistant ?IT Director at one time. He went after me! He’s paid off many women! He’s alterered hiring documents (still have the proof locked away at my attorneys). He is the ultimate political bully! He is scum!"

Jeff Miller: "Kirk Callan Smith...Though there are probably cases out there that fit the criteria you noted above, there is a third truth.. Most of the individuals that have gone out on stress, left the County government, filed complaints ,etc.and have not filed a complaint against Harn for fear of retaliation and the almost 100% possibility of losing. They have the option to file a complaint, but Instead they go out on stress and share their reasons with their doctor or counselor."

Kirk Callan Smith: "I don't want to speculate about the rumors but I do want facts. If you do as well you can ask each supervisor to see to it that all of the requested records are made public, You could also ask them - How can keeping information from voters that they need at this time possibly be in the public interest? You can ask them all to free Joe Harn, clear his name, release the records."