SBCO Seal

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 – 08:30 a.m.

It’s a black-eye for the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, and Sheriff’s Department.

But don’t tell anyone!

That’s been the policy for years in San Bernardino County government.

County officials went to great lengths Tuesday morning to keep secret a million dollar settlement with Travis Bauer, a former sheriff’s deputy, who was fired for using leave under Family Medical leave Act (FMLA) to care for his ill mother.

At approximately 10:30 a.m. yesterday, at the commencement of the public session of a regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Chairwoman Janice Rutherford apologized for the lengthy closed session, that delayed the scheduled 10 a.m. start time. Rutherford continued on, saying there was “no actions to report” out of closed session.

Can you say lie, boys and girls?

County supervisors had just signed-off on a settlement with Bauer, net of legal fees to his attorney. As a part of the “global” settlement, Bauer will not return to his position.

I have to admit this practice, that I’m about to explain, slipped my mind until I was reminded by current and former county officials, last night.

San Bernardino County has the routine practice of settling legal disputes by, 1.) making an offer; 2.) receiving a verbal acceptance; 3.) then approving the settlement offer, and settlement document, in closed session; 4.) having the agreement executed first by the county, 5.) then by the plaintiff.

The ridiculous logic, dreamed-up by county counsel, is that when county supes approve a settlement that hasn’t yet been legally-executed by the other party, or parties, it really isn’t an official settlement, and therefore not publicly reportable.

However, California case law prohibits non-disclosure confidentiality clauses, that prohibit revealing the terms of any settlement. The Bauer settlement, and every other settlement handled in this fashion, is now public record.

It’s time for newspapers to make inquiry into the Bauer settlement, and all other legal payouts of tax dollars, hidden from the public.

So much for that open government transparency.

I keep using the term Banana Republic more and more these days!