Government Law

City's Plan to Waive Attorney-Client Privilege Aggravates Insurer

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Municipal officials in a small town in Washington state apparently thought they were doing the right thing by embracing an open records policy that potentially allowed residents to take a look at privileged documents and those relating to legal negotiations.

Their insurer, however, had a different view. News that members of the Monroe City Council were talking about waiving attorney-client privilege and providing confidential documents to residents prompted a threat from the city’s insurer to cancel its coverage if the council doesn’t reconsider, reports the Seattle Times.

“Cities are in a race to put all their records online and broadcast all of their meetings. That’s common. But disclosing what the city attorney advises his client, particularly if it involves a lawsuit, that’s when I came out of my rocker,” says Lew Leigh, executive director of the Washington Cities Insurance Authority. The WCIA is a risk-sharing group that pools payments from all of the state’s 128 municipalities.

Leigh told the Monroe city attorney that it would consider “immediate member termination” if Monroe went through with its plan to waive attorney-client privilege, the newspaper reports.

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