Known For His Loyalty To The Board of Supervisors, County Counsel Basle To Retire

San Bernardino County Counsel Jean-Rene Basle, who has been San Bernardino County’s top in-house attorney since 2010, has announced his plans to retire upon the board of supervisors naming his replacement.
Basle, who has been practicing law in California since 1988 when he passed the California Bar exam, began with the office of San Bernardino County Counsel the following year. He will be 59 in December.
Basle said, “It has been an honor working for the board of supervisors, the administrative office, and the various county departments, and a privilege to have worked alongside county counsel staff, all of whom are exceptionally professional, talented, and dedicated to serving the elected representatives of San Bernardino County.”
Basle replaced Ruth Stringer as county counsel in October 2010, two weeks after members of the board of supervisors learned that she had reported to the district attorney’s office confidential information she had picked up during closed session discussions of the board of supervisors. Stringer’s action, taken without prior direction from or a vote by the board of supervisors, touched off an internal board discussion about the propriety of what Stringer had done and whether it violated attorney-client privilege.
Stringer sought to justify her action by claiming that as an officer of the court she was compelled to report malfeasance upon learning of it, irrespective of her position as the legal representative of the board of supervisors.
Former supervisor Bill Postmus had been criminally charged with multiple counts of political corruption in February 2010, including conspiracy, bribery, misappropriation of public funds, fraud, perjury and conflict of interest. In March 2011 he pleaded guilty to all of those charges.
Stringer’s dilemma was a classic one for attorneys: Should she remain loyal to her client(s), even in the face of knowing that her client(s) were violating the law and that by remaining loyal she would very likely be assisting one or more of them in perpetuating further wrongdoing? As a public attorney, Stringer’s dilemma ran deeper. Just who was or were her client(s)? Were her clients the elected members of the board of supervisors? Or were her clients the voters who had elected the board of supervisors? In her decision to cooperate with the district attorney’s office, Stringer made a tacit decision to be loyal to the voters rather than those the voters elected. This did not sit well with some of the members of the board of supervisors.
With several members of the board having lost confidence in Stringer and at least one of its members contemplating filing a complaint for breach of privilege with the state bar against her, then-county executive officer Greg Devereaux worked out a deal under which the county conferred on her one year’s severance pay and she agreed to leave the county’s employ.
The board elevated Basle to take Stringer’s place. Stringer’s experience was an object lesson for Basle. Whereas Stringer was of the philosophy that she represented the people of San Bernardino County, Basle took the opposite approach, proceeding on the premise that his clients were the board of supervisors, that his first loyalty was to them and that whenever the board of supervisors had a conflict with any other entity or interest, be it governmental, corporate or the citizens the board represented, he was to do the board’s bidding and rely upon their wisdom and enable them to engage in whatever action they deemed appropriate in accordance with that wisdom. Throughout his tenure, Basle showed remarkable loyalty to the board. When questions arose over the legality and propriety of the board’s policy of hiring elected officials representing governmental entities within a given board member’s respective district, Basle did nothing to prevent the practice. Similarly, Basle made no effort to countermand or question the board’s policy of allowing a single personage to serve as the county’s treasurer, tax collector, auditor and controller.
Basle was given high marks by the members of the board. He was roundly praised by supervisors Robert Lovingood, the board chairman; Josie Gonzales, a past chairwoman; and Janice Rutherford, also a past board chairwoman.

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