UCD Investigating Source of Leak of Confidential Report

Pepper-sprayThe Vanguard has learned that UC Davis is investigating the source of the recent leak regarding the status of UC Davis Police Department personnel, to determine if the leak came from the UC Davis side of the equation.

“An investigation of this disclosure has been initiated under our Whistleblower Policy,” Claudia Morain, from the UC Davis News Service told the Vanguard this morning via email. “If such confidential personnel documents are disclosed to the public by anyone other than the individual who is the subject of these documents, such a disclosure would be a violation of University policy and state privacy laws. “

“The Davis campus immediately initiated the review upon learning of the disclosure and referred the investigation to the UC Office of the President,” she added.

Claudia Morain told the Vanguard on Monday that under their practices, the subject of an Internal Investigation (IA) would be allowed to have a copy of the report.  However,  Ms. Morain could not tell the Vanguard if Lt. Pike had received the report, and obviously the university is uncertain at this point about whether he is the source of the leak.

However, Claudia Morain also told the Vanguard that Lt. Pike, as the subject of the IA, would have the right to disclose to a party of his choosing.

A source told the Vanguard that many departments, in fact, give officers copies of their IAs.  It allows them to prepare for any disciplinary hearings and challenges.

Last week, the Sacramento Bee reported receiving confidential documents showing that the internal affairs investigation exonerated Lt. John Pike of wrongdoing for his pepper spraying of students.

However, they also revealed that Chief Matt Carmichael overrode the recommendation of a reduction in rank and suspension and decided to terminate his contract.

The Bee reported that, on April 27, Chief Carmichael informed Lt. Pike of his intention to fire him.

Wrote the Bee: “Carmichael concluded that Pike had assumed the role of de facto commander of the operation ‘but performed it poorly’ and that the ‘manner in which you used the pepper spray showed poor judgment’ given the direction that minimal force was to be used.”

Cruz Reynoso, whose task force reviewed the report written by former LA Police Chief William Bratton and his firm, Kroll, strongly disputed the validity of the findings.

“Based on the newspaper accounts… it appears that the review was superficial and reached an incorrect conclusion that Lt. Pike had acted correctly under the circumstances,” Cruz Reynoso said.

He added, “As the Task Force concluded, the Pepper Spray never should have been utilized under those circumstances.  There was absolutely no danger to the officers and they could have executed their duties in a completely legal proper way without using pepper spray.”

The internal investigation was in part conducted by the Van Dermyden Allison Law Corporation.  This is a firm that specializes in employment law and workplace investigations.

Back in 2011, Sue Ann Van Dermyden cleared UC Davis of wrongdoing in the investigation of cuts to ICA sports teams.  “The investigator concluded that the University did not violate PPM 280-05 in its determination to discontinue 4 of its 27 Intercollegiate Athletic (ICA) sports teams. The investigator specifically found that the University had a rational basis for its decision and that decision did not constitute an abuse of discretion.”

Acting on a tip at that time, the Vanguard found that between 2008 and the end of 2010, Ms. Van Dermyden had conducted at least eight investigations for UC Davis. The payments for the ICA sports investigation had not come in yet, but the previous seven equaled $154,000 of work.

The university actually hired former UC Davis Counsel Deborah Allison, who had joined Ms. Van Dermyden as a partner at Van Dermyden Allison Law Corporation, to do the IA.

However, the expertise of that firm is in employment law and workplace investigations, not police investigations.

To help with that aspect, the university brought in Ed McErlain, characterized as “a senior investigator for Norman A. Traub Associates, which specializes in employment investigations including complaints alleging the use of excessive force by police officers. Mr. McErlain formerly served as a California municipal police Captain, in which capacity he served as the Investigation Division Commander and the Commander of the division managing internal affairs investigations.”

The area of police investigations is fairly small and tight-knit.  The Vanguard asked about the reputation of the Norman Traub firm for carrying out investigations.

The Vanguard‘s source, speaking on conditions of anonymity, told us that while they were unfamiliar specifically with Mr. McErlain, the reputation of the Norman Traub firm is not a particularly strong one.  The impression in the industry is that they are brought in with the idea that they will clear the agency of wrongdoing.

The Vanguard has now confirmed that Vice Chancellor John Meyer was responsible for the hiring of the firm.

“John Meyer retained the law firm. It’s a firm we’ve used in the past, with a lot of expertise in these area,” Claudia Morain told the Vanguard.

Given that John Meyer’s policies were implicated in the Kroll and Reynoso report and that he was transferred away from the command of the police department, the fact that he ordered a law firm noted for exonerating the university of wrongdoing and a law enforcement investigator noted for the same, causes the Vanguard to continue to question the motivations behind the decision to bring in these firms to conduct the IA, and the Vanguard questions the findings of the IA itself.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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