Yesterday the Vanguard published an interview with Melinda Guzman, a local attorney representing embattled chancellor Linda Katehi. “The April 27 letter (has) the allegations that supposedly supported this so-called independent and neutral investigation,” she said. “Each instance, we are contesting these allegations.”
Now Dianne Klein, spokesperson for the University of California Office of the President, has responded, telling the Vanguard that, despite delays and what they are calling lack of cooperation on the part of the Linda Katehi and her legal team, the investigation is still due to be completed by August 1.
Last week, Ms. Klein told the media that Linda Katehi was not cooperating with the investigation. Melinda Guzman told the Vanguard that claims of the lack of cooperation on their part “is absolutely incorrect.” She explained their attempts to communicate with UC. She noted they identified two dates for Linda Katehi to be interviewed. “There’s no issue there,” she stated.
She argued that delays have been evident on the part of UC as well, noting again that it should not have taken three weeks to get Chancellor Katehi’s personnel file. There have also been exchanges on the conflict of interest issue that have not been resolved either – and they have not received a response to their most recent letter.
Dianne Klein responded, “What I said previously is correct. We are disappointed that Chancellor Katehi and her counsel have repeatedly said they were unable to meet with investigators.”
She continued, “Likewise, they have not provided investigators with access to the University owned devices — cell phones and iPads — that may well contain information germane to the investigation.”
Ms. Guzman had expressed concern to the Vanguard that these devices contained privileged information.
Ms. Klein continued, “Yesterday I learned that there is now an appointment scheduled between an investigator and the chancellor for the end of the month.”
Contrary to the claims of Ms. Guzman, Ms. Klein stated that Ms. Guzman “has sent several letters on a variety of topics, and all issues have been responded to in writing or by phone.”
However, Melinda Guzman has now responded with documents showing that UC had indeed responded in writing, but not until 5:06 pm on Thursday.
Ms. Guzman expressed to the Vanguard that the letter dated April 27 from President Janet Napolitano to Chancellor Katehi was “unprecedented” and breached her right to confidentiality. “In California, there are rights of privacy,” she stated.
Ms. Klein argues, “The release of the letter, which was in response to media requests, did not violate personnel confidentiality policies” She explained, “As a general matter, when media request University documents that could affect the privacy rights of individuals, California law requires us to balance the public’s interest in the disclosure of records relating to public business against an individual’s interest in non-disclosure.”
She added, “One factor that influences this balance is the nature of an individual’s position. The higher the level of one’s position, the greater likelihood that the balance tips in favor of the public interest in disclosure. In light of the many weeks of media attention arising from Chancellor Katehi’s leadership, UCOP determined that, in this case, the balance favored disclosure when the letter was requested.”
Dianne Klein also sees nothing unusual about the handling of this matter, noting, “It is certainly not unusual that UC undertakes investigations where there are allegations of policy violations.”
Melinda Guzman has argued that the hiring of the Orrick firm and Melinda Haag represented a conflict of interest. She questions whether Ms. Haag and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe are “independent and neutral.” “In this case, because Janet Napolitano, herself, has made herself a witness, and she has basically claimed that Linda Katehi has maybe misrepresented statements to her – she’s a witness.”
“So when the university announced that they have selected an independent and neutral investigator, they should have done what they said they were doing,” she said. Instead, they hired a law firm which has been a partner with them for years and they hired an attorney who has represented Ms. Napolitano when she headed up the Department of Homeland Security.
She clarified that they are not asking to be able to select an investigator agreeable to both sides. “I am asking for fairness and due process,” she said, by selecting someone without a preexisting relationship to the president. She said she wants “a fair investigation of the facts.”
Dianne Klein counters, “There is no conflict.”
She explained, “Melinda Haag, a former U.S. Attorney, is extremely well qualified to lead this investigation with the help of others in the Orrick firm. The Orrick firm does provide legal services to the University in unrelated matters, but Ms. Haag has played no role in any of those engagements and we are confident she will fulfill her obligation to be a fair and independent investigator.”
“Ms. Guzman has also said that Ms. Haag has represented President Napolitano in other matters. As you may be aware, Ms. Haag previously served as a United States Attorney when President Napolitano served as Secretary of Homeland Security,” she continued.
“Often, when a federal agency is sued, the U.S. Attorney will represent that agency in the litigation. Frequently, the head of the agency is listed as the defendant in his or her official capacity. For litigation against the Department of Homeland Security that occurred in the Northern District of California during President Napolitano’s tenure as Secretary, President Napolitano was named as a defendant and Ms. Haag represented the Department as U.S. Attorney, but President Napolitano was not individually represented by Ms. Haag and she was a party in name only.”
She argued, “They know each other casually — having met twice at social events in the Bay Area. They have never had a discussion about legal matters.”
Ms. Klein would add, “Ms. Haag has never represented the University or any UC leaders as individuals.”
As mentioned, the investigation is set to be completed in early August. Ms. Klein said, “When the investigation is complete, a decision will be made about next steps.” She added, “The Regents have been advised of the process regarding Chancellor Katehi before and during the current investigation.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting