Vanguard Exclusive Interview with Katehi Attorney Melinda Guzman

Chancellor Linda Katehi in February
Chancellor Linda Katehi in February

On a day in which her client, Linda Katehi, decided to resign as Chancellor but remain on as a tenured faculty member, Attorney Melinda Guzman spoke to the Vanguard on the record about the resignation and the findings of the report.

Ms. Guzman explained that Linda Katehi has been waiting for the investigation report all along.  She said, “It was important to her and her family that the allegations that really relate to her service as a scholar – namely nepotism, conflict of interest issues and financial management – those issues were critical to being resolved in her favor.”

In the view of Ms. Guzman, if you look at the report on these issues, “You will see she has been exonerated.”  On the issue of nepotism, for example, “she properly made disclosures that recused herself from decisions regarding her family.

“The issue regarding the student fee income was never really an issue,” she explained.  “That issue had been resolved in November, 2014, and I believe was added in just simply to call this a whistleblower complaint.”  She noted, “The investigators never asked any questions about that issue to her during her interview.”

Indeed, the report concluded here, “The investigation team identified no policy violations or management concerns related to the use of SASI [Student Activities and Services Initiative] revenues.”

Melinda Guzman explained that, once the report came out and “vindicated her,” Ms. Katehi made the decision with her family to resign as chancellor, and to continue her tenured faculty position in “which she already had vested and assume the role as Chancellor-emeritus where she can continue to do the scholarly work that she does as Engineer and Scientist.”

She would continue to work at UC Davis, where she is a distinguished professor in the College of Engineering.

Melinda Guzman explained, “There is an agreement, but in essence it’s (continuing) her contract rights.  There is no money or anything like that.”  She said that “this was about her integrity and her reputation, this was not about money.”

She was direct when pressed, saying, “There was no severance.  There is no money.  This was about ending the relationship and essentially enforcing her contract with what she had when she came into the position.”

Melinda Guzman then took the Vanguard back to April 27 of this year, where there were three general issues, according to her.  Misuse of student fee income, nepotism, and the social media contracts.

Again, she noted, “The student fee income issue was never an issue.”  She said, “The Chancellor, if you read the report, had no involvement in the line-item budget items involving athletics.  That was an issue that had been resolved in November, 2014, by both the UC Davis campus and UCOP.”  She again argued it was added in to make this a whistleblower complaint.

Then you have the issue of nepotism, she said.  “After April 27, the world was told that Linda (Katehi) had violated nepotism rules and you had all these allegations involving her son, her daughter-in-law’s salary increases…  In essence what you see is that the Chancellor properly signed disclosure forms that recused her and basically created a wall around her in their academic and employment positions and they confirmed that she hadn’t talked to anybody, she hadn’t exercised any influence or anything of that nature.”

The report criticizes Ms. Katehi because the UC President “understood her to mean that there were no issues whatsoever with respect to their employment, which was not entirely accurate.”

Ms. Guzman responded, “I find that to be a difficult criticism because the campus counsel reports both to the UC as well as to the campus, and he was directly involved in those communications.”

“So if you look at the April 27 timeframe,” she said, referring to the letter on April 27 where the President put the Chancellor on paid administrative leave and initiated the investigation, “two of the three issues were really non-issues.”

Ms. Guzman sees the third issue, where the report really did hammer Ms. Katehi, the social media contracts, as being a matter of “miscommunications between Linda Katehi and Janet Napolitano regarding her role in social media contracts.”

Here the report summarizes, “The evidence gathered indicates that Chancellor Katehi minimized her knowledge of and role in certain social media and strategic communications contracts in her discussions with President Napolitano and the media.”

The findings here are that the Chancellor “advised President Napolitano that she had nothing to do with the contracts and that they were all handled by the UC Davis communications. During these conversations, Chancellor Katehi conveyed the clear impression that she knew nothing of the contracts and that she was not involved in them.”

She told similar things to the Sacramento Bee editorial board.

The report finds, “The Chancellor’s statements were misleading, at best, or untruthful, at worst.”

The report summarizes, “In reality, Chancellor Katehi initiated UC Davis’ relationship with Nevins by unilaterally contacting an executive recruiter to find a social media consultant to help repair reputational damage caused by the 2011 pepper spray incident. She approved replacing Nevins with another company, Purple Strategies, which was recommended by the head of Strategic Communications, and when that engagement ended, she directed her Chief of Staff to find another company to continue the work. He in turn identified IDMLOCO, which was ultimately hired.”

It adds, “Although Chancellor Katehi did not negotiate the contracts or oversee the day-to-day work of the consultants, she advocated for or approved the hiring of each company, participated in meetings with each, and was aware of and reviewed their work product from time to time.”

In the view of Melinda Guzman, she counters, “On that issue, the investigators don’t reach a conclusion that she lied.”  She continued, “They do not reach a conclusion that she lied, they say that perhaps it was misleading, or at worst untruthful, but they do not reach a conclusion and they don’t opine on that.”

She notes that “it’s important to remember that there were three contractors, there were multiple contracts, some of which had to do with the SEO [search engine optimization] optimization, some of which had to do with strategic communication for the campus and some had to with the creation of a digital acceleration lab.”

“You have to really segregate out roles and communications and who was doing what,” she explained.  “But at the end of the day, Janet Napolitano is basically saying that Linda Katehi lacked judgment and wasn’t candid with her regarding her role in social media.”

In Ms. Guzman’s view, Ms. Napolitano “ignores the nepotism finding and (is) essentially interpreting things the way she would like.”  Guzman concludes, “She was not involved in anything inappropriate with regards to those material issues and that is why she is vindicated in that report.”

The Vanguard asked Ms. Guzman if the Chancellor regrets anything that has occurred.  Ms. Guzman focused on the positive aspects of Chancellor Katehi’s legacy, starting with her role as fundraiser and the $1.1 billion she claims to have raised for the campus.

“She had the vision,” Melinda Guzman explained, “the correct vision of trying to promote the creation of the digital acceleration lab.  The ideas that she was bringing with the regards to the social media contracts were visionary and appropriate for the university.”

“What happened here is that there were so many people involved and, quite frankly, so few communications between Napolitano and Katehi that have been misconstrued to create improper suggestions,” she said.

“Does she regret the ideas and the visions and the creation of programs and the vision for the campus?  No,” she said.  “She enjoys a lot of the support from the faculty.  Perhaps one day she and Napolitano will reach a meeting of the minds with regards to the miscommunication, but in terms of her vision for the campus and the exciting programs in the sciences and the STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] programs that she brought to campus, she has no regrets.”

The Vanguard pressed Ms. Guzman about whether the Chancellor believes she has made any mistakes in this process.

Melinda Guzman responded that she has acknowledged some of them publicly already.  For example, with regard to the DeVry board, she submitted the paperwork in January of 2016 for Napolitano’s office to review, but “the DeVry entity made the announcement before she had been approved by the Office of the President.  That was clearly a mistake.  She has acknowledged that.  She has apologized for that.”

But the report went further, criticizing not only the timing of the press release, but also the fact that “Chancellor Katehi told President Napolitano that she had not yet begun her service on the DeVry board, which was untrue. Chancellor Katehi had already attended two events related to her board service—an orientation for new board members at DeVry’s headquarters near Chicago and a board meeting in Florida just two weeks before her conversation with President Napolitano.”

“Everyone will consider whether their communications could have been clearer with regards to all of these issues,” Melinda Guzman told the Vanguard.  “She can reflect now on her communications with the President and hopefully the President can do the same.  So there will be lessons learned for everyone.”

When asked if she believes Chancellor Katehi was railroaded in this process, she responded that, in her own view, “things should have been handled differently on April 27.”

“Had the President simply wanted to remove her, she should have had a candid conversation for her, given her a reasonable opportunity to transition out as past chancellors have been given,” she responded.  “That’s not what happened here.  In fact, I think it’s outrageous what we saw on April 27.”

—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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  1. Tia Will

    There is no money or anything like that.”  She said “this was about her integrity and her reputation, this was not about money.”

    I would find this more believable had she not chosen to delay releasing the stock profits that she promised for establishment of a student fund pending results of this investigation. That would seem to me to be 100% about the money.


    1. Davis Progressive

      i think you’re missing a key point here: everyone was assuming her actions were about a settlement agreement.  from the claims of the attorney, it is now clear that she wasn’t seeking that.  the stock issue i think was separate and an effort to maintain control of where her donation would give the most bang for the buck.

      1. Misanthrop

        This was a monetary settlement of sorts. Instead of resigning immediately and getting nothing she gets to remain as emeritus chancellor and a distinguished faculty, a six figure position I am sure. I wonder if UC agreed to pick up Katehi’s legal fees. Also will she start collecting her pension while working as an emeritus. There are plenty of money questions that are left unanswered so it is doubtful that money had nothing to do with the resolution of her situation.

      2. hpierce

        If she was not expecting a ‘Settlement’, it looks like a “gift of public funds” is about to take place… never heard of a UC Chancellor getting a paid “sabbatical”…

  2. ryankelly

    I think her search for and acceptance of Board positions was certainly driven by money.  This is different than, say, the wine industry appealing to scientists at UCD to help resolve an infestation that puts the entire wine industry at risk of failure.  The Board positions, with its assumed fiduciary responsibility to the for-profit company, were in direct conflict, and in competition with, the mission of UCD.

    Research and money is a complex issue.  When is expertise valued and encouraged, and when does it appear like it is offered for personal greed?

    Honesty and integrity is a huge part of research and academia.  Why misdirect or lie about something unless you know that it was wrong?  If she had been more honest and forthright about her actions, she would have been bullet-proof.   “I did this, because I felt that it was important to improve UCD’s image” sounds much better than, “I didn’t have anything to do with that (mistake).”

  3. Davis Progressive

    reading her explanation, i think a lot of it makes sense.  much of what this was about – she was cleared on.  no inappropriate use of money (huge issue).  no finding of improper handling of her relatives’ employment.  we knew about the devry issue.  the one big one that she got rightly hammered on was the social media contracts – she clearly lied to the public and the media there.  does that warrant resignation?  she was at-will, so i suppose she had little choice.

      1. Marina Kalugin

        there is no evidence that she ever lied….there is only the Napo’s statement….again, who would you believe??///

        she stood up to the Napo on several prior occasions….and she wouldn’t cow down on this injustice…..again, look at the records, and the history and so on….and decide, who would you believe….

        As a manager, I have always had a knack to see who was lying and who wasn’t……if the Napo’s mouth is moving, and especially if she is trying to show how caring she is, then she is lying…

        the Chancellor is honest to a fault,   taking responsibility even when she did no wrong…sometimes on the advice of highly paid, yet incompetent UCD attorneys,,,,

        I have worked with many UCD attorneys, and I can say that on personal experience.

        she was saying she was sorry, when she had good intentions…and then many here would say, “see she admitted it”…

        I am sorry all the time,   I use that term all the time,   I use it with people who don’t understand their role i whatever happened, ….sometimes it is just easier….say sorry, move on to better things.

        does it really matter, sometimes, who was “right” or “wrong”……as a woman, we often concede to the man…..the man has a more difficult time admitting he was wrong…

        1. David Greenwald

          “there is no evidence that she ever lied….there is only the Napo’s statement….again, who would you believe??”

          You didn’t read the report? Napolitano didn’t write it. Even Melinda Guzman in attempting to recast the findings on the social media contracts conceded the phrasing of the report. Your comment simply does not square with the findings in the report which were undisputed by Melinda.

        2. hpierce

          as a woman, we often concede to the man…..the man has a more difficult time admitting he was wrong…

          Weird, and a bit sexist and generalist…  unless you are an ardent believer that:

          Rule 1 : the man is never right

          Rule 2: the woman is always right.

          In this case, seems to be that two women are the protagonists…  how is a man involved?

          Happy retirement!

    1. hpierce

      An “at will” employee generally is separated from service, with no additional compensation… except by contract… perhaps the DV should do a PRA on that contract?

      Not likely… there are Davis City “at-will” contracts that have not been shown on the city’s website, nor requested by the DV, despite several requests to David to do so…

      1. SODA

        Interesting additional coverage by Enterprise on Katehi wanting then not pleading her case before the Regents Thursday apparently because of the timing of the release of the report and a  ‘scathing’ letter from Napolitano. Apparently there will be a PRA request for the letter?

        Additionally DE had a strong editorial in Friday’s paper very critical of Katehi and the spin her team gave the entire resolution. I was surprised how strong and final the op-Ed was.

        1. Marina Kalugin

          And, that only shows the bias of the DE….they didn’t even see the 15 page “letter” the Napo sent to the Regents

          The DV has not seen the “letter” either.

          How much anyone want to bet it was the Napo’s last ditch effort to smear the Chancellor?

          And, since she went on for 15 pages, I would bet it is quite some hatchet job..

          We will seee..

          Since the 106 page report by the “investigators” didn’t do it well enough, I am sure….. otherwise the Chancellor wouldn’t have still been planning to “go plead to the Regents”….

          And, since the Napo was not convinced that the Regent’s wouldn’t see through the Napo and would exonerate the Chancellor….


          some of all of this is the “way” more I was alluding to as those on the idiot side of the fence were still not seeing the forest for the trees….

          and, that is all I plan to say at the moment…

          once we see the 15 page letter the Napo wrote to the Regents, then more will be obvious…

          and, then I do hope the Chancellor goes for blood and money..

          lots of money…

          as that will be even more defamation of character…

  4. Miwok

    U C D = University of Coverups at Davis.

    Ms Guzman will have quite a future lying for future clients. I’m sorry, obfuscating.. Working soon for a Campaign near you.

    Thirty years after I have seen it once, I have seen it many times..

  5. Marina Kalugin

    I am sorry that happened to you….thirty years is a long time to hold a grudge and to throw good people under a bus, simply because they now work for UCD>>>>

    I have no idea the competence of attorney Guzman….

    I do know the Chancellor decided to step away…though she was exonerated, and now she could continue her research in peace..

    For those who may still not get it,   Linda Katehi continued to do very high level research, obtained tons of funding, and continued to get new patents, even while she was working 24/7 as Chancellor….

    Those who think they are “faculty” at a lesser institution in the area, who do not have research responsibilities as part of their duties,  and/or do not have to obtain funds for their research etc…..truly cannot comprehend what it takes to survive as a faculty member these days……much less survive, while also holding the nonstop stress job of Chancellor.

    I am happy that Linda Katehi is getting the break from the constant scrutiny and potshots….I can only imagine how trying that was for so many days, weeks and months.


    1. David Greenwald

      “I do know the Chancellor decided to step away…though she was exonerated”

      She wasn’t exonerated on everything. She was hammered on the social media contracts – even Melinda Guzman concedes that. She was exonerated on somethings.

    2. David Greenwald

      “I have no idea the competence of attorney Guzman….”

      Then maybe you shouldn’t talk about it. I think Melinda did a great job for Linda Katehi – she is articulate, well spoken, she made strong points which were backed up by evidence.

      1. Marina Kalugin

        the attorney also made some missteps and shared some inaccuracies….in that long interview a few weeks ago, she actually misquoted some UC policy and such…….

        UC policies change quite a bit, and especially in more recent years, and truly there are volumes and volumes and mounds of those things… thus, it is not surprising that could happen…

        and, not that it truly mattered in the scheme of things, but that also wasn’t helpful…as those were later somehow brought up here on the DV….

        If I had not observed that myself, I wouldn’t bring it up

        This statement is also backed up by evidence….


  6. Marina Kalugin

    I know much more about this all and do I care what lies are in an “official report”…

    police reports are full of lies…

    I didn’t have the time nor the wifi capability yesterday to waste any more time on “official reports”

    I saw the “official reports” for 9/11   – I also saw clear signs of a “timed demolition”…

    I know that you are friends with Melinda  – I know she is a good person….- I know that it was never about money for Linda Katehi.

    I know who Napolitano is..

    I don’t care to hash out any longer who said what, when, or how to whom….

    This is done…and now there is other work to do…

    Enough said…


    1. David Greenwald

      Excuse me but I have had enough of this. You don’t know “much more about this.” You were not in these meetings, there are documents to back up the conclusions reached in the report and they were not disputed by her counsel or her representatives. If additional information existed, it would have come out either in the report, in Linda Katehi’s letter, or in Melinda Guzman’s interview.

      “I know that you are friends with Melinda” – This is a good example of how much you don’t know. I had never met Melinda until June, and I have never met her in person. To say we are friends is false. You are making statements that are completely unsupportable and it is frankly irresponsible of you. You personally disparage and attack people on this site and your opinions are rarely substantiated except through fringe quasi-conspiratorial means. The evidence is in. Katehi was exonerated on some points, but not all.

      1. Marina Kalugin

        gosh David, since Melinda is a FB friend…I thought you were friends….

        and since you are both attorneys in the area and so many other reasons….mea culpa…

        unfortunately,  my many life experiences have colored how I think and feel…

        please see my other posts of this early morning and it may or may not be clear just what I was getting at….

        and, I have been disparaged and attacked way more than I have ever attacked a soul…either on the DV or elsewhere…

        many of the outright, or veiled, attacks against me still stand on the threads which I found most dear to me…

        I typically do not even attack a person…just what nonsense they are saying..

        that is often lost…  and when someone is feeling slightly guilty over something, they take offense even if none is meant….

        I am going to try to stay off this group much….I truly let some things slide in recent days….

        I now have some friends who are monitoring, who will keep me abreast if there is any real news…

        1. David Greenwald

          A few things in response.

          First, I’m not an attorney.

          Second, I use Facebook and other social media to connect with people who I have a professional relationship with.

          Third, again, I don’t think your opinion is supported by the facts here. I don’t think you have information that others lack other than perhaps some personal conversations. There are documents, there meetings, and the report is very thorough.

        2. Marina Kalugin

          again, my mistake,   I thought you were an attorney or graduated law school or some such…again, mea culpa…

          as for the rest, that is also only your opinion….and we can agree to disagree …as I often do when it is not time to release docs on a public forum…

          in an attempt to share reality on some things, I have shared way too much already…

          I no longer care what others think of me…and I may have shown some lapses in sharing too much..

          not because it was not the truth, but because it wasn’t something others could experience…or the timing wasn’t correct yet….or it was not fair to the other person, who may have wanted something to stay private

          again, mea culpa and I hope that all here have an enjoyable day…

  7. Biddlin

    “Then maybe you shouldn’t talk about it.”

    ” You are making statements that are completely unsupportable and it is frankly irresponsible of you. You personally disparage and attack people on this site and your opinions are rarely substantiated except through fringe quasi-conspiratorial means.”


  8. Jerry Waszczuk

    Good Morning Mr. Greenwald

    I think that you are a getting little too harsh on Marina. It is lot more in this case than reports and meetings If Chancellor Katehi would not have her family working in the UC Davis than it would be  a completely different outcome of this witch hunt  Put yourself into Katehi shoes with  your kids and husband working in the campus .  As you know from the Keyzer’s case and I know many other cases including myself that it is a customary for the UC lawyers to attack family members of the accused of wrongdoing employees or whistle blowers.   I have many reports written by the UC hired lawyers and I negotiated myself to settle the cases with UC , with PG&E with Dynegy , with lawyer who double crossed me. I won two cases myself in the court of  appeal . The cases  restored overtime law for all California workers working on alternative work schedule in power plants.  I have pending another two  cases aganst UC then I know a little more how it is works.  I have thousands of documents to deal with . I have the case against 23 lawyers pending in the California State Bar and it will go to Supreme Court. Many of these folks are linked to Chancellor Katehi cases especially Steven Drown , Charles Robinson and new UCD Campus Counsel Jacob Applesmith.

    I am not sure if you know that simultaneously to Melinda Haag’s preparation for the lawsuit(investigation) the other investigation was or still is going in the UCOP Sheryl Vacca’s against Katehi  and you should direct your attention there. You should submit PRA to UC General Counsel office and try get some different information on your own instead on relying on Melinda Guzman or Larry Kamer.  Transparency my friend.  Get this Yolo leaks working.  Just submit the PRA request and we will see how the UC will resist too give you anything. You should start with UCD PRA office and ask for all the copies of contracts which were signed by Deborah Fraga -Decker and her boss between 2000 and the present time in realtion to Katehi’s case.   Fraga-Decker’s  boss works for UCD since 2002. Talk to him .  His name is Mike Allred.(Asociate Vice Chancellor who testified in Katehi’s case)   I have three copies of  the contracts signed by Fraga-Decker . One is legitimate and two are multi million dollars fraud exceeding beyond imagination the total value of contracts which were used against Katehi as her alleged missteps.  The two illegal contracts exceed signed

    This what you see now is the escape deal for Napolitano and temporary protective measure for Katehi family and herself. . Katehi did not do anything illegal and this is a bottom line of this The language about Chancellor’s “guilty or not guilty’ is a legal “mambo-jambo” song without any meaning because Chancellor is still UC Davis employee with full pay.  

    [moderator] edited




    1. Davis Progressive

      not following your point here.  they exonerated katehi on the nepotism point, they didn’t exonerate her for lying about the social media contracts.  you and marina are engaging in dissembling, but you’re not actually saying anything.

      1. Jerry Waszczuk

        Davis Progressive

        Because is not much to say about .  She is protecting her family for now and she gave up her position . Other  garbage like nepotism allegation used to single  Chancellor  out did not work  as Napolitano and other witch hunters anticipated . You have to understand that the  witch hunt action was  ill crafted  not to leave  Katehi  with professor position in UC  Davis but to destroy entirely her and her family .  Napolitano from the beginning of witch was going after Katehi’s  family as well.   The report is  a garbage and it is a only  a delay to attack Chancellor again if she will not move out with her family outside the UC Davis on her own . You no need  to be the UC  Davis  Dr. Martin Luther King Hall  J.D educated  to figure this out t  You guys are chatting on DV  to have fun on victimized UC Davis Chancellor expenses and apparently many of you have pleasure to see other  people being hunted like a wounded animals . Not me .

        1. Davis Progressive

          no, you have this wrong.  this was not a witch hunt, all you have to do is follow the chain of events.  the original devry and wiley stuff comes out and she backs katehi publicly.  when did it change?  in april when the pepper spray stuff comes out.  katehi lies to her about her involvement, documents quickly surface debunking that.  she asks her to resign on april 25.  katehi refuses.  she puts her on leave on the 27th and then at that point and only at that point does the witch hunt start.

          i think the vanguard was very fair in its coverage here.  but the point where the chancellor lost her job was not in protecting her family but in lying to the president.  it’s clear in the report and clear here.  i take no pleasure in this, in fact, i was hoping she could keep her job.  but when i read this stuff that you and marina are pumping out – it’s drivel.  it is not fact based.

      2. Jerry Waszczuk

        Davis Progressive

        This what you like to believe . I don’t have problem with . You just of many who goes with the flow . That it . I don’t see that you are progressive as your nickname implied .

    2. Jerry Waszczuk

      Davis Progressive

      You don’t have any date and evidence . You are just mains stream believer because it is convenient for you . Not me . I  have the  evidences  that it was  a nasty witch hunt to destroy Chancellor  .  Believe what you like to believe . I no need to agree with with you and vice versa.

  9. Marina Kalugin

    ha ha….. I didn’t have “time” to read the rest of this until this morning….ha ha

    we will see who is right….

    and, of course, the man is never right and the man always cares more about being right…

    and, in this case it is the Napo who cared more….is she a man??? ?   who knows….she sure acts like a guy…

    jeez folks…


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