Representatives of suspended UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi called a news conference Friday to demand that the university system suspend its investigation into her conduct, calling the probe “hopelessly compromised” and lacking in due process.
Katehi’s claims were promptly rejected by UC President Janet Napolitano’s office, which said Katehi is not cooperating with its investigators.
“We are disappointed and confused by this behavior,” said Dianne Klein, spokeswoman for the UC system. “It does not advance the truth. We hope to conclude this investigation with the cooperation of the chancellor.”
“We have asked them repeatedly – 11 times – and there is no indication they are going to cooperate,” Klein said. “We certainly hope they do.”
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Katehi’s attorney Melinda Guzman and newly hired spokesman Larry Kamer told reporters Friday that the lead investigator, Melinda Haag, a former U.S. attorney from San Francisco, worked for Napolitano when the UC president was U.S. secretary of homeland security. They also said Haag’s firm, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, has handled hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of UC business.
The investigation, Guzman said, has to start over. “We welcome a fair and complete investigation, and it isn’t going to happen with this law firm.”
Klein scoffed at the claims, saying that Haag has never represented Napolitano personally and that the firm is one of more than 200 that work for the UC system. “There is no conflict of interest,” she said. “ ... We have retained Orrick on very narrow issues dealing with bonds. Never on investigatory matters.”
Klein said that the pair have met twice at social events and have never discussed legal issues. “She and the firm were chosen was because of her superior investigatory skills,” Klein said.
Guzman told reporters she filed a complaint about the hiring of Haag the day after the appointment was made and that Katehi has filed a grievance with the University of California, which is often considered a precursor to a lawsuit.
“It is not her first choice or mine to sue my alma mater,” said Guzman, an UC Davis alumna. “She has been unfairly treated and we won’t hesitate to enforce her rights.”
Klein confirmed that Guzman had sent a letter to the university system, but said it had not been served with a lawsuit.
Katehi has kept a low profile since April 27, when she was abruptly placed on administrative leave by Napolitano amid allegations of the misuse of student funds, nepotism and misstatements about her role in the hiring of consultants to scrub her image and the school’s online.
She wasn’t at Friday’s news conference because she has been directed by the Office of the President not to speak to the media during the investigation, Kamer said. He said there are plans to make Katehi available to the press soon to tell her side of the story.
The news conference was called shortly after Guzman hired Kamer, a veteran public affairs strategist. His website features a quote from Corporate Legal Times saying: “Larry Kamer can stop any rumor.”
Guzman said Katehi welcomes an investigation but wants a different lead investigator. “Chancellor Katehi loves this university and she loves the academy and she wants a fair and impartial investigation.”
Klein said Katehi has asked for an mutually agreed-upon investigator. “I’m not aware of protocol that allows those being investigated to choose their own investigator,” she said.