Suspended UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi has refused to turn over her university-issued cellphone, iPad and laptop to the UC Office of the President for use in its investigation of her conduct.
UC officials have contacted Katehi and her representatives several times a week to ask the chancellor to surrender the electronics as part of its investigation into allegations that she misused student funds, favored relatives in her employ and misstated her role in the hiring of consultants to scrub her image and the school’s online.
“This is standard in every investigation,” said Dianne Klein, spokeswoman for the University of California.
Katehi spokesman Larry Kamer said the chancellor isn’t turning over the equipment because it could contain communications legally deemed privileged. “If the Office of the President is trying to deny her right to private and confidential communications, they are in for a major fight from us,” he said.
Katehi, who has been on paid administrative leave since April 27, has denied any wrongdoing and is fighting her suspension by UC President Janet Napolitano. Findings from an investigation into Katehi’s actions by former U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag are expected to be delivered to Napolitano by Aug. 1.
The chancellor will hold onto the equipment until the university agrees to let her remove emails, texts and other messages she and her advisers deem privileged, Kamer said. The messages in the “privilege log” could include those from her lawyer, doctor, medical provider, priest or husband, he said. The messages are cataloged in case they need to be reviewed and ruled on by a judge.
Kamer said the creation of a privilege log is standard procedure in investigations.
Katehi is willing to use a third party to oversee the process but isn’t willing to let the university’s staff decide what is privileged and what is not, Kamer said.
UC officials said Katehi asked to choose the vendor that would decide which messages are privileged. “They would hire the person to take out what they want to take out and give it back to us, and that is not acceptable, nor is it in any way independent,” Klein said.
Instead, university officials want the chancellor to pick from two vendors of their choice. “They can give email and phone numbers to the vendor that reflect privileged information, and that information would be segregated out,” Klein said.
On Monday, Klein said that Katehi’s attorney Melinda Guzman turned over the chancellor’s desktop computer, but not her phone and iPad.
“We have done everything we can to accommodate their concerns, and they have not cooperated and allowed us to access devices owned by the university,” Klein said. “This is not a criminal investigation. We aren’t going into her personal cellphone or getting a search warrant.”
Representatives for Katehi and the university system also seem to have widely differing opinions about UC policy or what they perceive as the lack of it. Kamer said the university lacks a policy to guide how investigations are conducted, as well as a policy on UC’s electronic property.
Klein said there are policies for both. “If allegations are made, we have a whole department that looks at ethics, compliance and audits,” she said. “They look at the allegations to see if they merit further investigation. If they do, there are whole policies about how the investigations are conducted. It can be done here in (the Office of the President) or with outside investigators, which we routinely hire.”
Klein provided a copy of the “Electronic Communications Policy,” which says that the privacy of electronic communications at the university is limited by policies that require employees to comply with management requests for university records in their possession, among other things.
Katehi, who has refused to meet with investigators in the past, has scheduled a meeting at the end of the month.
The tug-of-war over the phones, tablets and computers is the latest battle between Katehi and the UC Office of the President. The dissension, which started when Katehi was put on leave April 27, has become even more public in recent weeks with the hiring of Oakland-based consultant Kamer and Sacramento attorney Guzman, who have started a media campaign in defense of the chancellor.
The duo held a news conference two weeks ago to call for the end to the investigation, which they called “hopelessly compromised” and lacking in due process because lead investigator Haag oversaw some court cases involving the U.S. Department of Homeland Security when Napolitano ran the agency. They also said Haag’s firm, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, has handled hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of UC business.
“I don’t want to nor would I comment on the content of the investigation, but when misstatements are publicly announced, I feel we have a duty to say that is not the case,” Klein said. “I’m confused by the motivation of the chancellor’s attorney to litigate this in the media.”
Klein said that Napolitano and the UC Regents have authority to fire Katehi, who works at-will, but opted for an investigation in the interest of transparency. “So, in the interest of fairness, this is why this is happening.”