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WAS THE GARCIA INVESTIGATION ‘RIGGED’ FROM THE VERY BEGINNING?

Some say the Assembly move was calculated, retaining a lawyer for the investigation created attorney-client privilege so the investigation documents can never be revealed.

BY BRIAN HEWS
Tuesday May 22, 2018 10:05 a.m.

This past week the Assembly Rules Committee ended its investigation of sexual harassment and other complaints against Assembly-woman Cristina Garcia.

The investigation was conducted by outside counsel Vida Thomas of Stoel Rives, LLP, who was retained by the Assembly.

In the end, the Thomas investigation could not “substantiate” the explicit sexual harassment allegations even after they interviewed Cerritos resident Daniel Fierro, who filed the complaint against Garcia.

Fierro told HMG-CN, “They interviewed me but they failed to interview another witness who would have corroborated my story, makes me wonder what their methodology was, it certainly was not transparent.”

That failure to interview other witnesses carried into another part of the Thomas investigation.

Thomas substantiated three lesser charges that were part of a larger set of extremely explicit accusations levelled by former Garcia staffers who had retained San Diego based attorney Dan Gilleon.

But Thomas did not interview four critical witnesses because Gilleon wanted a second independent investigator chosen by him to assist Thomas.

Without interviews, the Thomas investigation substantiated the lesser charges finding that Garcia “commonly and pervasively used vulgar language around staff; that Garcia has used staff in the past to perform personal services; and that Garcia has disparaged other elected officials.”

The findings drew a strong rebuke from Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.

But Thomas did not address the larger set of more serious allegations by Gilleon’s clients.

Gilleon had the same negative view about the Thomas investigation that Fierro had declaring, “garbage in, garbage out.”

The serious allegations against Garcia included alcohol and drinking in Garcia’s Assembly office, pressuring staff to join her in drinking alcoholic beverages, harassing staff, ordering staff to perform campaign activities in the Assembly office including fundraising and donation request calls, retaliation, and bragging about having sex in her office with other elected officials.

Sources are telling HMG-CN that the allegations of Garcia bragging about having sex in her office could implicate “other married elected officials from Central California” and is the reason why the inquiry ended so abruptly.

Blamed the Attorney

A letter signed by Debra Gravert, Chief Administrative Officer for the Rules Committee, placed the blame of the investigation’s lack of interviewing key witnesses squarely on Gilleon’s shoulders.

“You advised your clients not to participate or cooperate with Ms. Thomas’ investigation…even though this option was offered. Notwithstanding this limitation, Ms. Thomas endeavored to discover the validity of all your client’s complaints.”

“That’s not quite true, an angry Gilleon told HMG-CN, “I tried to negotiate and they kept saying no, I was protecting my clients from retaliation, they did not want to be interviewed by an investigator chosen by the Assembly. With the Assembly’s choice of an attorney as an investigator it created attorney-client privilege, and the fact the statute of limitations had run out, this was a charade from the beginning.”

Gilleon then produced emails between him, Ms. Thomas, and John Kennedy of Nossaman, LLP with Gilleon trying to get an additional investigator appointed.

In a Feb 21, 2018 email to Vida Thomas, Gilleon expressed his concern that the Assembly retained her, “my clients are willing to meet with you but I am skeptical of any investigation paid for by an employer who has an interest in the outcome of that investigation.”

Gilleon demanded a second independent investigator, “please confirm the State’s willingness to retain a second investigator to work with you, at which time I will provide you a name of our proposed investigators.”

Those investigators, according to Gilleon, would not have attorney-client privilege.

Gilleon sent a follow-up email one week later and included three investigators that Thomas could choose from.

Twelve days later, on Mar. 12, Gilleon received a letter from Nossaman attorney John Kennedy denying Gilleon’s demand for a second investigator.

In the letter Kennedy stated, “please send all future correspondence about this matter to me, however if your clients decide to be interviewed by Ms. Thomas, please schedule with her.”

Kennedy gave Gilleon fourteen days for his clients to respond in writing to Thomas.

Gilleon subsequently questioned Kennedy and his assertion that Thomas was independent.

“Ms. Thomas, and now you, have emphasized her role as an ‘independent’ investigator, which seems inconsistent with your apparent order to me not to communicate with her except for scheduling purposes.”

Gilleon continued making his case that Thomas was not independent, “your letter, cc’d to Ms. Thomas, reeks of gamesmanship and intimidation, and has opened a whole new can of worms labeled ‘Conflicts of Interest.’ It has only solidified my insistence that another investigator be retained to help keep an eye on the Assembly’s influence over this purported ‘independent’ investigation.”

On March 16 Kennedy answered Gilleon and confirmed that Thomas was retained by the Assembly and an attorney-client privilege existed.

“That’s what I thought, said Gilleon, the Assembly has an attorney-client privilege with an ‘independent’ investigator, we’ll pass on that charade.”

The two parties could not come together, the fourteen-day window expired and Gilleon’s clients were never interviewed.

Gilleon subsequently sent an email on April 25 to Thomas, “please provide an update on whether you intend to interview any of my clients, including David Kernick.”

Thomas forwarded the email to Tosha Cherry, Humans Resource Director of the Assembly writing, “as you can see from the email I received from Gilleon below he is now apparently willing to let me interview his clients. I have not responded to his email. Do you have time to talk today?”

One day later, Gilleon received a lengthy email from Kennedy indicating the investigation had concluded.

“Take a look,” Gilleon wrote, “I had not heard from the investigator (Thomas). I emailed her on 4/25, she did not reply. Instead the Assembly’s attorney (Kennedy) responded the next day saying the investigation was complete.”

Gilleon heard nothing until Gravert sent her May 17 letter that blamed Gilleon.

Gilleon fired off an email to Gravert, with a copy to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Rules Committee Chair Kevin Cooley.

“You received (and have re-stated) false information that allegedly I advised my clients not to cooperate with Ms. Vida’s (Thomas) investigation. Wrong. I assume you obtained this false information from the attorney you hired (Kennedy) that repeated the same lie to me every time he had the chance.”

Gilleon continued, “the record is clear that my clients were, and are, willing to cooperate as long as the Assembly is willing to take the most basic and simple steps to ensure the investigation is fair and no retaliation is permitted.”

Gilleon finished accusing the Assembly attorney of malfeasance, “I made this offer very clear to your attorney, but all I got and response from him was arrogance, lies, and disregard if not contempt for fairness, truth, and integrity.”

Some say the Assembly’s decision to hire a lawyer to investigate was a calculated move given the fact that the statute of limitations had run out on both Fierro and Gilleon’s clients.

Since the statute of limitations had run out, the Thomas investigation and all supporting documents are protected by attorney client privilege and can never be revealed.

“Attorney-client privilege would not have existed with any investigator I proposed,” said Gilleon, that is why I called it a charade, it was rigged from the beginning.”

Contact: [email protected]

 

 

 

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