On the Investigation
Nancy Leonard, Dana Point

When Councilmember Debra Lewis filed a formal complaint against Mayor Joe Muller, a fellow employee, alleging gender discrimination and harassment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the City had the duty to conduct an independent investigation. How this complaint was investigated–the process used—was fraught with bias. Further, the written report, fails, by omission, to acknowledge key points concerning the investigative process. 

The city first hired attorney Megan Miller to conduct the investigation. Evidently, neither the City Attorney nor the City Manager thought to determine prior to her hiring if Miller had a conflict or perceived conflict of interest with the city or any of the parties named in the complaint.  After her work began, Miller admitted to benefiting financially from the Orange County Fire Authority, of which Dana Point is a member. Muller, against whom the complaint is made, has served on the OCFA Board since 2014 and this year, the year of the investigation, served as its President. It was not until two months into the investigation that Lewis is informed of the conflict. The city wasted taxpayer money on an investigator who clearly has a conflict of interest and, could reasonably be argued, has a bias in favor of Muller.

It gets worse. The new investigator, Kristine Exton, is given Miller’s notes and uses the information in her report. This act of sharing is briefly mentioned: “The new investigator reviewed all prior interviews.” Nowhere in the report does Ms. Exton indicate where she is relying on Miller’s facts and impressions. Exton, based on my research, does not re-interview those persons interviewed by Miller. Yet, Exton reports on them as if she conducted the interviews. How can Exton speak to one’s credibility when she has not interviewed that individual?

This report is a shameful attempt by the city to conduct an “independent” investigation of an alleged civil rights violation perpetuated by Muller against Lewis. 

Brandon Day, a Lincoln Club board member whose club endorsed Joe Muller and contributed to his 2018 campaign, somehow knew to make a Public Records Act request for the complaint and report. The Lincoln Club also contributed to the Dana Point Taxpayers Association, who spread lies about Joe Muller’s 2018 opponent. The DPTA has been sued and is being investigated by the Fair Political Practices Commission. It appears the Dana Point political machine is gearing up to use the sham report to spread more lies in 2020.

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