By Matthew Acosta, Nov. 22, 2022
After whistleblowers in the campus police department accused President Soraya M. Coley last year of interfering with active police investigations, among other allegations, she responded with a detailed, wide-ranging letter she described as “an attempt to engage in a honest, constructive dialogue.”
The email recipients of the letter — more than 50 people, including some who would seemingly have little to do with police work, such as employees of Parking Services.
The whistleblowers, who were named in the email, have claimed that in doing so, Coley exposed them in violation of state law promising confidentiality to such complainants.
In the letter, in which Coley defended her handling of matters including a $1 million embezzlement at the CPP Foundation and a professor accused of using Foundation source funds to vacation in Europe, Coley said she was emailing it to “the entirety” of the police department “given the implications for the unit and for the campus.”
The Poly Post obtained a copy of the May 10, 2021 letter through a CPP public records request.
In response to the request, CPP redacted the names of whistleblowers to whom the letter was addressed. And though The Poly Post initially requested a copy of Coley’s email along with any attachments, CPP instead only provided the attached letter — which did not show the full list of the email’s recipients.
But The Poly Post was able to separately obtain an unredacted copy of the letter, which showed the names and ranks of the whistleblowers, as well as the email showing to whom it had been sent.
The email was sent to 53 recipients and from those that could be identified, 10 were from UPD, four from Parking Services and one from the Office of Emergency Management. The email was also cc’d to many high ranking members of CPP and the California State University, including former CSU Chancellor, Joseph Castro; Congresswoman, Norma J. Torres; Director Labor Employee Relations, Julie Doi and Vice President of Student Affairs, Christina Gonzales.
According to Vigjilenca Abazi, a professor at Maastricht University in the Netherlands who has held fellowships at Yale Law School and NYU School of law as well as specializing in international whistleblower laws, said a violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act would have to contain an intentional disclosure of the whistleblowers or an attempt of intimidation of the whistleblowers.
“The identity of whistleblowers should absolutely remain confidential and should not be exposed and any attempt to communicate directly or in a way that can potentially intimidate whistleblowers is also illegal,” Abazi said.
Coley’s letter was referenced in a legal complaint filed last month by University Police Department Sergeant Marcus Simpson, who claimed that the mass email was among evidence that CSU was more interested in punishing the whistleblowers than investigating their complaints. CSU has denied the allegations in the lawsuit.
Coley declined interview requests from The Poly Post, citing the active litigation.
Coley’s response to the whistleblower complaints in the email was to attribute lack of information and confusion as the reasons for the officers’ complaints.
“I can certainly understand how having limited or incomplete information about situations that may have both a law enforcement aspect as well as crossover with other divisions on campus or at the Chancellor’s Office, may lead to confusion or distrust about how issues are handled and ultimately resolved,” Coley wrote.
In the email, Coley defended her handling of the two instances of alleged embezzlement at the Foundation, as well as other allegations in the whistleblower complaint.
She even addressed the whistleblowers’ claims that she consistently referred to CPP students as “babies and children.”
Coley explained that though she may not have children she considers herself in charge of the care of the 24,000 students on her campus.
“While I do not refer to them as ‘babies,’ indeed, I have referred to students as my ‘children’ — not because I wish to diminish their maturity, nor to suggest that I am a surrogate parent,” said Coley. “I consider the role of the University (as I experienced at my alma mater) to be akin to an extended family in helping to further build the intellect, character, capacity, and resilience of all our students and supporting their development in a caring manner, while also holding them accountable.”
Feature image courtesy of Kaitlyn Baker
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