An independent investigation found “no evidence” that Moreno Valley school trustee Jesus Holguin sexually harassed an elementary-school assistant principal, an attorney for the school district said.
Moreno Valley Unified School District officials said earlier that they hired an outside private investigator, Susan Liberati from Los Angeles County, to look into the allegations, after the administrator filed an internal complaint against Holguin.
“Dr. Liberati has completed her investigation and did not substantiate any claims of misconduct,” the attorney, Christopher Keeler, publicly told the Moreno Valley school board April 10. He repeated those words in a two-page, April 17, letter addressed to Holguin.
Keeler works with the law firm of Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, the district’s legal counsel.
Holguin, who has served on a state education board, said Thursday, July 19, he was gratified but “not surprised” by the conclusion.
The attorney for the assistant principal, Greg Rolen of San Francisco, said the finding, however, does not mean that no harassment occurred. Rolen declined Thursday, as he did in April, to discuss details of the allegation.
Rolen said “it is pretty silly” to suggest nothing happened and that the case is closed.
“This process is in its infancy,” he said. “To deny that this happened at this point is like saying he is not guilty before the trial even starts.”
The assistant principal is Ileana Gutierrez, who works at Bear Valley Elementary School. This news agency does not typically name possible victims of sexual harassment or sexual crimes, but Rolen said in April that his client gave permission for her name to be published.
Rolen said that, in the past week, Gutierrez filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, a potential precursor to a lawsuit. Holly A. Thomas, deputy director of executive programs for the agency, confirmed that “an Ileana Gutierrez has filed a complaint against a Jesus Holguin.”
Keeler said in an email Thursday that the district had not been notified of a state complaint.
“If a complaint is filed, the district will defend itself vigorously with evidence that there has been no wrongdoing by Mr. Holguin,” Keeler wrote.
The disclosure and state complaint come as Holguin, whose term is up at year’s end, said he is preparing to run for a fifth term on the Moreno Valley school board.
“I’m committed to serving the students, and to serving the school district, the way I have done it for the last 16 years,” Holguin said. “And we want to continue moving the district forward.”
The fact that this is an election year was brought up by attorneys for both sides.
In the April 17 letter, Keeler wrote that “there may be increased interest in scandal and controversy during an election year.” He echoed those comments at the board meeting.
Rolen, in a follow-up email Thursday, said Gutierrez’s allegation has nothing to do with influencing the November election.
“The timing simply does not substantiate that argument,” Rolen wrote. “Ms. Gutierrez suffered one of the first instances of misconduct by Mr. Holguin in January 2017. She privately made her initial report to the district on or about August 29, 2017.”
Rolen said that report was followed up with a formal complaint Jan. 28. He also said it was highly unusual for a district official to speak in open session about a personnel matter.
“It seems to be like a hamfisted political stunt to try to get ahead of this,” Rolen said, mentioning Holguin’s reelection bid.
Keeler, at the April meeting, said the district doesn’t normally comment on personnel issues. But because allegations of misconduct had been made public, he said, a comment was warranted.
He added, “In my experience, the district has taken allegations of sexual harassment very seriously.”
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