By Chris Frost
Oxnard--The investigation against City Treasurer Phil Molina is complete, and it paints a damning picture of his actions, which led to the report.
After preponderance of the evidence, the report reveals that Molina interfered with the investigation and communicated with the Assistant Chief Financial Officer after he was told not to and made inappropriate comments concerning female employees' attire stereotypical female roles and sexual innuendo.
Molina's action violates the city's sexual harassment policy.
The report, prepared by Jorge J. Luna of Atkinson, Andelson, Loya & Romo, examines allegations against City Treasurer Phillip Molina in detail.
The firm began its investigation into Molina on Aug. 27, 2019, after several individuals and departments complained against Molina.
Luna concluded that Molina improperly accused and investigated employee 1 for theft in connection with a shortfall in parking lot money related to the Dallas Cowboys Training Camp during the summer of 2019. Molina's actions violated the city's personnel rules and regulations.
Luna interviewed a finance department employee, number one, a treasurer's office employee, number one, the Assistant City Treasurer and Revenue Accounting Manager, the finance department employee, number 2, the Assistant Chief of Police, number 1, the Purchasing Manager, the Information Technology Director, and Chief Information Officer, finance department employee number three, Treasurer's Department employee 2,3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, the Public Works Director, Assistant City Manager, the City Manager's employee, number 1, and the Cultural and Community Services Director.
Additionally, the firm interviewed the Deputy City Manager, Community Development Employee, number 1, treasurer's employee number nine, Molina, and the treasury supervisor, treasurer's office employee 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 the city manager, public works employee number one, the police department commander and assistant chief of police two, the assistant chief financial officer, the controller, and senior manager of internal control and the management accountant auditor.
"The city and its representatives allowed the Investigator complete discretion to conduct the investigation as he determined to be necessary," Luna wrote. "The Investigator was given complete access to all requested witnesses and documents, with the exception of Mr. Molina's refusal to appear for a second interview session."
The report asked if Molina interfered with the investigation with the assistant chief financial officer after being told not to do so. Did he circulate an email that included details about this and another investigation into his alleged conduct?
The investigator found that Molina interfered with the investigation in three aspects.
"First, he interfered by communicating with the Assistant Chief Financial Officer after being explicitly directed not to do so in his Notification of Investigation," Luna wrote. "He interfered by meeting with members of his department to discuss the investigation after being directed not to do so in his Notification of Investigation. Five members of his staff stated they found these meetings intimidating and inappropriate. Finally, he interfered by circulating an email discussing this and another investigation into his alleged conduct. Each of these acts would reasonably impact an individual's willingness to participate in the investigation openly and to provide information related to the allegations. As such, each qualifies as an independent act of interference. Mr. Molina's interference with the investigation affects his credibility and the weight to be given overall to his statements."
City Manager Alex Nguyen issued a memorandum of understanding to Molina on Sept. 10, notifying him of the investigation.
Nguyen directed Molina to have no contact with the Assistant Chief Financial Officer during the pendency of the investigation. If he needed to contact her, he should do it through the Chief Financial Officer.
On Oct. 16, 2019, Nguyen issued a memorandum to Molina that said his administrative duties were suspended.
Despite the directive, the report said that Molina contacted the Assistant Chief Financial Officer on six different occasions by email, directly or by copying her.
"The undisputed facts, including Mr. Molina's admissions during his interview, show that Molina knew that he was not to communicate with the Assistant Chief Financial Officer during the pendency of the investigation and he nevertheless communicated with her six times after receiving the directive," Luna wrote. "Mr. Molina demonstrated a complete disregard for the directives issued in connection with this investigation. Second, the preponderance of the evidence supports the conclusion that his conduct would have a negative impact on the Assistant Chief Financial Officer in terms of her willingness to share information related to this investigation or to participate otherwise fully. Since Mr. Molina failed to comply with the simple instruction not to communicate with the Assistant Chief Financial Officer, she could reasonably fear that he would also fail to comply with the directive to refrain from any retaliation. Such conduct would likely have a chilling effect on the Assistant Chief Financial Officer."
After Molina learned that human resources were scheduling meetings with his staff, he confirmed that he held separate and smaller meetings with his staff so the investigation wouldn't pull them all off the floor at once and calm the team down.
"The HR Director and one of the City Attorneys came into the department without letting me know they were coming, handed envelopes to people, without telling me that they were going to do that," he said. "As a department head, I would've thought that they might've let me know. They scared people because a few months earlier, the City Manager had fired seven video employees, and people were scared. Are these letters – are termination letters – what's going on?"
Molina admitted that none of the staff came to him, indicating that they were scared. Instead, he claimed that he concluded that they were scared "because of the look in their eyes, the look in their face, concern about what's going on."
Molina confirmed that it was not his intent to intimidate the staff or to interfere with this investigation. As to this latter point, Mr. Molina repeated that "I told them to tell the truth. That's all I said. 'Please tell the truth.'"
"Molina stated that he was not aware the Assistant. City Treasurer was already preparing a schedule, and he denied hearing her discussing the schedule with Human Resources," Luna wrote. "Molina conceded that the Assistant. City Treasurer has a great memory, and he was not otherwise able to explain the difference in their statements concerning his knowledge that she was preparing a schedule."
This story will continue on May 13.
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