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Davis, California

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Conflict of interest alleged between UC president and investigator in Katehi case


UC Davis Academic Senate issues letter claiming professional and social connection between Janet Napolitano and Melinda Haag.

Concerns are arising about the investigation into Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi’s tenure as head of UC Davis. Critics are speculating about a possible conflict of interest involving the head private investigator, Melinda Haag, and the University of California President, Janet Napolitano, questioning whether the probe of Katehi is truly unbiased.

Haag is a former United States attorney for the Northern District of California who served under the Obama administration from August 2010 to September 2015. Haag currently works at the law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutfcliffe LLP where she is a partner in the white-collar and corporate investigations group.

According to the UC Office of the President (UCOP), Orrick conducts internal investigations throughout the world in areas such as employee misconduct, conflict of interest and many other regulatory and possible criminal issues.

While there are no arguments circulating about Haag’s credentials, there is some questions about her ties with Napolitano.

Before becoming the president of the UC, Napolitano served as the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security from January 2009 to September 2013.

Because of the possible connection between Napolitano and Haag in their prior positions within the Obama administration, there have been questions about whether the investigation into Katehi’s possible transgressions is completely unbiased. Many Katehi supporters are even accusing Haag’s and Napolitano’s connection as a potential conflict of interest.

Andrè Knoesen, the chair of the Academic Senate at UC Davis and a professor of electrical engineering and computer science, wrote in a letter to Academic Senate members of the Davis Division that this possible conflict of interest puts the entire legitimacy of Katehi’s investigation at stake.

“Questions have arisen about possible professional and social interactions between President Napolitano and Ms. Haag, who has been retained to investigate allegations involving Chancellor Katehi,” Knoesen said. “These questions have raised concerns about the objectivity of the investigator, and as a consequence, the investigation itself.”

Many others have echoed Knoesen’s sentiments about the investigation as well.

Nolan Matter, a third-year political science major and a member of Students for Linda,  questions whether or not the investigation even has an objective and believes that Katehi’s absence is unnecessary and is hurting the university.

This kind of investigation is unprecedented, especially given the dramatic and public way President Napolitano went about setting it up and through her making the letter to Linda public,” Matter said. “However, we believe there is a more important question that needs to be asked: What are the parameters surrounding the investigation? We would like to know what exactly the investigators are looking. Are they investigating to see if Katehi broke UC policy? Chancellor Katehi has done so much in the pursuit of making UC Davis as the recognized institution it is today. Her absence is hurting the UC.”

Claire Doan, a media relations specialist for the UCOP, argues that there is no conflict of interest between Haag and Napolitano.

The investigation into the allegations against Chancellor Katehi is independent,” Doan said. “There is no conflict of interest between President Napolitano and Melinda Haag.”

Larry Kamer, a personal spokesperson for Chancellor Katehi not employed by the university, said that Katehi’s attorney, Melinda Guzman, believes that there is ample evidence to suspect that this investigation may be unbiased and not independent like Doan claims.

“Ms. Guzman has expressed particular concern about conflicts of interest arising from Ms. Haag’s financial interest in a law firm, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, that handles a large volume of UC business, Ms. Haag’s past representation of Ms. Napolitano and the fact that Ms. Napolitano is a witness to the incidents she is now investigating,” Kamer said. “Ms. Guzman has made clear that, given the existing intertwined relationship between Orrick, Haag and Napolitano, this investigation is neither independent nor neutral.”


Written by: Sangeetha Ramamurthy – campus@theaggie.org


  1. Is there more to the Senate’s position than Napolitano and Haag worked under the same administration? That would be like saying the Director of the ARC has a conflict of interest with a Doctor at UCLA, because they both work under the UC. Katehi’s attorney’s position at least makes sense. There’s an argument that Haag has an interest in making Napolitano happy to get repeat business in the future, but that’s the case for every attorney. I really expect more from the Senate than “if you squint real hard this could look like a conflict of interest.”

  2. Um…. seriously? Because they both served in the Obama administration? Could that possibly why Napolitano is familiar with Haag’s work and credentials?!

    I call BS.

    It’s beyond time to stop dragging UC Davis through the mud and call it quits, Katehi!


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