Two high-level Santa Ana city officials are targets of internal investigations for allegedly carrying on romantic relationships with subordinate employees, multiple sources close to City Hall have confirmed.
According to sources, investigations of Deputy Police Chief Doug McGeachy and code enforcement head Alvaro Nunez began after other employees alleged that they were dating subordinates in the police and code enforcement departments.
Word of these investigations follows revelations earlier this month that City Manager David Cavazos is dating a city employee. The City Council met in closed session to discuss Cavazos’ relationship but ultimately decided that he did not violate any laws or city policy.
However, government ethics experts said Cavazos crossed ethical lines, and now there is concern whether city officials can credibly investigate the claims against the other top officials given the situation with Cavazos.
“If the City manager can date a subordinate why cannot other managers and other employees?” Read an anonymous letter sent to City Council members and Voice of OC. “There are rumors this investigation [of McGeachy] is being covered up.”
While Cavazos acknowledged and defended his relationship in a letter to Mayor Miguel Pulido, sources close to City Hall say they don’t know how McGeachy and Nunez have responded to the allegations. Without an admission from at least one of the people allegedly involved, office romances are difficult to substantiate and investigators are often left with little more than rumor and innuendo.
McGeachy and Nunez didn’t respond to calls and emails for comment.
It is possible that the allegations, especially those being leveled against McGeachy, are the result of internal politics. Santa Ana police officers have requested a “no confidence” vote in Chief Carlos Rojas, Voice of OC reported last week. In addition to Rojas, some officers have also grumbled about McGeachy, who is the commanding officer of field operations.
No council members returned phone calls for comment on this article. Councilman Sal Tinajero’s only response was a text message saying he was “unavailable.”
In his letter to Pulido, Cavazos defended his relationship as violating no city policy or “any federal, state or city rule or statute.” He also pointed out that the employee is not a direct subordinate.
Hana Callaghan — director of government ethics at the Santa Clara University Markkula Center for Applied Ethics – say all these possible relationships “raise a red flag” because they could taint the hiring process and make it appear that certain employees have advantages based on who they are dating. And other employees might feel reluctant to raise issues with employees in relationships with the boss, she said.
Also, Callaghan speculated that the city manager “could be sending a signal that it’s OK to other employees to engage in the same behavior.”
“That’s really a leadership issue,” she said.