Steve Hummel, the private investigator who was contracted by the Williams Unified School District to investigate alleged Ethics and Governance violations by School Board Trustee Rosa Elia Orozco Lopez, has experience investigating into controversial issues for school boards.
Hummel and his company, Paradox Technology – which “provides expert investigation and forensic services for attorneys,” according to the company’s website – have been involved with other two contentious investigations over the past few years, where he was hired by a school district.
A number of people interviewed in the course of Hummel’s investigation for Williams Unified challenged the veracity Hummel’s report, in separate interviews with the Pioneer Review last week. Three women that he interviewed in his investigation – who he described as part of a”witch-hunt by disenchanted former Board members and parents that wanted to manipulate the system by forcibly removing sitting Board members and replace them with ones that would vote their way” – claimed that he misrepresented or twisted their statements to fit his agenda.
The subjects of his other investigations have made similar claims.
In 2016, Paradox Technology was tasked with conducting a workplace investigation into a fired El Rancho High School history and government teacher Gregory Salcido, who is also a Pico Rivera City Councilman. Salcido was the subject of national headlines earlier this year when one of his students secretly videotaped him making derogatory, profanity-laden comments about members of the United States armed forces in his class, after he noticed a student wearing a United States Marine Corps sweater. The video went viral in January, which sparked outrage and prompted the El Rancho Unified School District to place him on administrative leave, pending the results of an investigation – undertaken by Paradox Technology. He was fired on March 20, and the district released Hummel’s report in April.
Hummel’s report detailed a number of inflammatory allegations against Salcido: Hummel said that he uncovered nude images of women on Salcido’s school computer, found that Salcido had consistently bullied students over the past decade (particularly those who were White, Asian, pro-military, Christian or gay), had used racial slurs when speaking to students, had shared controversial and inappropriate opinions with students, and that he had conducted city business while on the clock as a teacher.
Hummel interviewed students, parents, school staff, and Salcido in his investigation, compiled records from Salcido’s personnel file, and recovered documents from his work computer. Hummel confronted Salcido with various allegations made by witnesses, many of which Salcido denied, but the Hummel concluded that he “lied repeatedly during his interview stating he has never raised his voice at a student, never used any curse or swear words in class, never singled out any student with humiliation or racist comments. He also lied about using calisthenics as a punishment and kicking students from his room without a referral.”
Hummel concluded that “history shows Mr. Salcido will not stop his unacceptable behavior no matter what discipline the district uses on him” and that he placed his students in physical and emotional danger with his behavior.
“Removing Mr. Salcido seems to be the only way to protect the students,” Hummel wrote.
The Mercury News reported that Salcido issued a statement indicating he intended to appeal the school district’s decision to fire him: “My pending appeal to the state serves as a clear indication of my disagreement with the motivation, method, and contents of the district’s investigation.”
In 2016, Hummel was hired as an independent investigator to look into allegations made against former Hayward Unified School District Superintendent Stan Dobbs, over his three-year tenure there. Dobbs was placed on administrative leave in June 2016, when Hummel began his three-month investigation, and was fired in September 2016. In his report, Hummel alleged – based on conversations with district employees and other witnesses – that Dobbs had an explosive temper and lashed out at district employees and trustees, mismanaged bond funds, enabled a trustee to abuse district resources, attempted to hide district contracts, failed to disclose a gift from a former city leader who became a contractor, and had an affair with a former district employee. Dobbs admitted that he yelled at two trustees in September 2015, after he claimed they allegedly berated two female employees during the closed-door talks. He also admitted that the affair with the former district employee took place, but denied any other wrongdoing.
Hummel described Dobbs as “inherently dishonest about his guilt when he makes mistakes or does wrong.”
Dobbs, in an interview with the Daily Review, challenged the substance of the report, calling it subjective and a character assassination attempt to destroy his reputation, with narratives twisted to fit a specific agenda. He also questioned why the affair – which was resolved privately between him and his family – was material to Hummel’s investigation into his performance as superintendent.