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Source Attacks Guard Report

By Victor Chen

The Office of the General Counsel's part in investigating an incident between a Harvard security guard and a Black Graduate School of Education student raises questions about the objectivity of the reported findings, a source in the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) said in an interview this week.

The confidential report, which The Crimson obtained last week, alleged that security guard Stephen G. McCombe raised his voice in a hostile manner towards third-year Graduate School of Education student Richard Rakobane.

In response to the incident, the University's General Counsel's office chose Associate Dean for Medical School Faculty Affairs Margaret L. Dale to investigate as an impartial third party.

But a source in the police department has charged that University General Council Margaret H. Marshall was given a copy of Dale's report four days before the report was finished.

And the source also charged that Marshall determined the length of the suspension that HUPD Assistant Director for Finance and Administration Herbert J. Vallier gave to McCombe.

Vallier said yesterday that the matter was handled properly, but declined to address the specific charges of impropriety.

"The suspension and the length of it were determined by me," Vallier said in an interview Monday. "The approach [of the investigation] itself really was a fair approach in trying to evaluate and assess this thing."

And last night, Vallier said that the fact that the General Counsel's Office chose Dale did not compromise the report's objectivity. "No, not at all. We use the general counsel as resource," hesaid. Vallier declined further comment, callingMcCombe's case "an internal matter." Whencontacted at her office yesterday, Marshallrefused to comment on the case. Dale said in aninterview last night that she had "no comment" onthe investigation.

Two employees of Harvard's Office of theGeneral Counsel--University Attorney Robert W.Iuliano and paralegal Kristen Morris--were in somecapacity involved in Dale's investigation,according to November 30 letter obtained by TheCrimson.

Speaking on Marshall's behalf, Iuliano saidthat the "General Counsel's Office assisted MissDale in the coordination of the investigation butdid not participate in it substantively."

The allegations that the General Counsel'sOffice was involved in the investigation areparticularly distressing, the source said, due toMcCombe's past with them.

When he was a union steward three years ago,McCombe represented several security employees whocharged their department's administration--whichis ultimately responsible to the Office of GeneralCounsel--with discrimination.

McCombe and the General Counsel's Office havetraded barbs in the past over the discriminationclaims. At the time McCombe said Harvard's lawyershad worked to cover up the allegations.

Manning's involvement

The source also said the Timothy R. Manning,director of labor relations, saw the report fivedays before it was completed.

The director of labor relations is supposed togive an unbiased assessment of the suspension ifMcCombe chooses to file a grievance.

Manning said he saw a final copy of the report,but he did not remember when. According toManning, it is not uncommon for him to see thereport for a "potential action."

"I have seen a copy of the report. In terms ofwhen I got it, I can't tell you," Manning said. "Ihave to see the report anyway...That evidencewould be introduced in a hearing if it werefiled."

"I had no control over what was in the report,"he said. "I wouldn't get involved in the caseuntil the grievance procedure."

The Memo

The Crimson also obtained a memo written byVallier and sent to McCombe on February 21. Thememo says that McCombe's conduct was "grosslyunacceptable" during the September 8 incident andenumerates specific allegations.

The memo says that as a security guard McCombedid not have any jurisdiction on the "public"sidewalk where the incident allegedly occurred.The memo also alleges McCombe failed in his dutyto contact the police when he saw "suspiciousconduct."

"Absent an emergency, which clearly did notexist in this case, guards are not to confrontsuspicious people--particularly those on a publicway," the memo says. According to the memo,McCombe also acted "abusively" toward the studentand showed a lack of racial sensitivity.

"Although Ms. Dale could not conclude whether[McCombe's actions] were racially motivated, [his]conduct could lend itself to that interpretationand thus expose the department to legal liabilityand the potential for extreme embarrassment in theHarvard community," the memo says.

The rest of the memo alleges McCombe failed toreport the incident--contrary to his training--andthat McCombe's conduct during the investigationwas "inappropriate" and threatened "to disrupt thestability of the Guard Service."

"[McCombe] mischaracterized fact...[He] alsoadvanced serious allegations of misconduct by[his] supervisor--specifically, that he was actingin collusion with the student--and articulatedthat theory to others in the Department," the memosays.

But a source in the police department saidthat McCombe had reasonable grounds to suspectproblems with the investigation. McCombe would notcomment on the memo's allegations, but said hewould take them up by filing an officialgrievance. "I think those will be taken up in agrievance hearing," McCombe said.

Department Policy

The source in the department also said that twoHarvard security guards had received commendationslast month for chasing and detaining a suspect offof University property--one violation for whichMcCombe was cited.

The suspect had allegedly stolen severalthousand dollars worth of computer equipment fromthe Harvard Biochemistry Building, the guards'post.

"They left their post and tackled him. Theywere on Oxford [Street], which is definitely apublic street," the source said. The source saidthat the memo's criticisms don't make sense.

"How can you find out what's suspicious conductuntil you survey the scene and find out what'sgoing on?" the source said. "Do you call thepolice just because a man is acting suspicious, ordo you want to find out what's going on?"

"We are the eyes and ears of the policedepartment. And we can't figure out what's goingon until we ask," the source said.

McCombe said guards are not given any writtenguidelines for the type of incident whichallegedly occurred. "There is no written procedurethat tells us how to approach these issues," hesaid.

But Vallier said all guards have receivedmanuals outlining their areas of authority. Asource in the department, however, said Vallierhas never given the guards any manuals.

"Since [Vallier has] been in the department,he's supposedly been working on one, but we havenever seen a manual from him," the source said"Nobody has ever seen the policies regarding hisadministration as they stand now."

Vallier said a new manual had not been issuedsince he took over in the department eight monthsago, but he is writing a manual right now. He saidthat the manual should be finished within five orsix weeks.

"New policies have been implemented," thesource said. "Is Mr. Vallier saying that after 11years Steve should still have the manual he washired with? Everything has changed in 11 years."

But Vallier said the manuals are not outdated."They're basic rules to follow. Codes of conductin essence are codes of conduct. Even if I rewrotethe manual, I wouldn't change [them]," he said.

No Meeting

McCombe also said that he and Rakobane have notmet each other to discuss the incident.

In a similar incident in October, however, aScience Center guard, Raymond Gonzalez, had achance to meet with his accuser, Inati Ntshanga'95, who had charged him with racial harassment.Vallier would not comment on the two incidents

Two employees of Harvard's Office of theGeneral Counsel--University Attorney Robert W.Iuliano and paralegal Kristen Morris--were in somecapacity involved in Dale's investigation,according to November 30 letter obtained by TheCrimson.

Speaking on Marshall's behalf, Iuliano saidthat the "General Counsel's Office assisted MissDale in the coordination of the investigation butdid not participate in it substantively."

The allegations that the General Counsel'sOffice was involved in the investigation areparticularly distressing, the source said, due toMcCombe's past with them.

When he was a union steward three years ago,McCombe represented several security employees whocharged their department's administration--whichis ultimately responsible to the Office of GeneralCounsel--with discrimination.

McCombe and the General Counsel's Office havetraded barbs in the past over the discriminationclaims. At the time McCombe said Harvard's lawyershad worked to cover up the allegations.

Manning's involvement

The source also said the Timothy R. Manning,director of labor relations, saw the report fivedays before it was completed.

The director of labor relations is supposed togive an unbiased assessment of the suspension ifMcCombe chooses to file a grievance.

Manning said he saw a final copy of the report,but he did not remember when. According toManning, it is not uncommon for him to see thereport for a "potential action."

"I have seen a copy of the report. In terms ofwhen I got it, I can't tell you," Manning said. "Ihave to see the report anyway...That evidencewould be introduced in a hearing if it werefiled."

"I had no control over what was in the report,"he said. "I wouldn't get involved in the caseuntil the grievance procedure."

The Memo

The Crimson also obtained a memo written byVallier and sent to McCombe on February 21. Thememo says that McCombe's conduct was "grosslyunacceptable" during the September 8 incident andenumerates specific allegations.

The memo says that as a security guard McCombedid not have any jurisdiction on the "public"sidewalk where the incident allegedly occurred.The memo also alleges McCombe failed in his dutyto contact the police when he saw "suspiciousconduct."

"Absent an emergency, which clearly did notexist in this case, guards are not to confrontsuspicious people--particularly those on a publicway," the memo says. According to the memo,McCombe also acted "abusively" toward the studentand showed a lack of racial sensitivity.

"Although Ms. Dale could not conclude whether[McCombe's actions] were racially motivated, [his]conduct could lend itself to that interpretationand thus expose the department to legal liabilityand the potential for extreme embarrassment in theHarvard community," the memo says.

The rest of the memo alleges McCombe failed toreport the incident--contrary to his training--andthat McCombe's conduct during the investigationwas "inappropriate" and threatened "to disrupt thestability of the Guard Service."

"[McCombe] mischaracterized fact...[He] alsoadvanced serious allegations of misconduct by[his] supervisor--specifically, that he was actingin collusion with the student--and articulatedthat theory to others in the Department," the memosays.

But a source in the police department saidthat McCombe had reasonable grounds to suspectproblems with the investigation. McCombe would notcomment on the memo's allegations, but said hewould take them up by filing an officialgrievance. "I think those will be taken up in agrievance hearing," McCombe said.

Department Policy

The source in the department also said that twoHarvard security guards had received commendationslast month for chasing and detaining a suspect offof University property--one violation for whichMcCombe was cited.

The suspect had allegedly stolen severalthousand dollars worth of computer equipment fromthe Harvard Biochemistry Building, the guards'post.

"They left their post and tackled him. Theywere on Oxford [Street], which is definitely apublic street," the source said. The source saidthat the memo's criticisms don't make sense.

"How can you find out what's suspicious conductuntil you survey the scene and find out what'sgoing on?" the source said. "Do you call thepolice just because a man is acting suspicious, ordo you want to find out what's going on?"

"We are the eyes and ears of the policedepartment. And we can't figure out what's goingon until we ask," the source said.

McCombe said guards are not given any writtenguidelines for the type of incident whichallegedly occurred. "There is no written procedurethat tells us how to approach these issues," hesaid.

But Vallier said all guards have receivedmanuals outlining their areas of authority. Asource in the department, however, said Vallierhas never given the guards any manuals.

"Since [Vallier has] been in the department,he's supposedly been working on one, but we havenever seen a manual from him," the source said"Nobody has ever seen the policies regarding hisadministration as they stand now."

Vallier said a new manual had not been issuedsince he took over in the department eight monthsago, but he is writing a manual right now. He saidthat the manual should be finished within five orsix weeks.

"New policies have been implemented," thesource said. "Is Mr. Vallier saying that after 11years Steve should still have the manual he washired with? Everything has changed in 11 years."

But Vallier said the manuals are not outdated."They're basic rules to follow. Codes of conductin essence are codes of conduct. Even if I rewrotethe manual, I wouldn't change [them]," he said.

No Meeting

McCombe also said that he and Rakobane have notmet each other to discuss the incident.

In a similar incident in October, however, aScience Center guard, Raymond Gonzalez, had achance to meet with his accuser, Inati Ntshanga'95, who had charged him with racial harassment.Vallier would not comment on the two incidents

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