Merced College Hired Investigator to Trace Disparaging Letter After Police Refused

Merced College hired a private investigator to collect fingerprints in order to trace a letter that was critical of administrators after the county police refused to do so, according to an invoice obtained by the Merced Sun-Star.

The letter, which was sent in February, addressed the California college’s Board of Trustees and demanded that it reinstate as president Ron Taylor, who had been placed on leave without explanation, the Sun-Star reported. After receiving the letter, Susan Walsh, the acting president, asked Vince Gallagher, a sheriff’s deputy and the campus police chief at the time, to collect fingerprints, Mr. Gallagher told the Sun-Star.

Mr. Gallagher also told the Sun-Star that he had conducted a 10-day investigation but declined to dust for prints because he determined that no crime had been committed. So the college hired Cen Cal Investigations, a private investigation firm, to conduct a $150 “latent fingerprint” search on March 31, according to the invoice.

Mr. Gallagher said campus administrators wanted to find out if faculty members were behind the letter. Robin Shepard, a spokesman for the college, said that Merced has denied those claims, the Sun-Star said. Mr. Shepard also said he could not comment further because “the letter is part of an ongoing investigation.”

The idea of Merced’s hiring a private investigator to collect fingerprints is “absolutely horrifying,” said Megan Igo, vice president of the Merced College Faculty Association.

“I have never heard of this anywhere else ever except in bad TV shows,” she told the Sun-Star.

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