bill-holland

Bill Holland

By Shea Johnson, Staff Writer
Posted:     Nov 12, 2016 at 12:08 AM
Updated:  Nov 12, 2016 at 3:55 PM

HESPERIA — As a school district police officer here, Mayor Bill Holland fell under his boss’ scrutiny for purportedly destroying evidence while leading the investigation into claims that an Oak Hills High School freshman football player had been subjected to sexual hazing, the Daily Press has learned.

The call for a probe into Holland’s alleged misconduct was prompted by Michael Graham, who in 2013 had been the police chief at Hesperia Unified School District. Graham retired last year after mending a publicly contentious relationship with the district. He won a wrongful termination suit in March 2013 after he sought to expose financial misconduct.

In a court ruling Oct. 6 that denied attorneys for 17-year-old Josh Villegas their second request to take the testimony of HUSD Superintendent David McLaughlin, San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Gilbert Ochoa laid out the reason why McLaughlin and other top administrators were protected from a deposition: Nothing showed they had directed the investigation into Villegas’ claims three years earlier, which would be necessary to compel them to testify.

But Ochoa’s explanation also revealed a bombshell.

“The evidence merely shows McLaughlin and his office (were) apprised of the status of the investigation,” minutes from last month’s hearing read, “and of Graham’s decision to investigate Holland for destruction of evidence.”

It’s unclear what, if any, result came of it. Messages left for Graham were not returned.

The inspection of Holland wasn’t criminal in nature, according to Ray Dolen, a Riverside-based attorney who is representing the school district in the 2014 lawsuit filed by Villegas’ mother. He returned a message left for Holland and spoke on his behalf although the mayor isn’t a named defendant in the case. Dolen insisted that the investigation of Holland, in fact, had stalled before it ever began and ultimately led nowhere.

“No investigation was completed, an investigation was contemplated,” Dolen said, emphasizing the distinction. “It was not criminal in any fashion. The potential for an investigation never developed. It was not conducted; that’s why there was no result or anything.”

After Graham expressed his suspicions, yet before the lawsuit against the school district and Oak Hills High was filed in summer 2014, Holland voluntarily resigned from HUSD. Dolen said he believed the timing to be “more coincidence than anything else.”

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