MODESTO -- Modesto's city attorney's office is the focus of an investigation that started more than a month ago and could cost the city as much as $50,000 before it has been concluded.
City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood confirmed this week that there is an investigation involving her office. She said the probe is being conducted through the city manager's office.
She and City Manager Greg Nyhoff declined to comment at length, including regarding the nature of the allegations, because the inquiry has not ended and is a personnel matter.
"The city works to ensure all investigations are conducted in a fair and impartial manner," Nyhoff said in an e-mail. "At this time, any further disclosure could compromise the integrity of the ongoing investigation."
Nyhoff said no one from the city attorney's office has left the city or been placed on leave in connection with the investigation.
The city has hired Santa Cruz-based Belcher, Ehle, Medina & Associates to conduct the investigation and is using the Alameda law firm of Wiley Price & Radulovich to oversee the inquiry. The law firm specializes in representing employers in cases involving labor and employment law.
Belcher, Ehle, Medina & Associates' services include administrative personnel investigations, according to its Web site. An official with the company declined to comment.
Attorney Joan Pugh Newman, who is overseeing the investigation, said she believes the probe began in November and she expects that it will wrap up this month. She could not be more specific because she was traveling Wednesday and away from her office.
She declined to say why the city would use a law firm to oversee the work of the investigators, saying that fell under the attorney-client privilege.
Nyhoff said in an additional e-mail that the matter still is being investigated so he does not know what the final cost will be, but he anticipates that it will be $30,000 to $50,000.
He said it was prudent to hire an outside investigator because the inquiry involves the city attorney's office, which conducts nearly all of the city's confidential personnel investigations.
The city attorney's office has an annual budget of $2.39 million, according to Modesto's Web site, and employs six attorneys and an equal opportunity analyst-paralegal.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.