From our friend, Diane Citrino:
The crisis management mantra of “tell the truth, tell it all, tell it first, and tell it fast” to get ahead of a breaking crisis is wonderful advice, but begs the question, “What is the truth?”
As famously sung in Jesus Christ Superstar, “We both have truths; Are mine the same as yours?”
When a company or school is faced with employees, students and provosts who each allege completely different versions of a sexual encounter and the truth needs to be found, what is the best path? If the source of the truth is not credible, will the real story be believed?
In many situations, the road to seeking the truth—and then having that truth believed by others—can be found by using an independent investigator knowledgeable in conducting investigations. While an internal Human Resources person may be appropriate for many investigations of alleged misconduct, investigation in a time of crisis—particularly one involving the highest levels of the organization—may be best served by hiring a trained investigator who is someone not employed by the organization, nor part of the law firm who will be defending the organization in litigation that may result.
Selecting an experienced investigator who is unbiased and can gain the trust of all parties is critical. The investigator should know how to organize and conduct a thorough, prompt, and efficient investigation. Independent investigators can be directly hired by the organization itself, or by the law firm representing it.
The investigator may be an important witness if the matter results in a lawsuit creating an opportunity for a company to hand-pick the “face” of the facts. Using an attorney as the investigator may allow the organization to have the report of the investigation findings initially be protected under attorney client privilege—which at a later point can be waived, if appropriate. An attorney who can withstand cross-examination also is a positive attribute for an investigator.
We all have to make choices each day about who and what to believe. An investigator who is perceived to be “in the pocket” of the organization will not have credibility. When a company is in crisis, selecting an independent investigator can not only unearth the facts; the right investigator can be key in having those facts believed.
Diane Citrino is an experienced attorney based in Cleveland, Ohio who conducts independent investigations in work and school settings across the United States.