S.B. County DA, police investigate reporting in Operation Phoenix molestation case

SAN BERNARDINO - San Bernardino police and the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office are conducting a joint investigation into whether several city employees violated California's mandatory reporting act by hesitating or neglecting to contact police regarding an Operation Phoenix community center director's alleged child molestations.

San Bernardino Police Chief Mike Billdt met with San Bernardino County investigators Friday to discuss e-mails sent by several city employees several days before police were called in to investigate.

Jim Morris, the mayor's chief of staff said the matter is best handled by the district attorney and police because there is a reasonable suspicion standard.

"If a reasonable person would have a suspicion that actual abuse or molestation of a child occurred, they have a mandatory duty to report that to law enforcement agencies," Morris said.

In the e-mails sent July 27 and obtained by The Press-Enterprise, employees discussed possible sexual molestations that eventually resulted in two dozen felony charges against Michael Steven Miller. The 48-year-old Highland resident and former director of Operation Phoenix's community center at 16th Street and Sierra Way is accused of molesting two young girls in recent months and another more than a decade ago.

Mayor Pat Morris said officials are also looking into allegations that Miller and another recreation supervisor not affiliated with Operation Phoenix engaged in a fight with BB guns.

San Bernardino police learned of the alleged molestations late in the day on July 1, said Lt. Scott Paterson. Police served search warrants late July 2 and arrested Miller on the afternoon of July 3.

But Miller's supervisor, Glenda Robinson, sent a June 27 e-mail to San Bernardino Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Hawkins and another city employee discussing the matter.

"I was just told that some former and current employees are planning on going to the city attorney's office to report Mike Miller's involvement in the BB gun incident and a possible sexual involvement with a minor during work hours," Robinson wrote in an e-mail to Hawkins.

Glenn Baude, director of Operation Phoenix, also sent a June 27 e-mail in which he told Hawkins he believed "there should be some level of discipline for the BB incident, possible sexual involvement I have heard nothing about but it should be investigated. Let's meet."

The e-mails may indicate Baude, Hawkins and two other city employees knew of Miller's alleged child molestations but allowed him to continue his work at the community center.

Baude referred questions to San Bernardino City Attorney James Penman. Hawkins and Robinson could not be reached Friday for comment.

"Certainly, our initial impression is that they do come within the mandated reporting statutes in the penal code," said Jim Hackleman, an assistant district attorney for San Bernardino County, said of the San Bernardino city employees who sent the e-mails.

Penman said new findings are made as the city continues to ask questions, interview people and study documents.

"The Mayor and Council are concerned that we get to the bottom of this entire situation," Penman said. "As we become aware of things that we were not aware of previously, we respond to them. We're looking into a number of things, and there could be a good deal more to be looked into yet. It's a work in progress."

On July 8, Miller pleaded not guilty to numerous counts of lewd acts upon a child. He is being held on $1 million bail at the Central Detention Center in San Bernardino.

Mayor Pat Morris, who called Operation Phoenix a crime-fighting plan for the city, said Miller's arrest "was a shock in the extreme."

Reach Michael Perrault at 909-806-3053 or mperrault@PE.com

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