Recently, a large public entity in San Antonio was faced with the need to conduct an investigation into why certain cost overruns had not been reported to senior management (or if they had been, why they had not been reported to the city council).  The investigation could not realistically be conducted internally due to enormous political pressure running rampant within the organization, and existing management was the subject of the inquiry.  Legal counsel for the entity was not in a position to perform the investigation.  Moreover, the public needed the investigation to be through and unbiased.  So the project was performed externally.

Why would an organization conduct an investigation? Most of us would respond: “To find out the truth.” But the “truth” is rarely self-evident. What an investigation can do is fact finding.  With some frequency, organizations must conduct investigations – perhaps to determine the manner in which an employee had incurred a work-related injury, or to find out what really happened during an altercation between two employees.  Often, a publicly-held corporation or quasi-public entity must carefully investigate an allegation of sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination.  I have included an article which serves as a guide to investigating sexual harassment complaints.  Regardless of the issue, the organization must learn the facts in order to resolve the matter in a fair manner.

An investigation is a systematic collection of facts for the purposes of describing what occurred and explaining why it occurred.  The word systematic suggests more than a whimsical process.  In other words, it should be thorough and fair.  There is a right way to conduct a fair fact-finding investigation, just as there is a right way to take a blood pressure reading.  I have included a guide to Conducting a Fair Investigation An investigator will collect the facts relating to the incident under investigation.  But a fact is not synonymous with truth.  To the investigator, a fact is nothing more than a piece of information.  An investigator collects facts in order to describe and explain to the organization what occurred.

My experience gained from hundreds of arbitrations places me in an unusual and very unique position to serve as a fact finder.  After all, this is what I do now for a living.  And when I do it I must remain impartial and dispassionate.  I just want to learn what happened.  My experience from many more hundreds of mediations allows me to make the inquiry with no pre-determined disposition, and to use the open-ended questions that enable good fact gathering.  My experience from conducting just cause hearings in the union/management context has taught me the importance of a fair and complete investigation.

An effective investigation involves three critical values: speed, thoroughness and objectivity.  I no longer practice law, so I have no agenda.  I am not going to try to solicit the organization as a law client.  The fact that I set my own mediation and arbitration calendar allows me the flexibility to be available when needed and to be expedient.  My pledge is to be thorough.  I can also be more competitive and cost-effective.


It Makes Sense . .

Parties retain me to arbitrate and mediate for them because of my experience, impartiality and thoroughness. It is my nature to determine all the facts . . .



After being shareholder and practice group leader in one of San Antonio’s major law firms, Bill Lemons formed his professional corporation in 1997 hoping to become less involved in litigation, and more involved in dispute resolution – mediation, arbitration, case evaluation and consulting. That is now all he does. He is now blessed with a full-time ADR practice. Assisted by his wife, Pam, they have set up their offices so that counsel and their clients alike can ...