Sheriff investigating Assembly candidate Phil Graham over alleged bar incident

Sheriff investigating Assembly candidate Phil Graham over alleged bar incident
Phil Graham is running for 76th State Assembly. Photo courtesy of Phil Graham for Assembly

Editor’s Note:  Since the initial publication of this article, The Coast News has learned more information that cast serious doubts on the credibility of the claimant, Niki Burgan, and we will report fully on those facts as soon as possible. Thank you for reading and allowing us to investigate these matters further.  

ENCINITAS — The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a Carlsbad woman’s claims that 76th State Assembly candidate Phil Graham forcibly kissed her against her wishes at an Encinitas bar last week.

Graham, a Republican and the stepson of former California Governor Pete Wilson, has been endorsed by the County Republican Party and a number of high-ranking elected officials and has raised more money than his opponents combined. He unsuccessfully ran for Encinitas City Council in 2016.

“The allegation is false, this is dirty campaign politics,” Graham’s campaign said in a statement on Monday. “We will fully cooperate with authorities to put this accusation to rest.”

Niki Burgan, 46, is a former lifeguard and a veterinarian technician. She said that she and Graham had been drinking and talking for several hours on the evening of May 13 and in the early morning hours of May 14 at the 1st Street Bar on Coast Highway 101 in Encinitas when Graham allegedly grabbed her by the back of her hair, pulled her towards him and kissed her.

Burgan said she had earlier told Graham that she had no intentions of becoming intimate with him. She said she pushed him away and told him to not touch her again and said that Graham left the bar and walked across the street to his home in the Pacific Station Condos complex.

Burgan provided a case number to a reporter, who then contacted the Sheriff’s Department which confirmed they are in the early stages of an investigation into a report of battery filed at 1:40 p.m. May 20,  but have made no arrests.

“We have an early stage, active investigation under the case number you provided.  There has been no arrest made at this time,” according to an email from the Sheriff’s Media Relations office.

The Coast News was able to confirm that Graham was at the bar the night of the incident.

Reporters spoke to bar employees and a person who was in the bar Sunday who confirmed that Graham was at the bar that Sunday into the early hours on Monday. One security guard said that Graham frequents the bar.

Burgan said she did not immediately report the incident to authorities because she was worried that Graham was an influential figure and she would not be believed. She also said she wasn’t sure if what he did was criminal.

“I was literally shocked, I thought to myself, ‘Are people still doing this?’” she said.

Burgan said she was referring to the aftermath of the #MeToo movement, the international movement against sexual harassment and assault  that has seen powerful individuals in media, politics and entertainment exposed for similar behavior.

Thad Kousser, a political science professor at UC San Diego, said that while not speaking on the merits of the accusation, that even the specter of an allegation surrounding a candidate might resonate with the electorate given the impact of the #MeToo movement.

“Knowing nothing about the veracity of this particular allegation, any allegation of harassment connects a candidate to an issue which is at the top of voters’ minds right now,” Kousser said. “These issues can no longer be swept under the carpet in any campaign.”

25 Comments
  1. Anonymous 5 months ago

    Instead of Bob Filner, we may have a “Philner” situation? Voters, please follow this developing case. Taxpayers bore the brunt of payouts when the wrong candidate won the San Diego mayoral election. Let’s not make this same mistake.

  2. River 5 months ago

    Reads like this newspaper is in on writing a phony political hit piece to stir readership. How pathetic for I in unidentified “reporters” to claim a bar employee confirmed his presence but can’t name that employee. I say B***S*** on that fake news reporting!

  3. Anonymous 5 months ago

    River, you do realize a police complaint was actually filed so the reporting of it is not by definition fake? Sheriffs Crime Report 18-126025, Encinitas. Check for yourself. If you want to support a possible PHILanderer, it’s up to you but clearly the person reporting it did not want to be Phil’ed up.

  4. River 5 months ago

    Anonymous, How did you get a Sheriff’s crime report #? It is not in the news article. Anonymous reporters, anonymous bar employees, and one woman in a crowded bar making a lone accusation two weeks before the election that this tiny newspaper can suddenly overnight generate anonymous reporters to investigate is such an obvious scam political hit piece. And now an anonymous public comment has an unreleased crime report number. How much fake news do you expect us to believe!

  5. River 5 months ago

    The Thad Kousser comments especially show this is a fake news scam political stunt. Thad is a long time partisan Democrat who worked for Democrats and regularly shills for Democrat groups posing as academics. It is obvious he has no connection to the crime or the #metoo movement. Digging him up for quotes that border on slander shows this fake news to be generated from an opponent’s campaign press release.

  6. Doug 5 months ago

    And Coast News asked for Thads interview only ? ANONYMOUS is who ? Thads and the accusers accomplice ?
    The accusers remarks are not labeled allegedly but taken for gospel truth ?
    Well congrats Coast News…
    Have you got the lynch mob organized for the photo op before the jury is convened. ? Was the candidate baited ? Where are the witnesses ?
    I’m not defending any one here. I wasn’t there. Im very disappointed in the Coast News methodology.

    • Gene 5 months ago

      Has anyone looked into the alleged victim’s history of leveling false allegations against people (mostly men) for financial gain? Or her history of false police reports and civil lawsuits? I just did a couple hours of due diligence in public records and found enough to completely eliminate any credibility here. Shame on Coastal News for failing to do the same.

      She is also close friends with Jerome Stocks, an opposing candidate. Wonder if he was aware this would go down.

      • Jordan Ingram 5 months ago

        The Coast News will continue to investigate this story. After receiving financial records from Jerome Stocks, we could find no record of the alleged victim ever working for, or receiving money from, Stocks. We will continue to look into this further. Again, the initial story reported that she filed a complaint with the San Diego County Sheriff and it is being actively investigated.

        • Gene 5 months ago

          No one said anything about her working for or accepting money from him. However there are Facebook posts in the past that he commented on. She has deleted her Facebook but those screenshots remain! If Stocks is telling you he doesn’t know her, and is not friends with her, he’s lying.

  7. Aaron Burgin 5 months ago

    Hey guys, just wanted to clarify a few things. The reporter who received the police report information and interviewed the subjects at the bar is me. We don’t use first-person titles when describing our work (ie, “I received a police report, I interviewed subjects at the bar)” so the reporter definitely was not anonymous. In regards to our sources, please rest assured that I went to great lengths to corroborate Ms. Burgan’s account. I spoke to bar employees and others who really wanted to stay out of this for obvious reasons. I worked on this story for nearly a week before we broke it.

    I think Doug mentions in his comments that Ms. Burgan’s comments are not labeled as allegedly, however, we do, in the lead, make it clear that these are her “claims.” She claims this happen is not the same as “this happened.” So, no, we were not taking what she said as fact.

    As always, please expect me to follow this story as it unfolds, and we will report the outcome, no matter what direction it takes. That is what good news organizations do.

    Sincerely,
    Aaron D. Burgin
    The Coast News

  8. Aaron Burgin 5 months ago

    If you would like to contact me in regards to this story or any stories, I can be reached on my cell at 619-796-9902 or via email at aburgin4343@gmail.com

    All the best,
    AB

  9. Doug 5 months ago

    Well that. sounds reasonable Aaron.
    When did Coast News start accepting unidentified replies ? ANONYMOUS appears very phony if not planted without consequence.

    • Jordan Ingram 5 months ago

      Doug,
      People who wish to remain anonymous ask that their names not be given. It happens everyday. You do realize that the article cites a Sheriff’s report. It’s an investigation. We reported it. We will continue to report it as the story develops. If it’s a fraud, we’ll report it. If nothing happens, we’ll report that too. Not all news is good news, but not all bad news is fake news.

  10. Aaron Burgin 5 months ago

    It’s pretty common for reporters to speak to people on background in sensitive stories like this, as long as they give me their names, which in this case, they did. We didn’t report their names in honor of their request for anonymity.

  11. I Know Niki Burgan and Don't Believe Her Story 5 months ago

    I actually know this woman, Niki (Nichole) Burgan through a role related to my job and she is sort of “infamous” in the court system. She has a long history of filing restraining orders against men who she feels have slighted her in some way. In reality, if a man rejects her sexual advances or breaks up with her, she seeks revenge and filing false police reports and restraining orders is one of her go-to tactics. From what I have observed about her, she seems to operate like a “Black Widow”, in that she tries very hard to “capture” a man by being sexually aggressive with him, heaping compliments and attention onto him, in the hopes of marrying him so that she can live off his money. After she gets the guy wrapped around her finger, then her personality and demeanor change dramatically, demanding more and more attention. When the guy eventually “wakes up” and tries to resist her demands and treatment, she then tries to destroy the guy. She has filed restraining orders based on lies, false police reports, she has called her former/attempted lovers’ places of employment to try to get the guys fired, she has sent threats, etc.

    Obviously, nobody knows what happened in the exchange between these two people (except maybe there will be security video footage?), but based on this woman’s repeated pattern of behavior of lying and using the court system to try to destroy people who have rejected her advances, my hunch is that none of what she alleges actually happened, and that she is lying.

  12. Richard Duquette 5 months ago

    Investigate Niki Burgans background & history.
    This is a cheap hit piece.
    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  13. RSF Mom 5 months ago

    Thank you for reporting this Aaron. Voters have a right to know when these types of allegations are made against public figures. His fundraising/PR team from RSF is no doubt trying to put a lid on this situation and as a woman, and a Republican, I find it very disturbing to see continued endorsement of Phil Graham by the Republican Party when it could be instead getting behind one of the other candidates who are not tarnished. If the R’s lose this election, we’ll know why. These types of allegations will take a while to investigate and what if they are proven true? Look what happened when Filner was elected. DiMaio was knocked out of the Mayor’s position by someone who should never have been elected in the first place. Shame on the people who didn’t speak up before that election. And now, we have someone who did and the party is going to ignore that? Maybe it’s time I change my registration to independent. Blind support of someone like this is truly what is giving R’s a bad name. Again, if this seat is lost to a Dem, we’ll know why.

  14. Sherri 5 months ago

    I also know Niki Burgan, and have known her since she was Niki Carlson and lived in Arizona. We are still in contact, though infrequently, and I have become more and more concerned with her pattern of behavior over the past 2 decades. Through the years, Niki has made allegations against at least 4 men that I know of, that they have sexually assaulted, raped, battered, and otherwise abused her. During the past 20+ years, Niki has rarely held a job, quitting or being fired from each and every one after a short tenure. She has lived off a series of 4 husbands, and who knows how many boyfriends/fiances. She has sued more than one employer, and the estate of her late stepfather, in order to fund her lifestyle without supporting herself through employment. I don’t know anything about Phil Graham, but I do know that Niki has always been extremely sexually predatory, and has used sex to control and harm men when they anger her. She has caused devastation to the men she has married, the men she has dated, former friends, and even her adult daughter, who has been drawn into her web of destruction. She continues to use the death of her parents for gain, making flippant comments about them being at the bottom of the ocean so that she can get upgrades when flying, and bragging about doing so on social media. It’s truly disturbing.

    As a fellow human being, I feel for her because she has never been happy, ever, and has buried her unhappiness in bottle after bottle of drugs and alcohol, and in using various court systems to try to destroy others to make herself feel bigger and more important. Niki requires a limelight, and thrives when she is the center of attention. It doesn’t matter to her that she is destroying other people in order to feel important. Other people are irrelevant to her as long as she’s getting attention and financial gain. If there were any truth to this story, she would never in a million years have delayed reporting it to the police. Never. This woman is not afraid of anyone and files false police reports without a second thought. She sees an opportunity for financial gain and that drives absolutely everything else out of her head and that is what is happening her, in my opinion.

    She is also NOT a veterinary technician. Her most recent jobs were at Dollar Tree and Petco or Petsmart. She has never been a vet tech, ever. She was briefly a lifeguard at a pool and was fired from that job. She has basically lied to your publication about everything so that she can try to gain financially by getting this candidate’s campaign to buy her off, and it’s actually pretty disheartening that this story was run the way that it was, before any of her background was examined. I don’t agree with what I’m reading of Phil Graham’s politics, although living out of state that is not my concern, but regardless, no one deserves to have their name dragged through the mud by a woman who has made dragging men’s names through the mud her life’s work. Niki needs to get some serious therapy to figure out why she can’t just live a normal drama-free life without harming others and to deal with her extreme internal misery that she seems so determined to spread to others.

  15. Matti 5 months ago

    Oh, some more to contact are Le Papagayo, St. Archer, the Regal Seagull, Vigillucci’s, Dini’s, Encinitas saloon, Biergarden, Beachside Bar and Grill, Union Kitchen and Tap, The Office. They should all know or recognize her.

  16. BenS SD vet tech 5 months ago

    I’m a veterinary technician in San Diego County and I’m disappointed in the lack of research done by The Coast News before reporting that this woman is a member of my field. The credentialing process to become a California licensed veterinary technician is extensive, and a search of the licensing database shows that Niki Burgan has never been credentialed here (https://search.dca.ca.gov). I question why the basic demographic claims of the accuser were not examined prior to publication.

    It is impossible to be employed as a veterinary technician without being licensed, so even that basic part of your story is inaccurate, and having the likes of her incorrectly connected with a respected field of veterinary medicine is a blemish on our profession.

    It seems like this woman is a liar from the ground up and her decision to make these allegations about Phil 2 weeks before primaries are for very questionable motives.

  17. Another former neighbor 5 months ago

    I live at Tradition too and am happy to report that she has moved out! I was initially friendly with her, and our kids played together, but she was constantly screaming at them and it really upset and scared my kids so I stopped letting them play. I feel so badly for those kids. They are really good kids and need some protection from her. This whole thing is so crazy.

  18. TruthSeeker 5 months ago

    Mr. Burgin, the “reporter” who “broke” this story, wrote above, “In regards to our sources, please rest assured that I went to great lengths to corroborate Ms. Burgan’s account. I spoke to bar employees and others who really wanted to stay out of this for obvious reasons. I worked on this story for nearly a week before we broke it.”

    Questions for Mr. Burgin:
    1. Is there video evidence of any of her allegations? Did you bother to ask if there was any before running the story?
    2. You wrote above there was evidence corroborating her claims. What evidence? Or did you just run this story just on her word?

  19. TruthSeeker 5 months ago

    The reporter states above: “In regards to our sources, please rest assured that I went to great lengths to corroborate Ms. Burgan’s account. I spoke to bar employees and others who really wanted to stay out of this for obvious reasons. I worked on this story for nearly a week before we broke it.”

    Two questions:
    1. Is there video evidence that shows she told the truth? Did the reporter try and see this video before running story?
    2. What “corroboration” exists to support her story, or did the reporter just go on her word?

    • Jordan Ingram 5 months ago

      Truthseeker, The Sheriff’s Department has reviewed the bar’s video surveillance but as of yet have not reported their findings. Staff reported that Graham was at the bar the night of the alleged incident. After the claimant filed a report with the Sheriff, The Coast News reported on the filing. Furthermore, The Coast News requested comments from Graham, San Diego County Sheriff and bar staff on the matter and what we received is published within the article. The Coast News also looked into the background of the claimant and published its findings. For more information, please see the follow-up article on this ongoing investigation.

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