A week-long parade of bad press following the state audit of UCOP has put questions about President Janet Napolitano’s leadership front and center. One lawmaker has already called for the former governor and Homeland Security secretary to step down. Gov. Jerry Brown is even in the mix, saying $50 million will be withheld from UC if the system doesn’t adopt the audit’s recommendations. In an op-ed, Napolitano said her office is in the process of implementing the changes. She struck notes of both apology and defiance, saying that things could have been done better, but insisting the audit’s implications of hidden money are fiction. Despite the negative news, Regent Richard Blum has called the criticism over the reserve fund “utter nonsense” and added he believes UCOP’s account of allegations concerning interference with the audit.
Nonetheless, concerns about UCOP meddling in the audit have led the Regents to vote to bring in an independent investigator to look into the interference claims. The San Francisco Chronicle reported three campuses changed responses in ways that painted UCOP in a better light, a finding that elicited harsh criticism from lawmakers. In response, Democrats have proposed making such interference a criminal offense.
Making matters worse, another story from the San Francisco Chronicle highlighted the high costs of retirement parties for UCOP employees, including one in 2015 with a bill of $4,200. The article also notes the $11,500 monthly rent on Napolitano’s Oakland apartment, though UCOP emphasized the space is used for official business and is paid for with private funds. Buried in the story is a note that iPads and cell phones have cost UCOP $2 million over a four-year stretch, a 29 percent increase. During the same period, the State of California was cutting cell phone costs by about 30 percent.
Amid the audit dustup, UC has also proposed a more politically palatable out-of-state student cap. Earlier, the university proposed capping the system-wide proportion at 20 percent, but after facing criticism, they’ve moved the cap down to 18 percent. Just as before, this new cap would not be enforced at campuses which currently exceed the limit.
5/11 – Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget holds back $50 million from UC to ‘hold their feet to the fire’ on reform (LATimes): Brown questioned the salaries of UC administrators and said his move would “hold their feet to the fire.”
5/10 – Janet Napolitano, the ‘Political Heavyweight,’ Now Finds Herself Under Fire (Chronicle): This overview of Napolitano’s recent trials includes the amusing understatement: “Given the audit’s findings, however, (Napolitano) foresees spending more time working with state legislators to explain how the system is adopting the changes recommended in the audit.”
5/9 – UC audit reveals president’s office has extravagant taste (SFChronicle): UCOP spent $4,200 on a single retirement party in 2015. Between 2014 and 2016, at least 20 parties cost over $500. Additionally, UCOP spent $13,000 on dinner and security at a celebration of two departing Regents, though the money came from private sources.
5/10 – Op-Ed: UC president responds to critical audit (SFChronicle): Napolitano notes the suggested reforms will be implemented but emphasized the scope of UC’s responsibilities and questioned the audit’s characterization of its findings.
5/12 – $350 hotel nights, limo rides in Europe: UC audit finds more questionable travel expenses (LATimes): The LA Times piles on with more accounts of lavish spending, including a stay at a luxury hotel in Baltimore. UCOP notes no other hotels were available.
5/11 – California State Assembly member calls for Janet Napolitano’s resignation (DailyCal): Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) has called for Napolitano to step down. The article also quotes student leaders who are critical of the system president.
5/11 – UC regents take first steps to investigate alleged interference in state audit surveys (LATimes): The Regents will hire an independent investigator to look into allegations that UCOP interfered with the state’s audit. Napolitano says she supports the move.
5/14 – Column: Key UC regent is standing by Napolitano (SFChronicle): Regent Richard Blum called the brouhaha over the reserve money “utter nonsense.” Blum used colorful language to describe Lt. Gov. Newsom’s characterization of the audit’s finding.
5/11 – A Cloud Over the University of California (NYT): The California-focused daily newsletter from the New York Times highlighted the system’s woes.
5/14 – Closer look at $175 million UC hid from the public (SFChronicle): A closer look at the “hidden” $175 million, which UC insists wasn’t hidden. The vast majority of the funds have been allocated, including money for food pantries and sexual harassment training.
5/10 – 3 UC campuses change responses in state auditor’s survey (SFChronicle): The article relies on records from the audit:
The surveys and previously unreleased emails show that administrators at UC Santa Cruz, UC San Diego and UC Irvine removed criticism of Napolitano’s office or upgraded performance ratings in key areas at the direction of Napolitano’s staff. The interference — including a systemwide conference call conducted by the president’s office to coordinate responses among all campuses — prompted (State Auditor) Howle to discard all the results as tainted.
“The tampering is absolutely outrageous and unbelievable,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, who requested the audit last year with Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, amid concerns over increased spending and rising tuition and fees. Napolitano oversees an office with a $686 million budget and nearly 1,700 employees.
5/9 – After blistering UC audit, interfering with state auditor could become crime (SJMN): Republican lawmakers are calling for a subpoena of relevant documents from UCOP’s offices.
5/9 – After UC probe, interfering with state auditor could soon be a crime (SacBee): The plan by two Democrats to introduce a bill is intended to clear up any confusion over whether such interference is criminal.
5/9 – UC revises its plan to limit the share of spots going to out-of-state students (LATimes): UC has lowered the proposed cap on out-of-state students from 20 to 18 percent, though the four campuses above that limit would be able to maintain their current levels. Berkeley’s undergraduate population is 24.4 percent out-of-state.