The side gigs for Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and incoming UC Davis Chancellor Gary May bear watching closely, but they aren’t reason for undue alarm.
The mayor disclosed Friday that he has started a consulting practice with two clients: the California Hospital Association and Meristem, a Fair Oaks-based nonprofit for students with autism.
May will receive nearly $326,000 a year by sitting on two outside boards, a practice that put former Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi in hot water, The Bee’s Diane Lambert reported Wednesday.
Both arrangements raise two primary issues – potential distraction from official duties and potential conflicts of interest.
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Steinberg says he’ll still put in 40 hours a week or more as mayor, and that his consulting work won’t distract him. The mayor also says that while he doesn’t expect any business involving his clients to come before the City Council, he’ll recuse himself if necessary.
While the hospital association doesn’t have direct connections with City Hall, some of its major members do. Kaiser Permanente plans to build a medical center in the downtown railyard. And Steinberg has a close relationship with Sutter Health, which gave $1.5 million to his nonprofit institute to work on mental health and last month promised $5 million for the mayor’s homeless initiative.
May, the engineering dean at Georgia Tech, says he plans to stay on the board of Leidos, a Virginia defense and technology company, and join the board of Draper Laboratory, a Massachusetts nonprofit research center, but does not plan to take any more outside positions when he starts at UC Davis on Aug. 1.
While the $288,000 he gets for attending four Leidos board meeting a year is eye-opening, UC says it could lead to donations and opportunities for students. May’s outside board compensation appears to be the most of any UC chancellor in 2015, and won’t be that much less than his official base salary of $425,000 a year. (He’ll also receive $75,000 a year in private money.)
Both arrangements have also been cleared, for now.
City Attorney James Sanchez has issued an opinion that dues paid to the hospital association by its individual members don’t pose a conflict for Steinberg.
UC says May is complying with a stricter policy on outside activity regents approved after the Katehi controversy. Under the new policy, senior managers cannot hold more than two paid board seats and they must not pose a conflict or “reputational risk.”
The real problem with Katehi’s outside service was her poor judgment in signing on with DeVry Education Group, a private university that was under federal investigation for defrauding students and later paid a $100 million settlement. She also served on the board of textbook publisher Wiley & Sons, whose books were assigned by some UC Davis faculty members.
The reality is that accomplished people who get elected as mayors and selected as university chancellors are in high demand. As long as they don’t neglect their primary duties and avoid conflicts, they shouldn’t be banned entirely from outside work.