Davis Chancellor Katehi traveled extensively at UC expense
If Linda P.B. Katehi takes all of her furniture when she vacates the UC Davis chancellor’s residence next month, the university will have to replace tens of thousands of dollars in sofas, chairs and other furnishings for a spacious public area used to entertain guests.
A year after Katehi moved into the 7,779-square-foot house affectionately known as “The Residence,” she gave away or surplussed university-owned furniture in 2010, said UC Davis spokeswoman Dana Topousis.
She replaced those items with her own furniture in the 4,920-square-foot public area of the house, according to a former university administrator.
Katehi resigned last month under pressure from University of California President Janet Napolitano, who had suspended Katehi in April and was preparing in August to present results of an investigation to UC regents. She has to move out of the chancellor’s residence by Oct. 31.
The ranch-style house in a tony neighborhood adjacent to the campus was meant to serve both a public and private function. It has been used for receptions, donor cultivation, appreciation dinners, alumni gatherings, distinguished speakers, performances and meetings.
Furniture for the public area was purchased in 1998 by The Ryerson Society for $185,000, according to the late former chancellor Larry Vanderhoef, in his book “Indelibly Davis.” The society also raised money to construct the residence, which was completed in 1998, Topousis confirmed. The group no longer exists and appears to have formed for the sole purpose of rebuilding and furnishing a residence for the UC Davis chancellor.
Katehi initially put the furniture in storage at the cost of $800 to $1,000 a year to the university, Topousis said. It is unclear how much of the $185,000 in furnishings were moved out of the house because the university has not provided an inventory.
In 2010, she had some of the furniture relocated to the lobby of the Chancellor’s Office on the fifth floor of Mrak Hall, as well as to other areas of the campus. She also donated some pieces to charity, including the nearby International House. And she had some pieces provided for sale to Aggie Surplus, a university program on LaRue Road, Topousis said.
Three or four sofas and about 12 dining room chairs from the residence were donated by the chancellor’s household staff to neighboring International House, according a source close to that program. The independent nonprofit that fosters cultural learning is not part of the University of California.
Photos on the International House website show couches identical to those in university photos of the chancellor’s residence.
“By the time Chancellor Katehi moved into the residence in 2009, the furnishings in the public area were well worn,” Topousis said in an email. “Following UC policy, Chancellor Katehi surplussed or donated the furniture in the public area in 2010. The furniture was more than 10 years old at that time.”
It remains to be seen whether Katehi will leave behind the furniture she purchased for the public area. Larry Kamer, a Katehi spokesman, said, “Sorry, but we aren’t commenting on the matters you called about.”
Katehi resigned her job as chancellor Aug. 8 just as UC officials were about to release the results of an investigation into whether she violated school policies on nepotism and the use of student fees, among other things. Katehi was cleared of the most serious allegations, but investigators determined that she violated university policies on filing travel expenses and serving on corporate boards.
The investigation also found that Katehi had repeatedly sought ways to enhance her online reputation by hiring outside consultants, despite claims to the contrary to UC President Janet Napolitano and to the media.
The former chancellor will have a sabbatical year at her $424,360 chancellor’s salary and is expected to return to campus in fall 2017 as a faculty member.
George Mason professor Judith Wilde, an expert on university executives, said the key to whether the sale and donation of the furniture by Katehi was appropriate depends on whether she gained approval from UC President Janet Napolitano or the Board of Regents.
University of California policy says the university’s surplus administrator determines whether an item is no longer of value. The item can then be sold, recycled or donated. Items can only be donated if its value is less than the cost of the storage, handling and record-keeping associated with it. All donations must be reviewed by the university’s surplus operation.
The Sacramento Bee submitted a Public Records Act request on June 28 asking for a documentation of any furniture from the house that had been sold or donated. The Bee has also asked for a list of all public events held at the home during Katehi’s tenure. The university has yet to release that information.
“It’s not too uncommon for a president to get themselves in trouble for decorating, but this is the first time I’ve heard of getting in trouble for undecorating,” Wilde said.
The lack of furniture at the residence opens a new chancellor up to potential criticism, Wilde said. “It would seem to me the new chancellor faces the possibility of a new controversy because their first act is to redecorate or replace everything.”
In his 2015 book published the same year he died, Vanderhoef questioned Katehi’s decision to replace the university-owned furniture with her personal possessions. He feared she was making the house seem less public and more private.
“I hope this doesn’t signal a change in the home’s use, that the UC Davis Chancellor’s residence will continue to be broadly open to our campus family and our community for decades to come,” wrote Vanderhoef.
The university provided documents to chancellor job candidates in 2008 estimating that UC Davis chancellors host about 2,700 guests at 50 events each year.
The 7,779-square house includes a public area with a large living room and entry, a formal dining room that seats up to 12 guests, a large gallery room that accommodates up to 50 seated guests, a catering staging area and pantry, a wine cellar, a study, a guest suite with sitting room and bedroom, restrooms, a managers office and a two-car garage.
A family room, master bedroom, three additional bedrooms, three bathrooms, laundry, catering kitchen and breakfast nook made up the 2,859-foot private home.
The backyard features a courtyard that can accommodate receptions of more than 500 and a smaller garden beyond the breezeway for smaller receptions.
Source: UC Davis documents prepared for the 2008 chancellor search