Katehi’s ‘questionable activity’ at UC Davis went unchallenged by close aides, Napolitano says

UC Davis students react to Katehi resignation

On the day Linda Katehi announced her resignation, some students had strong opinions about her decision. Katehi faced many allegations leading up to her resignation on Tuesday, August 9.
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On the day Linda Katehi announced her resignation, some students had strong opinions about her decision. Katehi faced many allegations leading up to her resignation on Tuesday, August 9.

In a scathing, 15-page letter to members of the University of California Board of Regents last month, UC President Janet Napolitano described a litany of failures by UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi that ultimately led to Katehi’s resignation.

The Aug. 5 confidential letter, released Thursday in response to a request by The Sacramento Bee under the California Public Records Act, followed a four-month investigation of Katehi and described numerous instances in which Napolitano concluded Katehi had not been truthful with her or others.

She also described to the regents how Katehi had failed to follow UC policy and “fostered a culture where even the campus leaders closest to her do not feel comfortable letting her know when she is engaging in questionable activity.”

“The investigation has demonstrated that chancellor Katehi repeatedly misled UC leadership, the UC Davis community, and the public about matters that would cast her in a negative light,” Napolitano wrote.

The letter was sent to the regents, and encrypted so that it could not be copied or disseminated to others, in advance of a scheduled special meeting at which the board was to consider Katehi’s fate. Instead, Katehi agreed to resign on Aug. 9, two days before the scheduled meeting, in a deal that gave her a year of her $424,360 salary and the right to return to campus as a tenured professor.

Katehi’s resignation came the same day UC released the results of its investigation, which was ordered after a series of stories in The Bee detailing her service on outside corporate boards and the hiring of companies to improve her reputation in online postings.

While she was cleared of the most serious allegations related to nepotism and misspending university funds, Katehi violated some university policies for filing travel expenses and serving on corporate boards, according to a report issued by the UC Office of the President. The investigation also found that Katehi had personally and repeatedly sought ways to enhance her online reputation by hiring outside consultants, despite claims to the contrary to Napolitano and the media.

Napolitano focused much of her letter on Katehi’s involvement in the hiring of firms to clean up her online reputation, as well as the chancellor’s repeated denials to Napolitano and the media that she had anything to do with the decisions.

“Chancellor Katehi’s representations about these contracts were false,” Napolitano’s letter stated, adding that once “it became apparent” Katehi had not been truthful with her she asked her to resign in April.

Katehi’s lawyer began working on a “mutually agreeable transition plan,” Napolitano wrote, but the deal was scuttled when Katehi sent an email to UC Davis leadership and faculty “proclaiming her intention to remain as the chancellor.”

Even then, Napolitano wrote, she held off on firing Katehi, choosing instead to place her on leave and order the investigation “in an effort to be fair and transparent.”

Napolitano spokeswoman Dianne Klein said Thursday that the final cost of the investigation, which was led by two former U.S. attorneys, has not yet been determined. Katehi spokesman Larry Kamer did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Once the investigation was complete, Napolitano moved aggressively to convince the regents that Katehi had to go, citing a “lack of candor” in her “ill-advised decision” to join the board of the for-profit DeVry University and her failure to seek permission beforehand from Napolitano.

At the time, DeVry was being sued by the federal government for “a variety of deceptive practices,” Napolitano wrote, and her withholding of information about the DeVry post “reflects poor judgment.”

The investigation also found that when The Bee disclosed her acceptance of the DeVry seat and controversy erupted on campus, Katehi misled one of her own communications staff members into taking “actions defending her on the basis of information that she knew to be false.” Disclosures about the DeVry seat and her participation on the board of a textbook publishing company led to protests on campus and the five-week occupation of the lobby outside Katehi’s office by student protesters.

In all, Katehi served on 22 outside boards but received UC approval for only five of those appointments – a violation of UC policy, Napolitano said in her letter.

Napolitano’s office has hired a search firm and formed a search committee made up of faculty, administrators and students to find a replacement for Katehi, who had been chancellor since 2009.

UC Davis Provost Ralph J. Hexter has served as acting chancellor since Katehi was placed on leave April 27.


Diana Lambert: 916-321-1090, @dianalambert

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