Capitol Alert

Gavin Newsom says ‘it’s time’ for UC Davis Chancellor Katehi to quit

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks to The Sacramento Bee editorial board on Feb. 2, 2016.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks to The Sacramento Bee editorial board on Feb. 2, 2016.

A day after UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi was placed on investigatory administrative leave, at least one member of the University of California’s governing board has joined the calls for her to resign.

“We’re frankly past that point,” Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, one of the 26 voting members of the Board of Regents, said Thursday in an interview with The Sacramento Bee.

Newsom said he personally liked Katehi, but that mounting issues involving her service on corporate boards, efforts to bury Internet references to the 2011 pepper spraying of students and campus employment of several of her immediate family members had begun to outweigh her good work at UC Davis.

“She’s done really exceptional things,” Newsom said. “So it’s not easy for me to say that it’s time to move on.”

UC President Janet Napolitano put Katehi on leave for at least 90 days Wednesday night pending the outcome of an investigation into whether she played an improper role in promotions and salary increases for her daughter-in-law, lied about her involvement in hiring reputation management companies following the pepper-spray incident and misspent student fee revenues. Katehi said the move was “entirely unjustified” and “smacks of scapegoating.”

Napolitano had already attempted to give Katehi a face-saving exit, according to members of the Board of Regents who declined to be identified, but Katehi refused when Napolitano asked her to resign on Monday. They said they were informed of the investigation on a conference call Wednesday evening, shortly before it was announced publicly.

The regents may ultimately be asked to remove Katehi as chancellor, though she would retain her joint faculty appointments in electrical and computer engineering and gender, sexuality, and women's studies at UC Davis. The board will hold a closed-session personnel discussion about Katehi at their next meeting, which takes place May 11-12 in Sacramento.

“I don’t think I’m the only one of the regents that feels this way,” Newsom said.

Others members were cautious in their assessment. They said they would wait until more concrete evidence was available before deciding whether Katehi should resign or be removed as chancellor.

“I’m disappointed in what’s happening,” Regent Eloy Ortiz Oakley said, “I’m 100 percent supportive of President Napolitano’s action.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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