Soapbox

UC president’s budget scandal should not be swept under the rug

Janet Napolitano explains her involvement in audit of UC: ‘We could have handled this better’

University of California President Janet Napolitano on May 2, 2017 told a legislative committee that her office should not have taken actions that made it appear it was interfering in an audit. Video courtesy of the California Channel.
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University of California President Janet Napolitano on May 2, 2017 told a legislative committee that her office should not have taken actions that made it appear it was interfering in an audit. Video courtesy of the California Channel.

Some people may characterize recent actions by the University of California Office of the President as a “misimpression,” but in reality, the only appropriate word Republicans and Democrats agree on is “scandalous” (“Watching the Capitol go Benghazi on UC’s Napolitano”; Insight, Shawn Hubler, May 4).

To sum things up, the UC Office of the President used misleading budgeting to amass an undisclosed $175 million slush fund that it spent on things such as administrator bonuses and renovating the homes of campus chancellors. When people started asking questions, UC President Janet Napolitano’s staff worked overtime to interfere with the audit. These are not my words, this is how the state auditor portrayed their behavior. Were this a criminal investigation, Napolitano’s staff wouldn’t be able to just apologize for interfering; they would be charged with obstruction of justice.

At the request of Napolitano’s staff, UC chancellors sent auditor surveys to her office for review and censorship instead of directly to the auditor, despite specific instructions not to do so. This broke the chain of custody required to keep whistleblowers protected. The edited surveys made it impossible for the auditor to find out what chancellors actually thought.

Even after the cover-up had been exposed, the apparent lying continued. At an oversight hearing, Napolitano claimed her office attempted to edit surveys at the request of individual campuses. Newly published emails prove that to be false.

This pattern of deception is why we need a subpoena and forensic audit of UC Office of the President’s records. We simply cannot trust the word of Napolitano or her staff. Calls for the UC regents to review the situation are woefully inadequate. This scandal happened and it is the duty of the Legislature to determine the truth.

California students were hit with a tuition increase shortly before the slush fund was made public. They deserve to know their money is being well spent. Calls to give the UC benefit of the doubt do students and parents a disservice. Napolitano’s office violated their trust, and as a result we’ve seen bloated administrator salaries, budget trickery and resistance to oversight. If the Legislature won’t look out for students and demand accountability, who will?

Assemblyman Dante Acosta, R-Santa Clarita, represents the 38th Assembly District. He can be contacted at Dante.Acosta@asm.ca.gov.

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