Emails counter as­ser­tion on au­dit

Notes con­tra­dict UC chief ’s re­marks on se­cret sur­veys

San Francisco Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - By Nanette Asi­mov

The of­fice of Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Pres­i­dent Janet Napoli­tano di­rected ad­min­is­tra­tors at UC cam­puses to re­veal their con­fi­den­tial re­sponses to a state au­di­tor’s sur­vey, ac­cord­ing to emails ob­tained Wed­nes­day by The Chron­i­cle that con­tra­dict Napoli­tano’s tes­ti­mony to state law­mak­ers about why her of­fice in­ter­fered with an in­spec­tion.

Napoli­tano tes­ti­fied Tues­day that her staff re­viewed re­sponses only after cam­puses asked for help in un­der­stand­ing com­pli­cated sur­vey ques­tions from state Au­di­tor Elaine Howle as part of her au­dit of the UC pres­i­dent’s of­fice.

But nu­mer­ous emails from the pres­i­dent’s staff to all 10 cam­puses, and emails from sev­eral cam­puses to the staff in­clude none that show cam­puses ask­ing for help. Instead, they show cam­pus of­fi­cials ar­rang­ing to show their re-

sponses to Napoli­tano’s staff “as re­quested.” They show her staff “check­ing in” with cam­puses to see when they could see their re­sponses. And they show cam­pus of­fi­cials apol­o­giz­ing in cases where they sent their re­sponses to the au­di­tor be­fore show­ing them to Napoli­tano’s staff. In one such case, UC Santa Cruz, pulled its re­sponses back from the au­di­tor — ap­par­ently at Napoli­tano’s re­quest.

“Per your con­ver­sa­tion with (cam­pus) Chan­cel­lor ear­lier to­day, we have al­ready started the re­call process of the State Au­dit Sur­vey,” Ashish Sahni, a UC Santa Cruz as­so­ciate chan­cel­lor, told Napoli­tano in a Novem­ber email copied to the pres­i­dent’s top staff mem­bers and to cam­pus Chan­cel­lor Ge­orge Blu­men­thal. Sahni de­clined to com­ment. In an­other Novem­ber email, UC Irvine’s As­so­ciate Chan­cel­lor Michael Arias sends the smaller of two sur­vey re­sponses to Napoli­tano’s deputy chief of staff, Bernie Jones.

“Hope­fully it is OK, be­cause (a col­league) sent it to Sacra­mento al­ready,” Arias writes. “I apol­o­gize again, but I some­how thought you folks were only con­cerned with the larger sur­vey.”

Napoli­tano told law­mak­ers Tues­day that she was sorry for her of­fice’s han­dling of the sur­vey re­sponses. She said it hap­pened when “some on the cam­puses reached out to (her of­fice) with ques­tions and a re­quest for help with co­or­di­nat­ing the re­sponses.”

She also em­pha­sized sev­eral times that she “wasn’t in­volved in the day-to-day, back and forth of the sur­veys.”

The au­di­tor’s two-part sur­vey, which records show was marked con­fi­den­tial, was sent to cam­puses to un­cover any costly du­pli­ca­tion of work be­tween them and the pres­i­dent’s of­fice. The au­dit was or­dered by law­mak­ers con­cerned about in­creased spend­ing by the of­fice and found, among other prob­lems, that Napoli­tano’s of­fice kept $175 mil­lion in se­cret funds and that its ac­count­ing prac­tices were a mess.

But the au­di­tor threw out the cam­pus re­sponses be­cause the pres­i­dent’s of­fice had not only seen them be­fore they were given to the au­di­tor, but had caused sev­eral of the an­swers to be changed — many of them to re­flect a more pos­i­tive view of UC lead­er­ship, Howle said.

State law­mak­ers on three budget and higher ed­u­ca­tion com­mit­tees held a joint hear­ing this week to learn more about Howle’s scathing au­dit of Napoli­tano’s of­fice and its $686 mil­lion an­nual budget.

Sev­eral law­mak­ers ex­pressed dis­may at what they called tam­per­ing by the pres­i­dent’s staff in the con­fi­den­tial sur­vey process. Some said it re­duced their con­fi­dence in UC, and oth­ers asked if it rose to a crim­i­nal level — to which Howle replied that she didn’t know be­cause she wasn’t an at­tor­ney. But in her 17 years as au­di­tor, she said, she hadn’t seen “in­ter­fer­ence” of this kind.

On Wed­nes­day, a spokes­woman for Napoli­tano said the pres­i­dent’s tes­ti­mony was ac­cu­rate.

The pres­i­dent’s of­fice learned of the sur­veys “when sev­eral cam­pus di­rec­tors called and asked for help,” said the spokes­woman, Dianne Klein. “The task was a bit over­whelm­ing, and the cam­puses wanted some guid­ance.”

Asked to com­ment Wed­nes­day on the ap­par­ent dis­crep­ancy be­tween Napoli­tano’s tes­ti­mony and the emails, As­sem­bly­woman Catharine Baker, R-San Ra­mon, vice chair of the higher ed­u­ca­tion com­mit­tee, re­it­er­ated her call for a sub­poena of UC records.

“This dis­crep­ancy in the tes­ti­mony and the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the Of­fice of the Pres­i­dent’s in­volve­ment in the sur­veys is pre­cisely why the Leg­is­la­ture should is­sue legally bind­ing sub­poe­nas, for all of the doc­u­ments and com­mu­ni­ca­tions re­lated to re­sponses to the cam­pus sur­veys,” she said. “We need to get to the bot­tom of this.”

As­sem­bly­man Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, the budget com­mit­tee chair who called for the au­dit with As­sem­bly­man Kevin McCarty, D-Sacra­mento, said it is now up to the re­gents to take ac­tion.

“They have to take it very se­ri­ously and re­view all the facts,” Ting said. “The fact that the pres­i­dent al­ready tam­pered with a state au­dit is very se­ri­ous.”

Mon­ica Lozano, chair­woman of the UC re­gents, told law­mak­ers Tues­day that the board will look into the al­leged tam­per­ing.

At the same time, she said, “we have con­fi­dence in (the pres­i­dent’s) lead­er­ship.”

Rich Pedroncelli / As­so­ci­ated Press

The of­fice of UC Pres­i­dent Janet Napoli­tano (right) al­legedly or­dered cam­puses to re­veal their re­sponses to se­cret au­dit sur­veys.

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