OPEN GOVERNMENT — The Assembly Higher Education Committee on Tuesday approved SB 330 a reintroduction of last years SB 218 to apply
the California Public Records Act (CPRA) to nonprofit 'auxiliary'
organizations that perform government functions at campuses of the University of
California, California State University, and Californias community
colleges, reports the office of Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), author of both bills.
To address the Governors veto message from last year,
the new bill has been amended to exempt from disclosure the names of
volunteers and donors who wish to remain anonymous provided they do not
receive something of value greater than $500 in exchange for their
donation or service. The bill will also exempt information obtained in
the process of soliciting donations.
It is imperative that we
pass this bill to help rid the UC and the CSU of waste, fraud, and
abuse, said Yee. Through this legislation, we will give the Governor a
second chance to do the right thing. Taxpayers and students deserve to
know how their public universities are run.
The time has come
to bring transparency and accountability to our public colleges and
universities, said Lillian Taiz, President of the California Faculty
Association and a history professor at CSU Los Angeles. Because of
state funding cuts to public higher education, we must ensure that what
money the system has is spent as it was intended in the classroom
Most recently, the CSU Stanislaus Foundation,
which is fully staffed by taxpayer-funded employees, negotiated a
speaking engagement contract with Sarah Palin but refused to disclose
her compensation for this Fridays gala. Then, email correspondence by
administrators regarding the visit were uncovered and students also
found pages 4 through 9 of the Palin contract in the administrations
dumpster, which showed her visit requirements include a hotel suite,
first class airfare or a private Lear jet, pre-screened questions, and
The incident has spurred an investigation by
the Attorney General, a lawsuit by Californians Aware, and several hate
messages sent to the office of Senator Yee, who had made a public records
request to the University for such information.
The UC and CSU
have often evaded the public records act by shifting some
responsibilities to foundations and other auxiliary organizations
operating on campuses. Several recent examples demonstrate the need for
increased public oversight and accountability provided by SB 330:
- At Sonoma State, a $1.25 million loan issued to a former foundation
board member two days after he resigned. Recently a bankruptcy court
forced the Sonoma State Foundation to return a portion of that loan
which the former board member attempted to pay outside of the bankruptcy
court proceedings. The Attorney General and the FBI are investigating a
number of auxiliaries at Sonoma State.
- At Fresno State, a
no-bid managing contract was given to a foundation member for a theatre
complex in which he held a financial interest. In addition, the Fresno
Bee newspaper was denied information in 2001, specifically concerning
the identity of individuals and companies that received luxury suites at
the Save Mart Center arena. The denial resulted in CSU v. Superior
Court (McClatchy Company), in which the Court opined that although it
recognized university auxiliaries ought to be covered by the CPRA and
that its ruling was counter to the obvious legislative intent of the
CPRA, the rewriting of the statute was a legislative responsibility.
- At San Francisco City College, a campus executive has been indicted for
using money from the San Francisco City College Foundation for personal
and political purposes.
- At San Jose/Evergreen Community College, the
Chancellor was found to have engaged in lavish travel and other examples
of financial impropriety that prompted her resignation. Since local
community college campus auxiliaries are already subject to the CPRA,
these instances of waste and abuse have led to the parties being held
- Sacramento State President Alexander Gonzalez
recently acknowledged his campus is being investigated by the Attorney
General in relation to inappropriate expenditures of campus auxiliary
money, including $200,000 to remodel President Gonzalez kitchen in
2007. Additionally at Sacramento State, $6.3 million of public funds
was transferred to University Enterprises Inc., a campus auxiliary, to
backfill losses from a property acquisition.
leadership at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo appears to be under the influence
of a well-heeled donor. In October, Cal Poly eliminated a guest
lecture at the request of executives from the Harris Ranch Beef Company,
who threatened to withhold $500,000 in support for a new campus
meat-processing center. Emails recently obtained by the San Luis Obispo
Telegram Tribune also found that Harris Ranch may have also forced the
resignation of a faculty member who taught a course on sustainable
farming. Harris officials are now requesting a meeting with Cal Poly
administrators to determine whether or not they will continue with their
According to the CSU Chancellors Office, 20 percent of
its $6.7 billion budget, or $1.34 billion, is held in their 87
auxiliaries and foundations, and out of public view.
SB 330 would
remove the cloak of secrecy that prevents the public from understanding
whether significant amounts of educational funding for public colleges
and universities is being spent for the benefit of all Californians or
just a privileged few, said Jim Ewert, Legal Counsel for the California
Newspaper Publishers Association.
In just the past few months,
the scandals involving these foundations have expanded significantly to
reveal that money has been used inappropriately for personal expenses,
questionable loans, no-bid contracts, and executive perks for college
administrators, said Taiz.
If government agencies can spin off
front groups to handle their income with no transparency, those who
provide that funding will never know quite where their money goes, said
Terry Francke, General Counsel for Californians Aware.
heading to the Governor, SB 330 must be approved by the full Assembly.