University of California President Janet Napolitano was skewered Tuesday in front of a California legislature oversight committee focusing on allegations her office plotted against a state audit, interfered with data collection, and waged a smear campaign to prevent revelations of hidden cash.
California State Auditor Elaine Howle kicked off the extraordinary five-hour joint session of the California Senate and Assembly with the assertion that the UC Office of the President interfered with her work by intercepting audit surveys sent to campus leaders, and requesting respondents to change answers to reflect more positively on management before they were returned.
The hearing was called after Howle’s office issued a 167-page audit that bluntly stated the UC president’s office had “Failed to Disclose Tens of Millions in Surplus Funds, and Its Budget Practices Are Misleading.” Auditors alleged that Napolitano, who previously served as Secretary of Homeland Security under President Barack Obama, raised tuitions while her office was hiding $175 million.
Howle also concluded that Napolitano’s office systematically overcharged the 10 campuses to fund its bloated staff of 1,700; spent excessively on employee compensation and executive performance bonuses; and then kept the existence of the $175 million secret reserve when the university’s regents voted on her request to raise tuition by 2.7 percent next year.
According to the East Bay Times, the State Auditor summed up her testimony by stating, “In my 17 years as state auditor, we have never had a situation like this.”
Napolitano told legislators that her office has accepted all the State Auditor’s 33 budgeting recommendations as “constructive and helpful,” according to the Times. She thanked the legislature for calling the hearings, and claimed, “It is my hope that this hearing will enable us to clear the air, and move forward on behalf of our students and the state.”
Assemblyman Jose Medina (D-Riverside), Chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee and member of the Oversight Committee, commented on his website, “The University of California has long been a world-class institution and is a tremendous asset to our state.” He blamed the Office of the President, which is “entrusted with supporting the essential work of UC campuses,” for the “mismanaged budget practices revealed by the State Audit Report.” He called the existence of “$175 million in undisclosed funds, while raising tuition, “an extreme breach of trust to the Legislature and especially to students.”
Monica Lozano, Chairwoman of the UC Board of Regents, testified that the Board would implement changes in the president’s office and review the $336 increase in tuition this coming school year. Lozano praised the State Auditor’s report and promised greater direction from the Board of Regents.