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Lawmakers grill UC President Napolitano over ‘extremely troubling’ audit(3)

2017-06-16 04:05 [NEWS] Source:Netword
Guide:State Auditor Elaine Howle said Tuesday that UCs budget practices were surprisingly weak and ineffective and left regents in the dark on how money was being spent. Howle said the presidents office its

State Auditor Elaine Howle said Tuesday that UC’s budget practices were surprisingly weak and ineffective and left regents in the dark on how money was being spent. Howle said the president’s office itself was unaware of just how much it had in reserves because it was kept in various accounts.

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, said the auditor’s findings reflect poorly on the regents. Monica Lozano, chairwoman of the Board of Regents, steadfastly defended Napolitano and her office, but said Tuesday that regents would step up oversight.

In the audit, Howle recommended that the Legislature begin overseeing the president’s office budget rather than have the Board of Regents oversee it by having the state directly fund the office. Currently, the president’s office gets its money from the 10 campuses.

Tuesday’s hearing offered no clear direction on whether lawmakers would push for that oversight.

Lawmakers, however, were sharp with their words.

“There does not appear to be in the audit — from my reading of it — any really intended criminal activity,” Weber said. “But, there does appear to be a sense of arrogance and resistance.”

Six Assembly Republicans sent a letter Tuesday to Assembly leadership requesting a subpoena to force UC to produce Financial records to “gauge whether or not criminal activity has taken place.”

Auditors sent surveys to each of the 10 campuses to determine if there were any areas in which there was administrative bloat. Howle said those survey responses were intercepted by the president’s office and answers that were once negative were changed to be more positive.

Napolitano said campuses reached out to the president’s office with questions about the surveys. She apologized twice for the impression that the president’s office intentionally interfered with the surveys, which specifically were labeled with warnings saying not to share them with anyone outside of each campus.

“I discussed with chancellors that they should be aware of the surveys and be sure that the responses were accurate and reflect the perspective of campus leadership,” Napolitano said. “While we believe we did things appropriately, it is clear in retrospect we could have handled this better ... I am sorry we did it this way because it created the wrong impression.”

Napolitano denied that her office kept a slush fund, instead saying $38 million was set aside for unexpected expenses, like cybersecurity threat response and support for undocumented students.

The audit also found salaries in the president’s office are “significantly higher” than those of comparable state employees and that executives receive generous benefits, such as a supplemental retirement plan and bonuses.

For example, the UC office of the president’s Chief financial Officer Nathan Brostrom has a base salary of $424,360. By comparison, Michael Cohen, who is the director of the Department of Finance and oversees the state’s budget, earns $188,451.

“We probably have some of the highest paid people in administration and I would assume they can tell us — I would hope at any moment — what our funds look like; what our balance is,” Weber said.

Melody Gutierrez is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @MelodyGutierrez

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