Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill on October 2nd, that prohibits interference with a state audit, punishable by a fine up to $5,000. Refusing to permit access, examination, and reproduction of documents, in accordance with the bill, will be treated as a misdemeanor.
The bill was written by Assemblymembers Muratsuchi, McCarty, and Ting, and passed almost unanimously on September 11th, with 77 yeses and 2 abstains.
This bill follows an investigation into the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) that occurred earlier this year. In a letter to the governor, State Auditor Elaine Howle explained that the UCOP had $175 million dollars reserved that were not originally reported.
“Our report concludes that the Office of the President has amassed substantial reserve funds, used misleading budgeting practices, provided its employees with generous salaries and atypical benefits, and failed to satisfactorily justify its spending on system-wide initiatives,” Howle explained.
According to the audit report released by the state, auditors sent out two surveys requesting feedback on the services provided by the UCOP and the cost that each campus pays for the services. In doing so, they directed campus administrators not to share their responses with people outside their campus. However, it was later discovered that the feedback was given to the UCOP before it reached the audit team.
“Correspondence between the Office of the President and some campuses shows that the Office of the President reviewed their survey responses and campuses subsequently changed or deleted answers that were critical of the Office of the President,” the report concluded.
In response to this claim, UC President, Janet Napolitano that the UCOP was acting as a coordinator between campus administrators and auditors.
“We were initially contacted by some of the campuses to ask what they should do with [the surveys], and as a result, we inserted ourselves in a coordination role,” Napolitano said. “That’s what happened. The [UC Board of Regents] are going to take a separate look at our actions, and we welcome that.”