University of California President Janet Napolitano has been admonished by the UC Regents at their last meeting for allowing her top aides to interfere in a state audit, making surveys of the UC Office of the President less critical.
State Auditor Elaine Howle publicly denounced Napolitano and announced she believed her offices mishandled the surveys, thus leading the regents to commence a full-fledged investigation, which was led by State Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno and the Huesten Hennigan Law Firm. The criticism received by Napolitano followed the conclusion of the investigation, which found that the UC president had given the green light to her chief-of-staff, Seth Grossman, and her deputy chief-of-staff Bernie Jones, to repress responses from the confidential surveys regarding operations in the UCOP on order to make them less critical before being returned back to Howle.
The UC Regents met for nearly five hours discussing possible disciplinary actions to be taken against the UC President along with those involved in the interference. In the end, the regents rebuked Napolitano’s actions as well as her staff’s.
“The President is responsible for setting an appropriate tone from the top and fostering a culture of transparency and accountability on behalf of the University, which operates as a public trust for the State and people of California,” George David Keiffer, Chair of the UC Regents, said. “She is also responsible for the conduct of her staff, particularly her direct reports, including her Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff.”
While the UC Regents criticized Napolitano’s actions, some believed the statement was insufficient and that more serious consequences should result from the findings of the investigation. UC Regent John A. Pérez believed that the actions taken by Napolitano are worthy of more serious disciplinary action in order to serve as a disincentive from potentially happening in the future, as the offense obstructed Elaine Howle’s capabilities and prevented the public from receiving truthful responses regarding operations within UCOP.
However, after receiving much backlash regarding the matter, Napolitano released a statement apologizing for her actions and her role in the interference.
“I would like to assure the Board of Regents, the students, faculty and staff of the University of California, state legislators and the people of California that I hear them loud and clear,” said Napolitano. “I regret deeply that I did not show better judgment in connection with this matter. I have already taken steps to ensure that this does not happen again and together with the Board will work to implement the additional changes being recommended by the Board to further strengthen our processes in this regard.”
In light of recent events, however, the UC president’s leadership is still supported by her fellow regents.
“It is important to note that, in directing that the State Auditor’s campus surveys go through the Chancellors and also to her office for review, the President relied on the advice of counsel,” Keiffer said. “We are also mindful of the context for the actions taken, including the lack of trust between the Office of the President and the State Auditor based on a previous audit. Finally, we view the President’s conduct in the context of a long record of public service and leadership, including strong leadership of this University. The Board continues to have confidence in and fully supports her continuing leadership.”
Effective Jan. 1 will be a new legislature making obstruction to state audits and offense and subject those who do to fines. Furthermore, UC Regents announced that more reforms are being created to combat things like this from occurring once more.