UC Head Bows to Pay Criticisms

The UC Board of Regents took steps to fulfill its promise of fiscal accountability made to state senators by releasing reports on compensation practices of four university executives last week.

The report, approved for release by regents between scheduled meetings, disclosed newly negotiated compensation packages for four university administrators: UC San Francisco School of Dentistry Dean Charles N. Bertolami, UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor for Administration Nathan E. Brostrom, UC Santa Cruz Vice Chancellor of University Relations Donna M. Murphy and UC Riverside Vice Chancellor for Administration Alphonso V. Diaz.

Extra perks for the administrators included $43,500 for Bertolami, as a part of the university’s health-sciences compensation plan approved by regents in 1999, in addition to his base annual salary of $300,000. Together with other forms of compensation, Bertolami’s pay package was valued at least $500,000 annually, according to the report.

UC President Robert C. Dynes and UC Board of Regents Chairman Gerald L. Parsky exercised powers of interim authority to push the release of the documents quickly, and without full board approval, in the hopes of appeasing public and legislative demand for accountability.

“Our past practice has been to report these at the next regularly scheduled meeting,” UC Office of the President spokesman Noel Van Nyhuis stated in an e-mail. “As part of our ongoing efforts to improve disclosure and transparency practices, we are not waiting.”

All future regent actions regarding compensation will be released, Van Nyhuis said.

The disclosure is a large shift from previous practices, when some regents were clueless about extra bonuses given to several top administrators, including UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox. Dynes, without board approval, gave Fox an extra $248,000 in lieu of a sabbatical she had accrued at her previous position as chancellor of North Carolina State University.

At state Senate hearings exploring the university’s pay methods, senators criticized Dynes for not communicating with other offices about compensation.

Parsky pledged to some members of a senate subcommittee on higher education that he would restructure UCOP and create a mandatory transparency policy.

“We’re not going to rely on voluntary compliance going forward,” he told the senators.

Some senators fired back, and demanded to see concrete results soon from university officials, including booting any persons involved in the unauthorized compensation.

Although the scandal has not forced the university to fire any executives yet, state Sen. Jack Scott (D-Pasadena) said he was pleased to see the university making some progress after the hearings.

“This certainly seems to be a step in the right direction,” said Scott, who chairs the committee that heard Parsky’s testimony on compensation.

Dynes also promised reform during the hearings, and emphasized several university efforts to improve pay transparency. Regents presented senators with a pay study that showed that UC salaries were far behind market value. The study, however, did not include extra compensation for top executives.

In addition, an independent external audit of pay methods and a task force exploring compensation will publicly report their findings later this month.

Until those groups finish their inquiries, the Legislature will be content with seeing the university continue to disclose its payments to administrators, Scott said.

“We are not demanding that they justify every salary and we don’t want to be in the position of overseeing every hire,” he said. “But we very much want transparency and that seems to be what they are doing.”