UC Audit Does Little to Please State Senators

The University of California’s audit of its pay methods to employees — commissioned by the UC regents after the university’s months-long scandal regarding its compensation practices — has done little to assuage concerns by state senators.

Lawmakers, who previously chastised UC President Robert C. Dynes at two state hearings for approving multiple compensation packages that violated UC policy, say that the university’s audit did not sufficiently reveal who exactly was at fault.

The perks were exposed after the San Francisco Chronicle published a series of articles showing that the university granted several bonuses, which the newspaper said exceeded $870 million, without the authorization of the UC Board of Regents.

The audit, ordered by the regents in December, found that 91 exceptions to UC policies were granted between 1996 and last year, giving extra benefits to 44 executives.

The audit did not, however, finger any specific individuals, irking several legislators.

According to the Chronicle, Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) and Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) — who both serve on California’s Senate committee on higher education — said that they would send a letter to UC Regents Chair Gerald L. Parsky, so that they could demand detailed answers not addressed in the audit.

“A lot of things are clearly missing from the audit,” Romero told the Chronicle. “How do you have heads roll if you don’t know which heads will roll? We want to know what happened, when it happened and why it happened.”

Parsky and Dynes have publicly acknowledged the snafus.

“It is clear there has been a total lack of compliance with the [compensation] policies the regents have put in place,” Parsky said at a meeting.

Parsky added that the regents will decide in May what punishment, if any, will be imposed on administrators involved in the scandal.

“The regents will also determine, on a case-by-case basis … how people should be held accountable for policy violations and other acts deemed to be inappropriate,” he said.

Senators, however, are impatient with the university’s pace of action. While the audit is a step forward, there are several parts that were questionable, according to Sen. Jeff Denham (R-Merced).

Last winter, Denham sponsored a bill that would have made the university give up its constitutionally protected fiscal autonomy and grant the Legislature the power to set its budget if UC officials did not change their pay practices.

“With all these exceptions that have no person or reason behind them, we are still far from where we want to be,” Denham said.

For Dynes, however, the audit is only the first step in a long process of reform.

“The university has begun a complete overhaul of its compensation practices,” he said at the presentation of the audit. “This audit report, and the two audits to follow, will ratchet up that process.”

Last week, Dynes created a Web site to disclose payments made to employees and offered to pay for them to have access to the university’s ethics program in an effort to meet both the regents’ and the politicians’ demands.

Ultimately. the audit found that the university, in many cases, did not properly disclose its pay practices.