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UC regents formally chastise Janet Napolitano for role in state audit interference

UC regents formally chastise Janet Napolitano for role in state audit interference

A damning investigation of Napolitano's interference with a state audit of the university's finances, released Thursday, found that members of her staff told individual campuses to "not air dirty laundry" to state auditors, and even edited negative survey responses from those campuses to auditors.

George Kieffer, who chairs the Board of Regents, said in a statement, "The president's decision to approve a plan to coordinate the survey responses reflected poor judgment and set in motion a course of conduct that the Board of Regents finds unacceptable".

The audit of the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) had been requested by legislators including Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance).

He added, however, that the board maintains confidence in Napolitano and supports her continued leadership.

At least two top officials - Chief of Staff Seth Grossman and Deputy Chief of Staff Bernie Jones -were involved in asking several campuses to alter their survey responses to make them more favorable toward UC. In April, the California State Auditor discovered that Grossman and Jones had explicitly asked three UC system schools to give positive responses to the auditor survey.

Napolitano issued a prompt apology, which did little to quiet criticism that has erupted over her office's meddling in what was supposed to be a confidential state auditor's survey of UC campuses.

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"She said she regrets the allegation of interference because that was not the intent and it detracts from the fact that [the UC president's office] accepted all of the state auditor's recommendations in her audit report and has changed its procedures", the Los Angeles Times report said. "I personally apologize to each member of this board".

During a closed session to discuss "personnel matters" related to the report that lasted for almost five hours, Napolitano faced questions from the regents about her office's handling of the audit and the regents - at times with Napolitano not in the room - debated what consequences she should face as reporters and students waited outside, dwindling in number as the hours ticked by.

Spokeswoman Dianne Klein said Napolitano has made it clear she takes "full responsibility" for the survey debacle, responsibility that so far consists of saying she's taking full responsibility.

The forced mea culpa is a welcome, if insufficient, first step for Napolitano, who presides over a $28 billion public university system, and whose past ethical lapses have been rewarded with a mix of wrist slapping and budget increases for her office.

Grossman and Jones resigned several weeks ago over their role in the scandal.

A new law, AB 562, that levies a $5,000 penalty against agencies that interfere with a state audit takes effect in January.


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