Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

KPBS Midday Edition

Lawmakers Question University Of California President

Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, speaks at Carbon Neutrality Initiative at the University of California, San Diego, Oct. 27, 2017.
Associated Press
Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, speaks at Carbon Neutrality Initiative at the University of California, San Diego, Oct. 27, 2017.
Lawmakers Question University Of California President
Lawmakers Question University Of California President GUEST:Ben Adler, capitol bureau chief, Capital Public Radio

I am Michael Lipton in for Maureen Cavanaugh. Our top story , a state audit found University of California leaders had $175 million from the public and its own Board of Regents. Uproar over the report led to University of California president Janet Napolitano testified yesterday in front of lawmakers. She apologized for interference when administrators reviewed what individual campuses were telling auditors. I am sorry that we did it this way. It has created the wrong impression and attracted from the important fact that we accept the recommendations in the audit report. She said the surplus wasn't hidden and was only $38 million. Journey me is Ben Adler capital public radio. Welcome to the program. Good to be with you. There still this does. Do we have any way of figuring how much is there? In a sense they both are. They arrive at it in different ways. Of this $175 million, although Napolitano disputes that. There two pots. The money is required to go there. Then another pot, is is split 50-50 the second pot is money that does not legally have to be put toward specific programs. Napolitano says that second pot has various programs such as help for immigrants who are living in the U.S. illegally and other programs. There is a UC center in Washington DC, just to name a few, that the money has been designated for. What about her claim, it is not hidden even though it is the surplus from several years that they have carried over. Napolitano came to this hearing yesterday before legislative committees prepared. She had press release numbers and news stories about some of the programs. Or basic point is look, the money, particularly in the second pot but also the first, these are programs that have been public and been talked about both in the media and within the Board of Regents. The president said look, we have been clear, this is what it is for. The question is whether the connection has always been made between these programs and the fact that they are coming from the president's office budget and then additionally the fact that the money we are talking about here, the $175 million, it is based on money that was unspent previously allocated to the president's office in recent years and has not been spent and was carried over. The question is whether the fact that those unspent dollars have been carried over and that has been reported. Both Democrats and Republicans seemed pretty upset about this audit. Some even suggested subpoena doing presidential -- presidential records. You have outrage in the legislature if there is ever an easy no-brainer to be a upset about, this is it. It is sometimes hard you ask who is right. It is a tricky question. There is very little trust with the parties. Will the records figure out who is right? They might. The legislator has been frustrated with the lack of responsiveness from the presidents office and providing budget documents. That is why they say they turn to the audits. Right now the request from Republicans must be approved by Democratic speakers and his office. They are reviewing it. Lawmakers seemed more upset about the interference, what did the auditor say about this behavior? That she is not seen an example like it in the 17 years that she has been the auditor. We had a situation where Elaine Howell sent surveys to the various campuses trying to find out if there is redundancy or duplication in programs that might both be at the campus level and the president's office level and how that was working. The campuses, some of them alerted the president's office saying had he wants to handle this, the president's office dumped in and said edited the responses. They say they made sure that the surveys were directed to the proper people. The auditor says that his interference. Napolitano, this is where the tape comes in. While we believe we did that it appropriately, we could've done is better. She is not apologizing for doing anything wrong but creating a misimpression that her office interfere. This is all coming with the benefit the University raise tuition in January. Is there any chance that the University may reverse that decision? That will be up to the Board of Regents not lawmakers. The governor and legislature can try to control pursestrings but the regions and others will make that decision. You have regions, because they are elected officials, they say we do need to look at not doing this tuition increase. The regions have more than enough votes and they have been loyal to Napolitano to continue going through with it tuition increase if they want. We will see what happens. They are scheduled to meet in a couple of weeks. If it goes through it will be the first one in several years and $280 increase plus $50 of student services fees bringing charges to about 12,000 Six hundred dollars. I have been speaking with Ben Adler. Thank you so much. Thank You -- you're welcome.

After a state audit found University of California administrators hid $175 million from the public while tuition increased, university system President Janet Napolitano apologized Tuesday for the way her office handled the investigation but disputed several of the audit's findings.

Lawmakers at a hearing Tuesday said they are deeply troubled by the state auditor's finding that the UC president's office tried to interfere with the audit.

State Auditor Elaine Howle told lawmakers she faced an unprecedented lack of cooperation from the Napolitano's office while it was under audit. She detailed efforts by the president's office to edit responses from individual UC campuses to survey questions from auditors.


"We felt that the surveys didn't reflect an independent voice from those campuses," Howle said.

Napolitano said the $175 million figure was inaccurate. But she agreed her office should keep clearer budget plans and records, as the audit recommended.

RELATED: Audit: University Of California Hid $175M In Secret Fund

She told lawmakers Tuesday the money in reserves totals $38 million, which she described as a "prudent and reasonable" amount set aside for unexpected expenses. Most of the $175 million Howle identified is already committed to important university programs, Napolitano said.

Napolitano said she coordinated with the individual campuses on their audit responses to ensure they were accurate.


"My team made the decision to work with our campuses to ensure they understood the purpose of the audit and the audit's scope," Napolitano told lawmakers. "I am sorry that we did it this way because it has created the wrong impression and detracted from the important fact that we accept the recommendations in the audit report."

Assemblyman Jose Medina said he found the auditor's description of interference by the president's office particularly concerning.

"To interfere in that process, to me, is undefendable," the Democrat from Riverside said. "I am extremely bothered that there was tampering."

UC administrators amassed $175 million in undisclosed surplus money over four years even as the university system raised tuition and asked the state for more funding, according to the audit released last week.

"They are not putting California students and families first, particularly with their budget," said Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, a Republican from Dublin in the eastern San Francisco Bay Area. "This is unbelievable for an institution that has in its hands the education of California students and hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money and student fees."

In the report, Howle said state lawmakers should increase oversight of Napolitano's office.

Baker and several other Republican lawmakers are asking for the Democratically controlled Legislature to subpoena financial records and communications related to the surplus money identified by the audit.

The UC Board of Regents in January voted to increase in-state tuition and fees $336 next academic year. Some lawmakers called for a reversal of the tuition hike in the wake of the audit.