Hueston Hennigan Delivers Report on Interference with State Audit

From the Los Angeles Times: University of California regents meeting on Thursday admonished UC President Janet Napolitano for agreeing to a plan that led to interference in a state audit on the operation of her office.

Her approval of a plan in which top aides would preview campus administrators’ confidential survey responses “reflected poor judgment and set in motion a course of conduct that the Board of Regents finds unacceptable,” board chairman George Kieffer said in a statement after the regents met behind closed doors for nearly five hours.

But the regents quickly and unanimously agreed to support Napolitano’s continued leadership, Kieffer said after the meeting.

The regents asked Napolitano to acknowledge responsibility and apologize, which she did in her own statement right after Kieffer read his. Later, she reiterated that she “exhibited poor judgment in approving an ill-advised approach” to the state auditor’s survey and “deeply regret this mistake.”

The regents, meeting in San Francisco, were responding to an independent investigation that found Napolitano’s top aides had sought to suppress campus criticism of the central office in confidential surveys from State Auditor Elaine Howle.

Napolitano approved a plan to review the surveys about her office’s operations and services before they were sent back to the auditor.

After Howle publicly alleged that Napolitano’s office improperly interfered, the regents commissioned the investigation by former state Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno and the Hueston Hennigan law firm. The investigation found that Napolitano’s chief of staff, Seth Grossman, and deputy chief of staff, Bernie Jones, had pre-screened campus responses “with the specific purpose of shaping the responses to be less critical of” the UC Office of the President.

In a conference call with campus administrators, the aides said the surveys were “not the time and place to air dirty laundry,” and they also tried to hide their interference from the auditor, the investigation determined.

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