Published On: Wed, May 31st, 2017

Former DHS head Janet Napolitano defended by Univ of California Regents, spending thousands on dinners, ‘jaw dropping’ expenses

The University of California’s governing board defended President Janet Napolitano against a critical state audit of her office and media coverage questioning thousands and thousands being spent on lavish parties and dinners.

The University of California Board of Regents voted to raise student tuition to help cash-strapped campuses, then they threw themselves a party at the luxury Intercontinental Hotel in San Francisco and billed the university. The tab for the Jan. 25 banquet: $17,600 for 65 people, or $270 a head.

Two weeks ago, on May 17, the regents threw a $15,199 party at San Francisco’s elegant Palace Hotel for 59 people — a $258-a-head event also billed to the university. Hours earlier, angry students shut down the regents meeting, shouting “greedy” in protest of the tuition increase and revelations by State Auditor Elaine Howle that the university president’s office kept $175 million in secret funds.

photo: TaxRebate.org.uk

“These types of dinner events look really, really bad, and they give the appearance that (Napolitano) is buying the support of the regents,” said Jamie Court, president of the good-government advocacy group Consumer Watchdog. He called the dinner parties “outrageous.”

The day after the party, regents defended Napolitano after Howle presented her audit. UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein said that Regents’ dinners are a tradition going back decades using private funds bequeathed to the university.

“These things are unnecessary,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a regent who did not attend the January or May dinners. When told the January dinner cost $17,600, Newsom said it was “inappropriate.”

“We should do better,” he said. “It’s jaw-dropping.”

Chair Monica Lozano stressed the importance of “actually changing the culture” that led to the problems identified in the audit, but several regents continued to push back on the conclusion that Napolitano’s office had ever withheld information about its spending from them or the public. Some complained that newspaper headlines about the report were “salacious.”

“Seeing how some in the press have characterized it as a slush fund or a secret fund hurt my heart,” Regent Bonnie Reiss said.

Regent Sherry Lansing wanted to clear up “distortions” that Napolitano had done anything wrong: “Her leadership of UC has been incredible.”

Sen. Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) has introduced a ballot measure that would prohibit the University of California from raising tuition in any year that it pays more than 600 employees a salary above $190,103, which is paid to the governor.

In 2015, UC paid 719 managers and administrators more than the governor made that year, according to state records.

“UC’s finances are woefully unbalanced favoring top administrators at the expense of long-time workers and students,” Galgiani said.

Janet Napolitano was in charge of Homeland Security during the Obama administration.

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About the Author

- Catherine "Kaye" Wonderhouse, a proud descendant of the Wunderhaus family is the Colorado Correspondent who will add more coverage, interviews and reports from this midwest area.

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