UC executives resign after interfering with state audit survey

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Aslesha Kumar/File

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Two top UC executives who interfered with a confidential state auditor’s survey, resulting in skewed responses in favor of UC Office of the President, resigned last week.

The executives who resigned were Seth Grossman, chief of staff to UC President Janet Napolitano, and Bernie Jones, Napolitano’s deputy chief of staff.

The California State Auditor, or CSA, sent the surveys to all of the UC campuses in 2016 to obtain evaluations of Napolitano’s office. In April, CSA discovered Grossman and Jones either sent or were copied on emails to three UC campuses — San Diego, Irvine and Santa Cruz — to encourage favorable responses to the audit survey about UCOP, according to Associated Press.

Prior to the executives’ resignations, the UC Board of Regents conducted a third-party investigation of interference with the audit survey — the results of which are expected to be released in a report later this week. UCOP spokesperson Dianne Klein could not confirm the nature of the audit interference nor whether the executives resigned because of the incident, but she added that this information will likely be provided in the Regents’ report.

Klein said Grossman and Jones “left for other opportunities” and that they both have new jobs.

“It wasn’t as though it was directly linked (to the audit interference),” Klein said. “I’m certainly not going to make any inferences.”

In response to the interference, the state also passed a bill in August to implement penalties for the intentional obstruction of audits.

Justin Deckard, Campus Action Committee chair for the UC Student Association, said that while the executives’ interference with the audit should be considered misconduct, their actions stem from the state legislature’s lack of funding to the UC system.

“I think that these individual actions of these executives have to be taken into the context of the system they’re made in,” Deckard said. “The issue sources from a problem that’s endemic to the UC system as a whole.”

Contact Danielle Kaye at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @danielledkaye.