Administrator allegedly helped sexual partner get raises

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Former UC Berkeley assistant vice chancellor Diane Leite was demoted due to her involvement in a sexual relationship with an employee she allegedly helped receive pay increases, according to documents obtained by the Bay Area News Group.

Leite received a Feb. 17 letter from Vice Chancellor for Research Graham Fleming that stated that beginning March 1 she would see her annual salary reduced from $188,531 to $175,000 and would lose her position as assistant vice chancellor for Research Enterprise Services because she violated the university’s policy on sexual harassment.

After Leite’s relationship with the employee began, he received five salary increases initiated by Leite between 2009-10, according to a December report of investigation and findings written by research services and made public by the news group. His salary increased from $78,779 in 2009 to $104,339.60 in 2010, according to a state employee salary database on The Sacramento Bee’s website.

Although the report redacts the employee’s name, Fleming said in the email that Leite’s relationship with Jonathan Caniezo, procurement and general services manager for research services, was confirmed Aug. 8, 2011.

Fleming said in an email that he received an anonymous letter last August alleging that Leite had a relationship with a subordinate. After the relationship was confirmed, an investigation was launched, according to Fleming.

The university’s sexual harassment policy deems consensual romantic relationships within the UC community as inappropriate when one individual has “power or authority” over the other and calls for the individual in authority to eliminate any conflict of interest.

Because Leite did not remove herself from her authority to make professional decisions concerning the employee she was involved with, it was found that she violated the policy, according to the report.

As a result of the violation, Fleming informed Leite that her position would be lowered and that she would lose her supervisory responsibilities for 2012.

Leite is now a director of research development in the Berkeley Research Development Office. She reports directly to Fleming, he said in the email.

The investigation found that the relationship between Leite and Caniezo “more likely than not provided the underlying motivation for her support” of pay increases, the report states.

Caniezo’s total salary increased by about 32 percent between 2009-10, according to the database. His current salary is $110,210, campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said in an email.

According to Mogulof, based on a review of all research services staff compensation from 2009 to present, 14 people received pay increases of more than 30 percent. Salaries in the department generally increased because of growth in the office’s size and responsibilities.

A 28 percent state budget cut to the campus in 2009 resulted in the centralization of all the research administrative support under research services, according to Fleming. In fiscal year 2008-09, the number of people in units administered by research services was 551 — currently, that number is about 2,300, according to Fleming.

“Factors that led to compensation increases for (Caniezo) included moving from an analyst to a supervisor position, consistent with the expansion of responsibilities in general for those working in this unit as it expanded its client base,” Mogulof said in the email.

Mogulof added that the campus believes the “sanctions are commensurate with policy violation” and that Leite’s salary is consistent with her new title.

Betsy Vincent covers academics and administration.