Petition calls for firing of UC Berkeley official who gave pay raises to sexual partner

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An online petition is circulating that calls for the firing of a former UC Berkeley assistant vice chancellor who was recently demoted and docked pay for violating the UC sexual harassment policy.

The petition — which had about 160 signatures as of Thursday evening — comes after recently released documents revealed that Diane Leite, former assistant vice chancellor of Research Enterprise Services,  authorized pay increases for a subordinate employee she was in a sexual relationship with.

“Students of California, let your voice be heard and make Diane Leite resign!” wrote Daniel Ho, who created the petition online. “Put a stop to corruption and show that we are a force to reckon with. If you care about how your money and taxes are spent, sign this petition.”

Leite authorized five pay increases for the employee — who has been identified as Jonathan Caniezo, procurement and general services manager for research services — over a two-year time period, according to a December report of investigation and findings written by research services. Caniezo’s gross pay increased from $78,779 in 2009 to $104,339.60 in 2010, according to UC salary data. His current pay is $110,210, according to UC spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

The investigation determined that Leite violated the university’s sexual harassment policy because of her failure to remove herself from her authority to make professional decisions with the employee, according to the report.

Leite now works in the newly created Berkeley Research Development Office, according to Vice Chancellor for Research Graham Fleming. Her salary was lowered from $188,531 to $175,000, according to a letter Fleming sent to Leite Feb. 17.

“Such an ethics violation should not be overlooked by students,” the petition reads. “Let our voices be heard that we will not tolerate such corruption in ANY educational institution administration.”

Mogulof said the question of whether compensation for Leite’s subordinate was justified was outside the scope of the sexual harassment investigation and that Leite’s pay cut and demotion were based solely on the fact that sexual harassment policies were violated.

There appears to be no precedence in Human Resources records of an employee being dismissed solely for violating policies on consensual relationships, Mogulof said.

From December 2008 to June 2011, Leite’s subordinate was paid from indirect cost recovery generated by research contract and grant funds and from July 2011 to present he has been paid from general campus funds, Mogulof said in an email. The research contract and grant funds included some federal funds, and possibly included state and private funds, but Mogulof said he was unsure of the exact combination.

Increases to his base pay resulted from two equity increases, which are given to employees who take on a significant increase in responsibilities, according to Mogulof. He first received an equity increase of 23.6 percent in July 2009, and another 19.7 percent increase occurred in August 2010, Mogulof said in the email.

“I want to be clear that campus administration cannot and will not comment on whether or not the compensation received by this individual was merited or justified due to our obligation to respect his privacy rights,” he said in the email.

John Ledbetter, a procurement specialist for the campus molecular and cell biology department who signed the petition, said he believed a lack of repercussions for Leite seems “hypocritical” as students are facing rising tuition costs.

“It just seems unfair in view of the problems that UC is having financially and undermines the efforts to find other ways of getting revenue,” he said.

The administration is in the process of reviewing compensation and classification issues that came to light in the course of the investigation, Mogulof said.

Betsy Vincent covers academics and administration.