Recently released records show criticism regarding controversial dinner

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Recently released emails concerning a controversial dinner intended to give money to UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy show an influx of criticism of the event from alumni and others.

The February dinner was organized to honor former California Public Utilities Commission president Michael Peevey, who faces an investigation for alleged improper communications with utility companies. The meal cost $250 per plate and garnered public outcry, as many urged Goldman school dean Henry Brady to decline the proceeds raised by the event.

Ultimately, the school, which did not organize the event, decided not to accept the money. Peevey resigned from the Goldman school’s board March 10.

Former San Diego city attorney Michael Aguirre obtained the emails pertaining to the dinner after requesting them under the California Public Records Act.

Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, condemned the event in a letter to Brady, saying that accepting the money would send the wrong message to alumni and students.

“I understand the school’s fundraising needs, but it strikes me as inappropriate that a school of Goldman’s caliber would host an event honoring the CPUC president … whose disregard for ethical laws and due process has left him under investigation by state and federal authorities,” he said in the letter.

The messages show that Brady expressed concern about misconceptions circulating about the event, including the idea that the campus had organized it.

“Unfortunately, the crucial fact is that we were the victim of events that developed very quickly … so that I had to make decisions about whether to abandon a long-time supporter of the school … or to join a chorus of self-righteous indignation about him,” Brady wrote in an email to Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele.

Former utilities commissioner Susan Kennedy wrote in an email that the event “was organized by several longtime friends of Mike Peevey” and that “Mike asked simply that any funds remaining after dinner expenses (were) paid be donated to the Goldman School.”

According to campus spokesperson Jose Rodriguez, the university does not have specific policies dictating from where it can accept money. The circumstances of every donation, however, are considered, and gifts that may damage the university’s long-term interests are generally not accepted.

After making multiple requests for the documents, Aguirre filed a lawsuit against the UC Board of Regents, alleging that the campus was not sufficiently responsive.

But Brady said the university was “exceptionally responsive” and complied with the Public Records Act, supplying the emails within a month of the request. He noted that he and all those involved had to comb through thousands of emails as well as redact any private information in order to send the records.

Aguirre said his lawsuit will be dropped once a check of documents has been completed.

Frances Fitzgerald covers student life. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @f_fitzgerald325.