UC Regents to investigate claims of interference in state audit

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At a special meeting Thursday afternoon, the UC Board of Regents unanimously approved a motion to authorize the appointment of an independent consultant, who will assess whether the UC Office of the President interfered with a state audit.

California State Auditor Elaine Howle alleges in an April 25 audit report that UCOP previewed survey responses sent by the audit team directly to campuses, rendering the survey responses unreliable.

The motion authorizes a working group led by regents chair Monica Lozano to retain an independent, external law firm or consulting group to help conduct a fact-finding review of alleged interference by UCOP, an allegation that Lozano said at the meeting “merited immediate attention.” Lozano also proposed at the meeting to have a report available to the board detailing the consultant’s findings by the regents’ regular July meeting.

“The most important factor is whoever is retained is unimpeachable, tremendously respected, total integrity, with the goal being one thing only: accurately unbiased, factual determination to be reported back to the regents,” said Regent Bonnie Reiss at the meeting.

Howle has raised several other issues in her audit report related to the level of transparency in the UCOP budget process and university policies, according to Lozano. The Board of Regents plans to discuss all of Howle’s findings at the next regents’ meeting, Lozano said at the meeting, which will include a presentation from Howle.

Napolitano said at the meeting that she welcomed the board’s proposal to retain a consultant to review the state auditor’s contention that UCOP interfered with campus responses.

“It is clear in retrospect that my office’s efforts to coordinate responses to the surveys should have been handled differently. I hope, as part of this review, however, that whoever is retained look at all the circumstances in which the surveys were being conducted,” Napolitano said at the meeting. “Like the regents, we at UCOP take the auditor’s findings and the concerns of legislators very seriously.”

Contact Bobby Lee at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @bobbylee_dc.