Questions swirl over whether UC President Janet Napolitano interfered in state audit

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In November 2017, UC executives Seth Grossman and Bernie Jones resigned because of their interference in a state auditor’s survey — but in a California State Assembly hearing Tuesday, lawmakers questioned former California Supreme Court justice Carlos R. Moreno, who led the investigation, regarding why UC President Janet Napolitano is not being held responsible.

The original report showed that Napolitano played a role in the interference with the audit, which resulted in the UC Board of Regents publicly admonishing her.

The original report identified four wrongdoings, two of which Napolitano admitted to approving. According to the report, Napolitano admitted to her involvement in “directing the campuses to have the survey responses reviewed and approved by that campus’ Chancellor,” and “instructing the campuses that the survey responses should be submitted to UCOP for review before submission to the State Auditor.”

According to UC Office of the President, or UCOP, spokesperson Dianne Klein, who was in attendance during the hearing, Moreno repeatedly said during questioning that he did not find anything to implicate Napolitano in her office’s interference with the state audit.

Moreno, during the hearing and in the original report, mentioned that there was insufficient evidence to prove Napolitano’s involvement in all of the wrongdoings, but there was enough to prove her chief of staff, Grossman, and deputy chief of staff, Jones, were involved.

“Had I known what they were doing, I would have intervened and stopped it,” Napolitano said during the hearing.

Throughout the hearing, several lawmakers, such as assembly members Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, and Catharine Baker, R-San Ramon, questioned Napolitano’s involvement in the interference with the audit.

“It does appear very clear that she was involved in the surveys and involved in providing instruction as to how the surveys should turn out,” Ting said during the hearing. “Why wasn’t that enough evidence?”

Baker expressed her thoughts on the issues with the investigation process and called for Napolitano to resign because of her involvement in the interference of the audit.

“There was virtually no questioning in public of the president about the interference,” Baker said during the hearing.

Klein said only a minority of the lawmakers were questioning Napolitano’s involvement in the audit interference. She added, however, that the meeting ended on a good note.

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, and chair of the joint legislative audit committee, said he accepted Napolitano’s apology and was looking forward to future cooperation, according to Klein.

Muratsuchi said to Napolitano at the end of the hearing, “I am ready to turn the page and work with you.”

Rishabh Nijhawan is the lead higher education reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @realRishNij.