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Report: UC executives interfered in audit

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017 file photo, University of California President Janet Napolitano attends a University of California Board of Regents meeting, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

ASSOCIATED PRESS , BY ASSOCIATED PRESS

SAN FRANCISCO — An executive who resigned from the University of California president's office wrote emails that directed UC campuses to reveal and sometimes change responses to a confidential state auditor's survey of the office, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

A second executive who stepped down this week was the other executive's boss and was copied in on many of the emails, the newspaper reported Thursday.

UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein told The Associated Press that Seth Grossman, chief of staff to UC President Janet Napolitano, and Bernie Jones, his deputy, "resigned to pursue other opportunities on the East Coast." Neither was forced out, Klein told the Chronicle.

Because of the emails, three of the 10 University of California campuses — Santa Cruz, San Diego and Irvine — changed survey answers to be more favorable to the UC president's office, the newspaper reported.

Auditor Elaine Howle, who released the audit results in April, discarded the survey results and said the interference by the president's office made them useless, the newspaper report said.

The emails indicate that Napolitano was briefed on the reviews of campus survey responses.

Karen Petrulakis, who was chief deputy general counsel until her departure in July, was also copied on many of the messages between the president's office and the campuses, according to the report.

Napolitano's spokeswoman said the UC President "takes full responsibility" for the fact that her office reviewed responses before they were sent to the state auditor.

"She has publicly apologized for this. As she has said previously, had she to do this over again, she would not have approved this approach," Klein said, adding that Napolitano has put in place a system that will prevent any interference in the future with the state auditor's work.

In an email Jones wrote to UC Santa Cruz on Nov. 21, 2016, he said: "Quickly checking to see when we might expect the documents for our review."

A day later, Jones followed up: "Our expectation is that we review an updated version of the survey responses before it is resubmitted" to the auditor.

Jones also told UC Santa Cruz to "communicate directly with me, and I can then brief Seth (Grossman) and the President, as needed."

UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal responded a day later, copying Grossman. "As you will see, I addressed 98% of your concerns," he wrote, and, in a separate email, referred to "Bernie's marked up version."

Jones, whose last day was Thursday, declined to comment on the audit.

Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for Grossman, said his involvement in the audit survey process was "very limited."

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This version corrects that the newspaper's report was Thursday, not Wednesday.

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Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com