The University of California Regents hosted 59 friends for a $258-per-plate dinner at the luxurious San Francisco Palace Hotel the night after they promised to implement greater control over tuition increases.
Breitbart News reported earlier this month that California State Auditor Elaine Howle skewered UC President Janet Napolitano on May 17 before the California Legislature’s joint oversight committee. Howle’s 167-page audit detailed that the UC president’s office “Failed to Disclose Tens of Millions in Surplus Funds, and Its Budget Practices Are Misleading.”
The report alleged that Napolitano’s office systematically overcharged the ten UC campuses to fund its bloated staff of 1,700; spent excessively on employee compensation and executive performance bonuses; and then kept the existence of a $175 million reserve secret when the UC Regents voted on her request to raise 2017-2018 tuitions.
Napolitano told legislators her office accepted all 33 State Auditor budgeting recommendations as “constructive and helpful.” She thanked legislators for calling the hearings, and claimed, “It is my hope that this hearing will enable us to clear the air, and move forward on behalf of our students and the state,” according to the East Bay Times.
Monica Lozano, Chairwoman of the UC Board of Regents, then testified that her Board would implement changes in the UC president’s office and review the $336 increase in tuition this coming school year. Lozano praised the State Auditor’s report and promised that the UC Board of Regents exercise give greater direction over Napolitano’s spending.
But Lozano then hurried down to San Francisco’s Michelin Five-Star rated Palace Hotel, where she joined the UC Board of Regents in hosting a dinner for 59, and charging the $15,199 bill to the University of California. The Palace is part of Starwood’s “Luxury Collection.” It is known for its famed bar, awe-inspiring crystal chandelier, and world class dinning. Room rates range from $505 to $7,550 a night.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the University of California Board of Regents spent $17,600 at the posh Mark Hopkins Hotel on the top of Nob Hill the evening before they voted on January 26 to raise UC tuitions by 2.7 percent.
A UC spokesperson Dianne Klein told the Chronicle that the tradition of four-to-six Regents’ dinners per year, paid from UC endowment funds, goes back for decades. Ms. Klein acknowledged that the UC President’s Office had reimbursed the Regents $225,000 for dinners over the last five years.
A high-profile Regent who appears to have ducked the burgeoning UC spending scandals is current California Lieutenant Governor, and active candidate to replace Governor Brown, Gavin Newsom. His office serves as one of the 26 UC Regents, but he did not attend the January 25 and May 17 dinners. Newsom told the Chronicle that high-class Regents dinners are unnecessary and the cost of recent spending was inappropriate.
Assembly member Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, who called for the hearings on the critical findings of the State Auditor’s independent audit of the UC President’s Office, has demanded that the University of California’s administrative budget come under the Legislature’s control.