Two UCOP Staff Members Resign in Wake of Audit that Found Staff Interference

Two aides in UC’s Office of the President have resigned in the wake of April’s audit, which discovered $175 million in undisclosed funds after they were found to have interfered with surveys of the UCOP by screening less positive reviews.

Earlier this year, Napolitano approved a plan for each of the nine undergraduate UC campuses to conduct confidential survey questionnaires reviewed by aides as well as each university’s chancellor before sending them to the state auditor.

Though she had knowledge of the intent to review survey responses, there was “insufficient evidence” to suggest that Napolitano knew that aides were targeting responses that reflected unfavorably on the UCOP, according to the Los Angeles Times.

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, Napolitano’s chief of staff, Seth Grossman and deputy chief of staff, Bernie Jones, resigned a week before the UC Regents were set to reveal the impending results of an independent investigation into allegations that members of Napolitano’s staff interfered with a state audit into their financial habits.

Grossman and Jones told investigators for the Los Angeles Times  that the decision to review the surveys was a “bad decision and an error in judgement.”

Grossman told the Los Angeles Times through a spokesman that he had “cleared his conduct with university attorneys and internal auditors” and had only resigned to take a job in Washington D.C. as chief of staff for the president of American University, Silvia M. Burwell.

Jones did not respond to an email from the Los Angeles Times asking whether he had resigned because of the audit investigation.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, officials from the nine campuses surveyed said that Grossman and Jones had told them in a conference call that “they should not air dirty laundry” and suggested that any negative responses be revised. The Times  revealed that Jones and Grossman sought to conceal their actions from auditors via a text message to Jones saying to “keep communication off email,” as they “don’t want anything in email that could be problematic if made it (sic) way back to auditor.”

Jones and Grossman said that they did not recall making those comments.

State auditor Elaine Howell did not include the surveys in the audit because she determined they’d been tainted.

Napolitano told the Los Angeles Times that she regrets approving the survey process and that it detracts from the fact that “[the UC president’s office] accepted all of the state auditor’s recommendations in her audit report and has changed its procedures.” She wanted to make sure that audit responses were “within the audit’s scope and accurately reflected the chancellor’s opinions.”

However, the tampered survey responses  revealed the ‘toxic” relationship among the UCOP, state auditors and UC chancellors.

Napolitano notified campus chancellors that the UCOP would be reviewing their survey responses, a notice that created an “intimidating effect” on many chancellors, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Times noted that chancellors seemed “chafed” under what was regarded as “a top-down, heavy-handed management style by Napolitano and Grossman, especially in controlling information and messaging to the public.”

During Thursday’s UC Regents meeting, the Compliance and Audit Committee discussed updates on the six month implementation of the audit recommendations. The UC Regents Board will be analyzing each restriction to decide whether they will need to modify the restrictions and whether it makes sense to continue the restrictions going forward.

The auditors will make their own assessment of the UCOP’s progress towards completion of the 33 recommendations. Four are scheduled to be completed by 2018.