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Act to bring greater transparency of university foundations returns for third go-around

POSTED December 4, 2010 12:11 a.m.

Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) has not given up hope on his Public University Transparency Bill. Despite being vetoed twice by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Yee plans on presenting it again, this time to the governor-elect on Monday.

“I am confident that unlike his predecessor, Governor-elect Jerry Brown will match his action with his rhetoric and sign this bill into law,” Yee said in a press release. “Our public universities should not be allowed to hide billions of dollars without any accountability. Most of these auxiliaries are fully staffed by public employees who administer public funds, yet their decisions are made in complete secrecy. Taxpayers and students deserve better.”

Senate Bill 330 will be presented to the new 2011 Legislature on Monday in an effort to update the California Publics Record Act to include auxiliary organizations and foundations that perform government functions at the University of California, California State University and California’s community colleges.

If passed, the bill would require disclosure of private donors only when those donors receive something greater than $500 in value in return for their donation. A similar law resulted in increased donations to the University of Iowa.

Leland has presented Senate Bill 330 to Schwarzenegger twice and it was vetoed both times.

“While I am a firm believer in providing openness and transparency when it involves public entities and public funding, this bill inappropriately places private auxiliary organizations that receive private funds, under the provisions of the California Public Records Act,” wrote Schwarzenegger in his veto message to the legislature. “The focus of our attention should be given to greater transparency of how the University of California and California State University systems spend the public funds from taxpayers or students.”

Senate Bill 330 was previously presented to the Legislature soon after California State University, Stanislaus declined to release the speaking contract of former Alaska Governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin for her appearance at the 50th Anniversary Gala Fundraiser held at the university in June. The university declined on grounds that they were not hosting the event, the gala was presented by the university foundation.

Public Records Act requests were made in search of that contract and Palin’s speaking fee but the foundation stated that as a nonprofit they were not subject to the act.

The foundation revealed on July 16 that Palin was paid $75,000 plus $2,500 in travel and accommodation expenses. Palin’s full contract with the CSU Stanislaus Foundation was not revealed, but pages four through nine of an early draft of that contract were reportedly found in a university Dumpster by two CSU Stanislaus students.

To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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