The editorial board of the Los Angeles Times has weighed in on the scandalous behavior of Janet Napolitano, who corrupted a state audit of her performance and hid a $175 million slush fund. A CEO of a public company that did what Napolitano did would be fired, and might well face criminal prosecution. But to the LA Times, it’s worth overlooking because:
She has been a strong leader for the university during troubled financial and political times, resisting efforts to weaken the university’s independence with a welcome level of toughness and dedicating herself to protecting the university’s undocumented students.
The unethical acts of her direct subordinates carried out with her knowledge (which were so outrageous that the state legislature and Governor Brown have now criminalized them in response) should be overlooked because she is protecting people who have violated out immigration laws!
I urge readers to peruse the entire editorial themselves, to see the reasoning, but to my eyes, it comes down to minimizing the gravity of the corruption because the board likes her politics. This strikes me as weaseling:
Still, Napolitano doesn’t come out untarnished. At the very least, she didn’t monitor her top aides closely enough to know that they were engaged in egregious interference, telling campuses to omit or temper their criticisms of the president’s office. That makes the UC president appear out of touch.
Appear out of touch? No, it makes her look like she was fixing the audit to reflect her own views of her performance, rather than the honest views of the chancellors, which is what the audit was seeking.
When state Auditor Elaine Howle complained about Napolitano’s office inserting itself between the auditor and campus-by-campus responses to her May audit, you’d think Napolitano would have pulled her people together and asked, “What were you up to? Time to come clean.” Instead, though she apologized for asking campus officials to pass their responses through her office, she also insisted that her people were merely making sure the campuses were filling out the forms correctly.
Is this lying, insincere apology supposed to make things right? In the next paragraph, the editorial board admits this wasn’t the true story – which makes the apology worthless:
That assertion was called into question by UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal, who was interviewed during the regents’ investigation (which was conducted by former state Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno and an independent law office). Blumenthal said that Napolitano had heatedly reprimanded him for sending the questionnaire directly to the auditor and demanded that he recall it. Napolitano responded that she had been concerned only because the chancellor’s office had not reviewed the questionnaire. Even so, the investigation found, one of her aides then intervened to have some of the answers modified.
The Los Angeles Times is the largest and probably most influential newspaper in the state, albeit a shadow of what it was 20 years ago and more, when everyone read newspapers and the LAT was fat with ads and a circulation within shouting distance of a million a day. Back then, they dreamed of ranking with the NYT and WaPo as one of the top metropolitan newspapers. How the mighty have fallen, in so many ways.
This editorial will only speed the decline.
Daniel Borenstein of the San Jose Mercury-News understands the ethics involved better than the LAT:
…campus chancellors, warned personally by Napolitano, self-censored answers to the state auditor. And… when that wasn’t good enough, Napolitano’s top staffers insisted on more changes to remove negative comments.
It’s unconscionable. Yet, regents have let Napolitano off with just a reprimand and a demand that she apologize. They should have fired her. They still should.
Her interference with the audit shows that Napolitano, former Arizona governor and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, has no respect for California government oversight that comes with running one of the world’s leading public university systems. (snip)
the facts are clear: Napolitano tried to control responses to the state auditor survey about her own office’s performance.
That sort of interference cannot be tolerated by any public official. Napolitano needs to go.
And so does the editorial board of the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
The last thing that the University of California needs to do is unite behind a corrupt president and move on. As I have written multiple times, a multi-billion-dollar contract for the University of California to manage the Los Alamos National Laboratory is up for bidding, and two formidable, rising star Texas University systems (University of Texas and Texas A&M) are planning to bid. I have every reason to suspect that corruption at the top of the University of California could be sufficient reason for the Department of Energy handing to contract to another university unblemished by such institutional rot.
What would the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times say should that catastrophe – financial, reputational, and operational -- befall UC and its owners, the people of California? My guess is that it would rail against a “political decision” designed to “punish California.” In other words, it would be President Trump’s fault.
Meanwhile, the regents can still address the problem. And Governor Brown could still speak out. The La Times editorial board seems be telling them not to do it. Ideology over integrity, it seems to me.