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Report on Private Teleconference Creates a Furor; San Francisco Examiner Prints Verbatim Account of Private Video Meeting between U. of California President and UC Chancellors

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Report on Private Teleconference Creates a Furor; San Francisco Examiner Prints Verbatim Account of Private Video Meeting between U. of California President and UC Chancellors

Article excerpt

San Francisco Examiner prints verbatim account of private video meeting between U. of California president and UC chancellors

The San Francisco Examiner's detailed report of a private video teleconference between University of California president Jack Pelatson and UC chancellors has touched off a political furor and an FBI investigation.

In a copyrighted story, the Examiner disclosed that at the meeting:

* Pelatson blasted the California Legislature's rejection of the governor's nomination of a pro-administration regent, saying the Democrats responsible should suffer "political pain and penalty."

* He promised "golden parachute" retirement bonuses to nine top UC executives in the financially strapped university but expressed worry about an "explosive reaction" when the plan becomes public.

* The chancellors discussed granting a colleague a $34,000 raise in a new position, even though he might accept the job for $15,000 less. It's the right thing to do, they said.

The newspaper's verbatim account, which it said came from a "confidential news source," also depicts Pelatson as concerned about reaction to his decision to give each chancellor a year off at full salary (average cost: $189,000) when UC is freezing salaries, easing out top professors and hiking tuition.

In another exchange, according to the Examiner, Pelatson implies that UC-Berkeley chancellor Chang-Lin Tien should lead the effort to rescue the regent nomination of Lester Lee because Tien, like Lee, is a Chinese-American. Tien is reported to be cool to the idea.

The March 2 meeting was held via a video hookup between UC executives in Southern California and Pelatson and other chancellors in the San Francisco Bay area.

In a March 20 story, the Examiner quoted an unidentified "UC source" as saying "secret is a good word" for the monthly meetings Pelatson holds with chancellors of the nine UC campuses.

Reaction to the leaked information was swift.

State Sen. Quentin Kopp (I-San Francisco) recommended that Pelatson be fired for his remarks at the meeting.

State Senate President pro tem Bill Lockyer said he may form a special legislative committee to give closer scrutiny to the workings of the UC administration. Pelatson and the chancellors displayed "institutional arrogance," Lockyer said.

In a letter to Pelatson, veteran UC regent Frank Clark, a Los Angeles lawyer, called for his resignation, declaring that UC's management had reached very possibly its lowest point in the history of the university."

San Francisco Democratic Assemblyman John Burton said he hoped to amend the state's open meetings law to forbid UC officials from conducting secret meetings on their benefits, adding, "It's the public's business, and I don't think they should be allowed to do those things in secret. …

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