By Anne Lowe

OPEN GOVERNMENT – A bill aimed at increasing accountability for university auxiliary organizations has gathered a wide base of support as it sits on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk—and supporters include the father of the California Public Records Act (CPRA) himself.

Campus auxiliary organizations are currently not included in requirements set by the CPRA, and newspapers, college faculty and employees, taxpayers and open government advocates have joined to support a bill that would require more accountability from these entities.

SB 330 would update the Public Records Act to apply to auxiliary organizations, including the foundations that are used to support California universities. Under SB 330, the organizations would be required to disclose budget and finance information; the bill would also require them to report the names of donors who receive gifts valued at more than $500 in exchange for their donation.

William Bagley, a former University of California Regent, author of the CPRA and co-author of the   Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, has joined the coalition to urge Schwarzenegger to sign SB 330 into law before the Sept. 30 deadline.

“There is no accounting, no access to records of and expenditures made by university-affiliated organizations to and for campus-related activities,” Bagley said on Cloudminder. “Senator Leland Yee’s Senate Bill 330 solves that problem. Even staff to the UC Board of Regents, by media accounts, recently ‘forgot’ the very existence of the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act.

"During the 1960s era of good government, the Legislature passed AB 495 and AB 219 to open the meetings of all State multi-member bodies. You would have thought that this message of transparency would have been received and honored. Not so. It is thus that, more than 40 years later, I ask that our Governor sign SB 330 to extend the Public Records Act of 1968 to certain defined ‘auxiliary organizations’ engaged in University activities.”

Cloudminder notes:

While the community college administration is neutral on the bill, the administrations of the UC and CSU are attempting to get the Governor to veto the bill, falsely claiming it would result in a “chilling effect” on private donations. In fact, the bill allows for donors to stay anonymous under most circumstances. Also, another state saw significant increases in donations after a similar law was enacted.??

“UC and CSU administrators are doing a disservice to taxpayers by misleading the Governor,” said Yee. “Their claims are completely erroneous and unfounded. Secrecy breeds corruption and not more donations. I expect the Governor will see through their charade and sign SB 330 into law.”

??Under existing law, these public institutions are able to hide billions of dollars within their auxiliary organizations and foundations, which are often staffed by public employees. This secrecy has encouraged colleges and universities to create an increasing number of auxiliaries to run campus operations such as food services, parking facilities, housing and bookstores – all of which would be subject to public oversight if they were administered by the agency and not an auxiliary.??

“A majority of the billions of dollars held by these auxiliaries are funded by students and parents, and they have a right to know how their money is being used,” said Yee. “The Governor has another opportunity to burnish his record on open government. By signing SB 330, he will provide taxpayers and students what they deserve – information on how their universities are being run and how money is being spent that is intended for the benefit of the public institution.”