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California Legislature

California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon is 'frustrated' with UC President Janet Napolitano over scathing audit

On the eve of a special meeting of the University of California regents, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) voiced frustration Wednesday with how UC President Janet Napolitano has dealt with a scathing audit of her office.

Rendon, who is an ex-officio member of the Board of Regents, said he and Assembly Higher Education Committee Chairman Jose Medina (D-Riverside) had tried to help Napolitano deal with lawmakers' concerns before the audit was released last month.

“I’m very frustrated with the lack of communication coming out of the office of the president,” Rendon said during a meeting with Times reporters Wednesday in Sacramento. “Personally, the higher ed chair and I went to great lengths to spend a lot of time with the president and members of our caucus who have been very critical. We went out on a limb and we feel that to an extent it was cut off.”

Rendon stopped short of saying Napolitano should resign, but said he has a lot of questions to be answered when the regents hold their regular meeting next week. The regents have also called a special closed-door meeting for Thursday to appoint an outside consultant to look at the auditor’s concerns that budget reserves have not been properly handled or disclosed.

“I’m very concerned right now,” Rendon said when asked if he thought Napolitano should step down. “I will ask my questions next Thursday. I think we have an oversight function that we need to perform as a Legislature. I am suspending judgment until I ask my questions and we continue with our process.”

Rendon said any review of the UC budget process needs to be "independent and trusted," adding there is a "need to dig deep in terms of how that has been done in the past and how it is done in the future.”

The Speaker said he is open to a recommendation of State Auditor Elaine Howle that the Legislature take a more direct role in approving the budget for the UC Office of the President.

“We don’t want to manage the UCs, but [the budget role] certainly tends to make a lot of sense,” he said.

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