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Governor Played a Key Role in Reynolds’ Downfall : Education: Deukmejian reportedly made clear to Cal State trustees his anger over pay raises. But the chancellor quit before the board could remove her.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gov. George Deukmejian played an influential role in the events that led W. Ann Reynolds to resign last week as chancellor of the California State University system, sources close to the events say.

Angry because Reynolds secretly engineered huge pay raises for herself and other top CSU administrators, Deukmejian made it clear to members of the CSU Board of Trustees--most of whom are his appointees--that he would not object to the chancellor’s dismissal, trustees and others told The Times.

They said the governor was particularly upset because Reynolds had taken the action at a time when the governor is trying to persuade a skeptical electorate to double the state gasoline tax and when the public holds politicians in generally low repute.

Key Deukmejian trustee appointees, including Chairman Marianthi Lansdale, Martha C. Fallgatter and J. Gary Shansby, contacted the governor’s office before last week’s special trustees’ meeting in Oakland.

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“The message from the governor was clear,” said one trustee who asked not to be identified. “He was upset with the salary thing and the way it was handled, he thought the raises should be rescinded and he thought it should be resolved quickly.”

Several trustees said the board was prepared to remove Reynolds by an overwhelming vote when she beat them to it by resigning during the special meeting.

“If Deukmejian had decided to back her, that would have changed some votes,” a trustee said. ‘He may even have been able to save her, I don’t know.’

It was an uncharacteristic role for the governor, who seldom has involved himself in these kinds of personnel decisions.

But Peter G. Mehas, Deukmejian’s education assistant, said the governor thought the huge pay raises, approved without public discussion, made it more difficult to win voter support for Proposition 111 by raising questions about how public money is spent. Proposition 111 would double the state gasoline tax over the next five years.

Based on Reynolds’ recommendation, the trustees agreed late last year to raise the chancellor’s salary 43%, from $136,248 to $195,000. They also raised those of six vice chancellors and 20 campus presidents by amounts ranging from 21% to 28%.

The trustees rescinded those raises last Friday, limiting the chancellor and other top officials to the same 4.18% average pay raise that the faculty and staff will receive.

“What bothered us the most,” Mehas said, “was that I’m supposed to read the agendas for these meetings and alert the governor about possible controversial issues . . . but this salary item appeared on no agenda--we were caught completely by surprise.”

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Nevertheless, Mehas said, “clearly, the governor did not in any way affect the outcome.”

And Robert J. Gore, the governor’s press secretary, said Deukmejian was “advised and updated” as the trustees gathered in Oakland but that he “played no significant role” in the events that led to Reynolds’ resignation.

However, several trustees and other sources said that when Reynolds realized she could expect support neither from the governor, who serves as an ex-officio board member, nor from the three Democratic officeholders who are also ex-officio members--Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy, Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and state Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig--she decided to resign.


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