Davis Pulls Back Board Choice

Times Staff Writer

Gov. Gray Davis has withdrawn the appointment of a former faculty union president to the California State University board -- a selection that had been denounced by the system's chancellor.

Union and university officials said Davis, after being lobbied by CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed and ex-Chancellor Barry Munitz, had decided to scrub his nomination of Susan Meisenhelder.

A frequent critic of Reed, Meisenhelder served as president of the California Faculty Assn. for four years, until her second two-year term ended in June.

Instead, Davis named Maria Contreras-Sweet, the secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, to the post. Pending Senate confirmation, which is uncertain because Davis is leaving office in mid-November, Contreras-Sweet would fill the last of the vacancies among the 19 gubernatorial appointments to the board.

The switch was immediately praised by CSU spokeswoman Colleen Bentley-Adler. Meisenhelder, she said, "was very much at loggerheads with the chancellor and some of the trustees. This is a much better appointment. We're pleased the governor did what he did."

Contreras-Sweet, Bentley-Adler said, "knows Sacramento, and she knows budgeting."

The faculty union criticized the withdrawal of Meisenhelder's appointment. In a prepared statement, the union said, "Never before has a chancellor been allowed veto power over the appointment of trustees.... We are left to wonder: Does the chancellor understand that he reports to the trustees, or does he believe that it is the other way around?"

Davis officials could not be reached for comment. His office issued a brief news release announcing the naming of Contreras-Sweet. She could not be reached for comment.

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