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UC regents to take control of spending by president, staff

Times Staff Writer

University of California regents took further steps Thursday to boost their oversight of university spending after months of controversy over executive compensation.

The board, meeting at UCLA, decided to take direct control of the operating budget for President Robert C. Dynes and his staff at UC’s Oakland headquarters. The vote means that the regents will review and approve that budget in detail each year, apart from their annual approval of UC’s overall spending plan. Dynes, who has taken responsibility for the compensation problems, has volunteered to forgo a raise this year because of the controversy.

“I want the compensation issues behind us,” Dynes said. “This was a statement to the regents: ‘I take responsibility. Let’s move forward.’ ”

The problems erupted a year ago after media reports that the university had spent millions on improper or undisclosed bonuses, allowances and other perks to top administrators. Audits confirmed the irregularities.

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The regents also approved a set of guidelines for possible disciplinary action against those who authorized such policy exceptions, ranging from taking the problematic action into account in an individual’s performance review to termination.

Throughout the meeting, the regents signaled that in the wake of the compensation problems, they intended to play a more hands-on role than before. After closely questioning the university’s top budget officer the day before on UC’s spending priorities, several said Thursday that they welcomed their new ability to learn about -- and challenge -- specifics in the president’s office budget.

“I think there’s a general belief that it can be slimmed down,” Regent Richard C. Blum said, adding that he did not mean to single out the president’s office for criticism. Of both that office and the university as a whole, he said, “Let’s call it what it is -- a bloated bureaucracy.”

The UC president’s office has 1,800 employees and a budget this year of about $369 million. That includes $81 million for administrative functions and $288 million for other programs run out of the office, including the Academic Senate, UC Press and study-abroad programs.

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Also Thursday, the board voted unanimously to open a law school at UC Irvine, with the first students expected in 2009.

The regents also approved the next phase of planning for a proposed medical school at UC Riverside, the UC system’s first new medical school in 40 years. The decision will allow the campus to proceed with its plans for the school, including hiring a founding dean, but it requires officials to return to the board later for final approval.

UC Riverside Chancellor France Cordova called the regents’ decision “a giant leap forward. This really gets us started on a medical school.”

Cordova said the school, if approved, would help address a shortage of physicians in the Inland Empire. The UC Riverside medical school would open in 2012 and eventually turn out nearly 100 physicians a year.

A medical school also can be an important force in attracting biotechnology businesses to the region, as has happened near UC medical schools in Irvine and San Diego, Cordova said.

The regents’ meeting was briefly disrupted when nine students who were protesting UC’s involvement in the nation’s nuclear weapons labs sat on the floor, locked arms and shouted anti-nuclear slogans. They were carried from the room by police.

A UC spokeswoman said the protesters were cited on the misdemeanor charge of failure to disperse and then released.

rebecca.trounson@latimes.com

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Times staff writer Sara Lin contributed to this report.


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