The president of Cal State Stanislaus said Wednesday that he believes that documents relating to a fundraising appearance by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin were stolen and given to students to stoke controversy over the upcoming event.
University President Hamid Shirvani also said he has asked Palin to release information about her speaking fee. She has yet to respond, he said.
The university is investigating how parts of Palin's draft contract got into the hands of students who then turned them over to state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco). Yee has been critical of the secrecy over Palin's compensation.
The action comes after California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown expanded an inquiry into whether the university and an affiliated foundation violated the state Public Records Act after refusing Yee's request for documents related to Palin's June 25 appearance. Brown said he would also look at whether the university had illegally sought to discard the documents.
Students said Tuesday they found the documents, including parts of Palin's contract, in a campus trash bin. But officials said the documents were the only ones missing from the trash bin of the foundation's executive director.
Yee and other open government advocates are pressing for more transparency on the part of foundations and other nonprofits affiliated with public universities. Yee is sponsoring legislation that would require those groups to adhere to the Public Records Act.
Shirvani said he welcomed Brown's inquiry. But he accused both the attorney general and Yee of engaging in ideologically motivated "political theater."
"These are bad economic times, and this a fundraiser with a good possibility of raising a net $200,000 for our students which are desperately needed," Shirvani said in his first extensive comments about the matter. "Why is it a problem to bring Gov. Palin to a community where they like her? Sen. Yee is using us as a political pawn, and it is so very unfair."
Yee disputed that.
"The senator has been fighting for open government all of his career," said chief of staff Adam Keigwin.
Palin's celebrity may have driven public interest, but he said "that is not the senator's motivation."
Shirvani said Palin's speech is set to raise more money than any other fundraiser. It will be held in the cafeteria and will accommodate about 300 people; tickets are $500, and sponsored tables cost $5,000 to $50,000. The campus foundation is paying about $200,000 to $250,000 for the event.