By The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board
The still-stunning decision by University of California President Janet Napolitano to interfere with a state audit — by removing and weakening criticism of her office’s performance from individual UC campuses — has gotten the harsh rebuke it deserves. It came in the form of Assembly Bill 562, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed this week. Under the new law, a state agency’s decision to interfere with, impede or obstruct a state audit requested by the Legislature or required by statute is now a misdemeanor crime with a fine of up to $5,000.
How Napolitano thought her behavior was acceptable in this matter remains incomprehensible. As part of state Auditor Elaine Howle’s review of Napolitano’s office and its finances, Howle’s staff sent campus officials a survey — one that was supposed to be confidential — asking them to evaluate services provided by the president’s office. But before the surveys were returned to the auditor, they were in several cases revised to make responses more favorable to Napolitano and her aides. Yet at a May 2 meeting of a joint legislative oversight committee, Napolitano asserted the changes were made not to make her look better but to make the responses accurate. An egregious change involving UC San Diego’s survey shows the absurdity of this claim: The response to a question about the president’s office’s transparency and budget process was changed from “dissatisfied” to “satisfied.”