CALIFORNIA — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signed into lawFriday a bill designed to open to public scrutiny the way state universities setcompensation packages for their top officials.The Higher EducationGovernance Accountability Act, introduced by Senator Leland Yee (D-SanFrancisco/San Mateo), will require executive payment packages at the CaliforniaState University system and the University of California system to be voted onin an open session by their respective boards of regents.
Positions that fall under the new legislation will include the president ofthe university system, the chancellor of an individual campus, a vice president,a treasurer, the assistant treasurer, the general counsel or the trustees’ secretary.
The bill also carves out time for the public to make comments aboutprospective salary changes during the meeting, and it will require that mosttask forces, advisory groups, or study groups with one or more trustee membersalso be open.
The bill passed unanimously in the California Senate in April and the stateassembly in early September.
”The Legislature and the Governor have now sent a very clear messageto the UC and CSU: it is time to end the culture of secrecy andarrogance,” Yee said in a statement. ”No longer should the student,faculty and staff — the backbone of our public universities — beleft to bear the burden, while top execs live high on the hog.”
A spokesman from CSU said that the university system did not oppose thebill and had been working with Sen. Yee to comply with most of thelegislation’s changes.
A University of California spokeswoman said the system is reviewing itscurrent policies but believes they already comply with most of the new law’sprovisions.
The legislation stems from a lawsuit filed by the San FranciscoChronicle in 2006, in which the newspaper sued to keep the UC Board ofRegents from voting on administrator salaries in a confidential executivesession. In August 2006, a judge ruled for the Chronicle, deciding thatthe Board of Regents can debate executive salaries in closed session, but votescould only be taken in open meetings.
Adam Keigwin, communications director for Yee, said while the courtdecision forced the boards to conduct votes in open meetings, Yee’s billexpands access to the meetings and gives the board a chance to hear thepublic’s voice. By creating time for the public to speak before theboard’s vote on executive pay, Keigwin said the bill will make sure ”the issue is fully vetted.”
Keigwin said the bill also will require the boards to disclose theirrationale for any changes in executive pay.
Yee introduced similar legislation in 2006, but it did not gain enoughsupport to receive a vote from the state assembly. Yee also introduced asuccessful bill prohibiting prior review and other forms of censorship incollege newspapers the same year.
The bill will not officially become law until Jan. 1, but Yee called on UCand CSU to enact the new regulations immediately.
For More Information:
Higher Education Governance Accountability Act, Chapter 523 Calif. Statutes (2007)