Palin contract flap exposes “auxiliary” loophole in California open records law

Sarah Palin can easily start an uproar wherever she goes and whatever she does lately. The latest controversy over her scheduled appearance at California State University Stanislaus only proves it, with her colorful rider demands and administrators trying to hide the cost of her visit to the university.

Students at CSU Stanislaus found shredded documents in the garbage on Tuesday relating to the former vice presidential nominee’s upcoming speaking engagement — after the university claimed no documents existed.

The CSU Stanislaus students were able to retrieve five pages of the contract from a campus trash bin last Friday after hearing administrators were engaged in shredding documents, according to The Washington Post.

California State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, appeared at a press conference Tuesday morning in Sacramento with the students who discovered the destroyed correspondence.

The CSU Stanislaus Foundation previously denied requests by The Associated Press and Sen. Yee to disclose Palin’s compensation under the California Public Records Act.

As reported in The Washington Post, CSU Stanislaus Foundation board president Matt Swanson previously told the AP that the contract’s nondisclosure policy required him to withhold the information, adding that university foundations and other auxiliary organizations were not subject to the same public records requirements as the university itself.

In 2009, Sen. Yee pushed a bill to expand California’s open records act to cover foundations and other auxiliaries that operate as extensions of public universities; the bill overwhelmingly passed the legislature, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it. Yee is back this year with a new version, SB 330.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown announced plans Tuesday to launch a “broad investigation” into the alleged dumping of documents. Brown has called for the inspection of finances within the CSU Stanislaus Foundation, which is hosting the June 25 event featuring the former Alaska governor turned FOX television commentator, according to SFGate.

The documents found were printed on the letterhead of a company that represents Palin for her speaking engagements. None of the documents mentioned Palin by name or state how much she is being paid; however, tickets to her appearance at the gala sell for $500 each. In the LA Times, Brown said the fee could be as high as $100,000 based on her fee for an appearance in Nashville, Tenn.

The rider specifies “round-trip, first-class commercial air travel for two between Anchorage, Alaska, and event city,” accommodations, including a one-bedroom suite and two single rooms in a deluxe hotel, and plenty of bottled water and “bendable straws”