Politics

Former Obama Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in Hot Water?

“A recent state audit of the University of California (UC) Office of the President…found UC had secretly hidden $175 million from legislative oversight while raising student fees…”

The California Board of Regents ordered an investigation of the handling (concealing) of millions of dollars by former Obama Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who is now the president of the University of California (UC).

At odds is why Napolitano tucked away an undisclosed $175 million in surplus funds before she asked the regents to approve a tuition rate hike while university executives received robust raises. Part and parcel was Napolitano and campus designees allegedly meddling in an audit conducted by State Auditor Elaine Howle, a 17-year veteran with a depth of experience and, apparently, pillared integrity. It is believed that campus heads, at Napolitano’s direction, endeavored to skew confidential audit statistics and make it look like a shining university entity. They failed.

Are we witnessing the insidiousness of Obama-era nepotism and cronyism infiltrating California’s taxpayer-funded university system?

Howle made the discovery and furnished her findings and concerns to the UC Board of Regents, which authorized an internal investigation. The April 2017 audit found that the University of California Office of the President “failed to disclose tens of millions in surplus funds, and its budget practices are misleading.”

According to The Mercury News, “lawmakers in Sacramento have been even more critical of Napolitano’s office after the audit suggested her top administrators directed campuses to alter their responses to a survey from Howle’s office that was supposed to be confidential.” Sounds like meddling to me.

In response to the aforementioned audit findings, Assembly Committee of Higher Education member Sharon Quirk-Silva (D—Orange County) blasted Napolitano. In her press release, Quirk-Silva said, “The leaders of our state university systems are duty-bound to maintain the highest levels of transparency, integrity, and accountability to California taxpayers, students, their families, and the legislature, especially when it comes to public monies. President Napolitano no longer engenders the public trust required to perform her duties. It’s time she resigned.”

In her written statement, Quirk-Silva concisely outlined what transpired: “a recent state audit of the University of California (UC) Office of the President…found UC had secretly hidden $175 million from legislative oversight while raising student fees and that Napolitano and her office sought to manipulate surveys sent out by the auditor.”

In the throes of obstruction charges being bandied about a lot this week (anti-Trump subversives), this $175 million gem (undisclosed funds) and charges of tampering in official state business (audit) strike the “obstruction” nail smack dab on the head. In fact, it seems to parallel James Comey’s Senate hearings revelation regarding Obama’s attorney general, Loretta Lynch, directing him to process the Hillary Clinton email “investigation” as a “matter” to project a milder tone to the American public and, more importantly, do nothing at all. We all saw how that evolved.

With bravado and arrogance, Napolitano and company sought to buffer their fiefdom by swaying audit survey details to project a more handsome picture while also lining pockets with huge raises.

Besides Assemblywoman Quirk-Silva, several lawmakers urged Napolitano to resign her post. As was reported by The Mercury News, Democratic Assembly lawmaker Phil Ting (D—San Francisco) said, “Anyone who does [what Napolitano did] should pay the price. Without good information, we cannot ensure we are meeting the needs of Californians.”

Perhaps trying to stave off egg-on-face, the board of regents went out and hired former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno and retained the law firm Hueston Hennigan LLP to conduct an internal investigation. That also means more tax dollars will be spent on the legal team, the attorneys of which specialize in white-collar defense cases.

Regardless of the outcome being considered by Judge Moreno and Hueston Hennigan attorneys, a vote of no confidence is the fundamental basis for which Napolitano could be removed from her plateau. Per UC Board of Regents bylaw, “the President of the University is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the Board.” Interestingly, some believe the UC Board of Regents and Napolitano are in bed together, as was reported by The Global Dispatch. It described regents not only supporting Napolitano’s “jaw-dropping” expenses but also partaking in lavish events on university dole.

While the thrust to unseat Napolitano festers, California lawmakers also drafted a bill to criminalize influencing and swaying state audit proceedings and contexts. Per The Mercury News, Dante Acosta, a Republican legislator, solicited a subpoena to obtain all documents pertinent to Howle’s audit and, in particular, any “emails between UC administrators and Napolitano’s staffers.” Uh-oh, the proverbial paper trail…again. This hints at an email scandal paralleling that of Hillary Clinton and also implies that students seeking to better themselves absorb the hit.

As our nation was dipped in Hillary Clinton’s email scandal under former president Obama, this juicy morsel with a strikingly similar stripe has Obama markings: old tricks and upticks in dubious behavior, perhaps bordering on criminality. At the very least, Napolitano and crew’s antics engender ethics laws scrutiny.

As we witness a seeming evolution (revolution!) in many of our nation’s colleges and universities, the cost to be a part of any “safe place” and “sanctuary campus” is now higher in California, no matter how you slice it. Doling out fees to a former Supreme Court judge and an office of attorneys is paid by tax dollars. Surely it won’t be cheap, thanks to the seeming nefarious activities of some prior- administration leftovers.

Musings

Ultimately, should the internal inquiry find Napolitano et al. complicit, will the investigation (not “matter”) be turned over to the California attorney general’s office for prosecution? Or will it just go away? Why not place the entire investigation in the lap of the California attorney general in the first place? Sure, that requires tax expenditures too, but not necessarily equating to the costs of a private investigative team whose arrest authority is nil.

Quirk-Silva also said, “New revelations today [May 09, 2017] from the State Auditor’s office show Napolitano’s office spent lavishly on parties and other extravagant events and took steps to deny information on its spending practices to the auditors.” To underscore a vote of no confidence in Napolitano, Quirk-Silva added an example: “Spending $13,000—the equivalent of one undergraduate student’s tuition for an entire year—on a fancy retirement dinner shows President Napolitano is not worthy of the public’s trust.” Seek restitution!

Albeit non-violent, ethics violations can be criminal in nature. Federal and/or California ethics laws potentially relevant to this discourse include misappropriations, use of public resources, non-disclosure, and perhaps honest services fraud.

Since the US Department of Education contributes funds (tax dollars) to the UC school system, federal investment plays a role. Therefore, federal laws are applicable.

State Auditor Elaine Howle’s government website states, “The single audit satisfies the federal requirements for an independent financial audit and compliance audits of federal programs which is a condition for the State to receive over $76 billion in federal funds each year.” So, yeah, there’s that. That also engenders US Attorney General Jeff Sessions throwing the ball in the hands of the California AG, regardless of the private internal inquiry.

Are we looking at a democratic dustpan doing some housecleaning, meekly? Do you think the alleged thieves at UC will be shaken from their cushy sanctuary and face consequences?

In its bylaws, the UC Board of Regents site claims that its university’s president “implements the policies and objectives of the Board, and keeps the Board informed of all significant developments affecting the University.” I’m certain that would include $175 million. It goes on to explain, “The President develops, and on the approval of the Board, manages the University budget.” Again, I’m pretty sure that would include a whopping $175 million stacked in some drawer or wherever she warmed the dough.

The San Francisco Chronicle outlined in its article that State Auditor Elaine Howle also submitted 33 recommendations for immediate implantation throughout the UC system. “We’re going to enact all 33 of them,” said Napolitano’s spokesperson, Dianne Klein. That’s good, since one of the tenets is abusing autonomy and conferred authority. Sound like something we’ve endured up until November 2016?

One more thing—since Hueston Hennigan LLP is rated as a “powerhouse” legal team skilled in white-collar cases, is it hired to unearth the facts and arrive at the truth…or merely mitigate and wipe egg off chins? I’m thinking President Napolitano prefers scrambled.

Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

Join the conversation!

We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, vulgarity, profanity, all caps, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain a courteous and useful public environment where we can engage in reasonable discourse.