Two fall guys lose their jobs for Janet Napolitano's rigging of a state audit

The office of the president of the University of California was caught red-handed, rigging a state audit of its performance, and outrageously, President Janet Napolitano will keep her job.  Instead, two fall guys who worked for her are taking the hit, "resigning" and "stepping down" (not fired) for this clear firing offense.

(For those who have never worked in a bureaucracy, rigging an audit is committing fraud on your employer.  Any organization that retains such a fraudster is failing to exercise normal levels of prudence to prevent future fraud and would therefore be legally liable any offenses subsequently committed by the fraudster.)

Don't allow yourself to blinded by ivy when thinking about the gang that pulled off this caper.  Napolitano works on the top floor of a Class A office building in downtown Oakland...

Photo credit.

...but eariler this year signed a lease on 130,000 square feet in a new, more stylish tower to be built now that U.C. is the anchor tenant.

Rendering courtesy of SKS.

All of this space – and the bureaucrats working in it – is overhead, in addition to the layers and layers of deans, outreach officers, and diversity bureaucrats on each and every campus.

When you are rigging the measurement of a bureaucratic organization of this size, it is a big deal.

The AP reports:

An executive who resigned from the University of California president's office wrote emails that directed UC campuses to reveal and sometimes change responses to a confidential state auditor's survey of the office, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

A second executive who stepped down this week was the other executive's boss and was copied in on many of the emails, the newspaper reported Thursday.

UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein told The Associated Press that Seth Grossman, chief of staff to UC President Janet Napolitano, and Bernie Jones, his deputy, "resigned to pursue other opportunities on the East Coast." Neither was forced out, Klein told the Chronicle.

Officially, nobody is being punished by losing a job.  These job losses were "voluntary."

Even worse, the taxpayers of California, who own the university for which Janet Napolitano works, are being played for suckers.  We are being asked to believe that the chief of staff and his deputy acted without any direction from their boss, keeping her in the dark while corrupting the very mechanism intended to measure her performance.  Despite emails indicating communications on the subject.

The rigging was serious and caused an entire audit to be thrown out.  That alone imposes a cost (government audits don't come cheap when you figure out the per diem cost of the bureaucrats!) that should rise to the level of felony fraud.  Napolitano's pro forma apology is a classic example of bureaucratic evasion:

At a legislative hearing to review the audit findings, Napolitano acknowledged that she and her staff communicated with campus leaders about a survey meant to independently assess the value of her office's operations.

"While we believe we did things appropriately, it is clear in retrospect that we could have handled this better," she said. "I am sorry that we did it this way, because it has created the wrong impression and detracted from the important fact that we accept the recommendations in the audit report."

As I wrote at the time, "she didn't just communicate – her people got advance copies of the responses to the auditors' questions and then demanded and got changes."

Auditor Elaine Howle has asserted that the UC Office of the President interfered with her work by reviewing surveys sent independently to campus leaders and requesting changes that reflected more positively on its operations before they were submitted.

"In my 17 years as state auditor, we have never had a situation like this," she said Tuesday.

The case against Napolitano is clear.  Emails "indicate that Napolitano was briefed on the reviews of campus survey responses."  And common sense tells us that stooges of a politically prominent boss don't operate independently.  Napolitano is a sufficiently skilled weasel that no direct orders can be found, in all likelihood.  But she wouldn't even have had to sigh, "Will no one rid me of this troublesome audit?" for the message to be conveyed.  If the culture of the Office of the President of the University of California had not permitted the idea of rigging an audit to be even discussed, then the it would not have happened.  We are talking about a boss and her two subordinates at the top of a massive organization. 

As a result, a $30-billion-a year taxpayer-owned institution is in the hands of a boss who has learned that she can escape accountability for misdeeds and let the buck stop with fall guys.

What could possibly go wrong?

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