Legislators Flunk Cal State ‘Fuzzy Math’
By JOHN HRABE
Senate Republican leader Bob Huff flunked Cal State University’s “fuzzy math” and is calling for “substantial changes at the institution.” His action followed CalWatchDog.com‘s investigation into the system’s false and misleading information about the total compensation of its top administrators.
“The California State University system faces a difficult challenge with mounting trigger cuts that have placed enormous financial pressure on the backs of middle class families,” Huff said. “But using fuzzy math to camouflage escalating executive compensation, while student fees are skyrocketing, underscores a need for substantial changes at the institution.”
CalWatchdog first reported this month on the deceptive practices by Cal State to misinform the public about the total compensation provided to the system’s 23 presidents. According to IRS documents of the Cal State University Los Angeles Foundation, CSULA President James Rosser reported receiving $515,612 in total compensation for fiscal year 2009-10, which ended on June 30, 2010. The half-million dollar figure is roughly $200,000 more than CSU’s previously cited base salary of $325,000 per year. In at least five instances, Cal State officials have claimed or implied a lower compensation amount for CSULA’s Rosser.
‘Doesn’t Look Right’
Senator Doug LaMalfa, R-Redding, also criticized Cal State for deceiving the public and providing its executives with high salaries during the state’s ongoing budget crisis.
“It just doesn’t look right. We are in the middle of a budget crisis with student fees being increased left and right, yet executives are getting six-figure raises and $100,000 perks not even on the books,” La Malfa told CalWatchDog.com. “These are huge salaries for public officials, larger than the governor, yet they have a much smaller portfolio of responsibilities. They can ‘suffer along’ with their current six-digit compensation while the rest of the public weathers the budget crisis and tough economy.”
Following last year’s public outcry over San Diego State University’s $400,000 base salary for new president Elliot Hirschman, Cal State established a special Web page for public information on its executive compensation policies. “As a public institution, the California State University is committed to being as open and transparent to the public as possible,” the website reads. “In response to recent discussions about the California State University’s executive compensation policies and practices, we have created this central page to make the documents related to those policies more readily accessible.”
Senators Huff and La Malfa join a growing number of legislators that are urging greater fiscal accountability at Cal State. Senator Joel Anderson, R-Santee, and Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada-Flintridge, were the first legislators to criticize Cal State for its efforts to mislead the public on executive compensation.
“If it’s true that the CSU has been hiding important budget information from the Legislature and public review, potentially in violation of state law and the CSU’s own rules, then I believe there needs to be consequences,” said Assemblyman Portantino. “It is PAST time for the CSU to be fully and completely transparent. I call on the Assembly Leadership to support my continuing effort to FREEZE the pay and benefits for the CSU executives until we have adequate time to review, line-by-line, actual spending records.”
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I’ve written a couple of things on the Los Angeles Unified School District’s gift of iPads to its students. In
Editor’s note: This is Steven Greenhut’s final column for CalWatchDog.com, which he started in 2009. He is the new Sacramento