Cal State Lies About Receiving Transparency Award

MARCH 13, 2012


Vox Veritas Vita — “Speak the truth as a way of life.”

Cal State University Motto

From the Files of You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: A California government agency has lied about receiving an award for government transparency.

The California State University system has falsely claimed to have received a 2012 Sunshine Award, which recognizes “the most transparent government websites in the nation.”

“CSU wins 2012 Sunshine Award for most transparent government website,” @Cal State, the official Twitter page for the CSU Public Affairs Office, tweeted on March 12. However, as of 1:30 pm on March 13, the link no longer worked, even though that exact link remains up on Cal State’s Twitter account.

[Editor’s Update: As a result of this article, as of 4 pm on March 13, 2012, CSU’s official Twitter page also no longer lists the lie about receiving the Sunshine Award. But the evidence from earlier is in the picture that follows. Two and a half hours is pretty fast for government work.]

Sunshine Review, the national nonprofit organization that sponsors the annual awards, confirmed to that it would be impossible for the state’s public college system to win a Sunshine Award.

“We do not grade state universities or colleges at this time, so it would be impossible for Cal State to have won an award,” said Diana Lopez, senior editor of the Sunshine Review. “And you are correct, they are not on our list of winners here:”

If that’s not ridiculous enough, remember we’re in the middle of Sunshine Week, the annual campaign to raise awareness about open, honest and transparent government.

It’d be easy to laugh off the irony of a government agency lying about receiving a government transparency award during the weeklong celebration of openness and honesty in government. Except, the Cal State system continues to lie and mislead the public about the total compensation of its top administrators.

Cal State officials have provided false and misleading information to the public about the total compensation provided to at least one of the system’s 23 presidents, a investigation found earlier this month. According to IRS documents of 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.

More Obstruction

When requested the total compensation for all 23 executives, a Cal State spokeswoman told us to find it ourselves.

“The information is publicly available and included on 990 forms for each president and the chancellor that are posted on each campus website, as well as on the chancellor office website,” said Claudia Keith, Cal State’s assistant vice chancellor of public affairs. followed Cal State’s instructions and found another CSU effort to obstruct the public’s access to information. Cal State’s IRS documents are nearly three years old. The most recent IRS Form 990 available on the CSU Foundation’s webpage is for July 1, 2008-June 30, 2009.

The Sunshine or Sunny Awards honor “governments that are doing an exemplary job at proactively disclosing information to taxpayers.” While Cal State didn’t win a Sunshine Award, the state of California did. A complete list of the true 2012 Sunshine Award winners can be found here.

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