Editor's Note

The FOI Advocate is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed and a link will be provided whenever possible. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited. We will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Calif. bill seeks to include university foundations in FOI

California Sen. Leland Yee has introduced a bill that would open the records of auxiliaries, private foundations created to support public universities, The Los Angeles Times reported. The legislation proposes that foundations should be subject to the same disclosure requirements as universities. His bill does offer an exemption that would allow donors to give anonymously and allow foundations to withhold the names of donors as long as they didn't receive some benefit from the foundation.
As they stretch every dollar, California's public universities have understandably turned to novel ways of raising and spending money. Many have established private foundations, known as "auxiliaries," that solicit contributions from private donors and then hand that money out in the form of grants, scholarships and the like. Auxiliaries today supply the Cal State system with roughly 20% of its $6.7-billion annual operating budget.

The trouble arises when those foundations use their vague legal status -- they are private entities affiliated with public universities -- to shield themselves from scrutiny. And the public has ample reason to question how some of this money is being spent. A foundation affiliated with Sonoma State University lent money to a former member of its board, then got stuck with a bill when he could not pay the money back. A foundation affiliated with Cal State Fresno built an arena on campus and awarded some donors luxury boxes; when the Fresno Bee asked for the names of the donors and what they had contributed, it was denied, and a court held that the California Public Records Act did not cover the foundation. And a former chancellor of San Francisco City College has been indicted on charges that include allegedly diverting money from a foundation account to pay for a club membership, liquor and other expenses.
More here.

No comments: