Thursday, November 23, 2017

It just keeps going

State auditor finds top aides to UC President Napolitano interfered in audit, recommends reforms

Teresa Watanabe  LA Times  11-22-23

California State Auditor Elaine Howle wants University of California regents to consider disciplining university employees who repeatedly interfered with a state audit, tried to hide their actions, misled investigators and withheld requested information until threatened with court action, according to a private report by her office obtained by The Times.

Howle’s office began investigating UC interference in a state audit on the performance of UC President Janet Napolitano’s office after a whistleblower complaint early this year. Like a separate inquiry commissioned by regents whose results were released last week, Howle’s investigation determined that Napolitano approved a plan instructing the UC system’s 10 campuses to submit responses to confidential questionnaires about her office for review by her aides before sending them on to the state auditor.

Both investigations found that Napolitano’s aides asked campuses to tone down or delete criticisms. But neither found sufficient evidence that Napolitano knew her aides planned to do this. Napolitano told investigators that had she known, she would not have approved their plan.

Both reports primarily blamed Napolitano’s Chief of Staff Seth Grossman and Deputy Chief of Staff Bernie Jones for the interference. Howle’s report cited additional evidence of wrongdoing by Jones, including intentional failures at least twice to provide requested documents to the auditor and an inappropriate effort to identify the whistleblower.

These actions impeded her audit “by impairing [her] office’s statutory right to access records, failing to provide the requested documents in a timely manner, failing to provide unaltered records, and contributing to inefficiency and waste,” Howle wrote in an Oct. 26 letter to George Kieffer, chairman of the UC Board of Regents.

The Times obtained copies of the letter and the report after the state auditor sent them to legislative leaders of both parties. Howle declined to comment.

Her report outlined several recommendations to avoid future interference, including disciplining the UC employees involved, requiring training and education about whistleblowers and the inappropriateness of retaliation, and revising reporting so that university auditors report directly to regents, not to the UC president’s office.

In an interview Wednesday, Kieffer said the regents would be “working collaboratively” with Howle to implement her suggested reforms. The regents also plan to discuss their own, more detailed recommendations at their next meeting, in January.

The regents’ proposals include a ban on obstructing, interfering or coordinating requests for information in responding to any state audit. They also suggest having the general counsel, chief investment officer and top audit officers report solely to them on audits and investigations involving the UC president’s office.

Napolitano apologized for her actions last week after the regents released the findings of their investigation, which was conducted by former state Justice Carlos Moreno and the Hueston Hennigan law firm. The regents unanimously agreed to retain her as president but sharply disagreed about how to discipline her and others involved.

A majority of regents voted to reprimand Napolitano and said Grossman and Jones would have been subject to serious discipline if they had not resigned earlier in the month. A vocal minority, however, said that more serious action was needed. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, an ex-officio regent, told The Times through a spokesman that a mere reprimand of Napolitano was “insignificant.” Regent John A. Pérez said a broader range of actions should be debated, including possible measures against Grossman and Jones.

Kieffer said Grossman and Jones received no severance packages or residual UC benefits. “They got zero,” he said, “There is frankly nothing more we could do to them.”

He said he would be working with Howle in coordination with Napolitano to determine whether to take any other actions against UC employees for inappropriate behavior during the audit.



Misdemeanor charge filed in ‘Make America Great Again’ hat incident at UC Riverside

Michael Watanabe | Riverside Press-Enterprise | November 22, 2017

A UC Riverside student seen in a viral video* grabbing a fellow student’s pro-Trump hat has been charged with misdemeanor grand theft. The charge against Edith Macias was filed Nov. 3, and a warrant for her arrest was granted Nov. 13, court records show. She has not yet been detained or entered a plea. The statute under which she was charged says grand theft applies when property is taken off somebody’s body. The incident happened Sept. 27 at a training event for student organizations at UCR. Student Matthew Lawrence Vitale wore a red baseball cap with President Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again.”

Several videos of what happened were posted online, though some have since been taken down. One shows Macias grabbing the hat off Vitale’s head and running out of the room. Vitale himself began filming as Macias brought the hat into the Student Life office and asked staff whether the hat should be allowed on campus. “This represents genocide,” Macias says in the video. Vitale counters that that freedom of speech allows him to wear the hat and that he wants his property back. Macias eventually gives university officials the hat. The 9-minute video ends as two men in what appear to be UCR police uniforms enter the office.


Happy Thanksgiving... our loyal readers (although we don't go back to 1910).

UC's CRISPR case has not wilted

DUBLIN--(BUSINESS WIRE)--ERS Genomics announced today [11-22-2017] that The Regents of the University of California, the University of Vienna, and Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier (collectively “UC”), co-owners of foundational intellectual property relating to CRISPR/Cas9 genome engineering, will today submit their reply brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (the “Federal Circuit”). UC seeks reversal of a decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) terminating the interference between certain CRISPR/Cas9 patent claims owned by UC, which cover gene editing in bacterial cells, eukaryotic cells (such as plant and animal cells) and non-cellular environments, and claims of the Broad Institute, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (collectively, “Broad”) which specify use in eukaryotic cells.

“We are pleased that the briefing is now complete and that the court can now proceed to hear and decide the appeal,” commented Eric Rhodes, CEO of ERS. “One of the important questions in this case is whether Broad’s deployment of conventional techniques for using bacterial systems in eukaryotic cells was an obvious aspect of UC’s core CRISPR-Cas9 invention. Our side is adamant in our belief that this is the case.”...

Full release at

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Trump Tweetstorm Continues Over UCLA Players

From the Washington Post:

President Trump began the day before Thanksgiving on Twitter, calling out those who he claims have not, in fact, given him their proper thanks.

His target, again: LaVar Ball, whom Trump had previously called “very ungrateful” for the president’s help in resolving a shoplifting charge in China for his son, LiAngelo, and two other University of California at Los Angeles basketball players.

It had been nearly two full days since Trump last mentioned the elder Ball by name — and in the intervening hours, Ball had been on CNN, saying that he had nothing to be thankful for when it came to his son and his president.

“How’d he help? If he helped, I would say thank you,” Ball told CNN.

Trump wasn’t having it, calling Ball an “ungrateful fool” and “a poor man’s version of Don King,” the boxing promoter known for his spotlight-grabbing style.

As for who had helped free LiAngelo Ball from China, the president said Wednesday: “IT WAS ME.”

It wasn’t the White House, it wasn’t the State Department, it wasn’t father LaVar’s so-called people on the ground in China that got his son out of a long term prison sentence – IT WAS ME. Too bad! LaVar is just a poor man’s version of Don King, but without the hair. Just think..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 22, 2017

…LaVar, you could have spent the next 5 to 10 years during Thanksgiving with your son in China, but no NBA contract to support you. But remember LaVar, shoplifting is NOT a little thing. It’s a really big deal, especially in China. Ungrateful fool!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 22, 2017

LiAngelo Ball and two other UCLA men’s basketball players were arrested for shoplifting while in Hangzhou for a tournament. They returned to the United States last week and were summarily suspended by their team.

“You’re welcome,” Trump tweeted at the trio upon their return to the United States, urging Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill to “HAVE A GREAT LIFE!” He also suggested that they “give a big Thank You to President Xi Jinping of China.”

Trump said last week that he had personally intervened in the case with his Chinese counterpart, asking Xi to help resolve the case.

When the president returned from a 12-day trip through Asia, he wrote on Twitter: “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you to President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!”

Enter LaVar Ball, who was asked by ESPN about Trump’s role in securing his son’s release.

“Who?” Ball said. “What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

Trump fumed, tweeting Sunday: “I should have left them in jail!” (The White House later said Trump wasn’t serious, calling it “a rhetorical response to a criticism by the father.”)

But the following night, the outspoken Ball went on CNN and took aim at the president.

“You heard what he tweeted,” he told anchor Chris Cuomo. “He tweeted that cause he’s mad at me, ‘I should have left their asses in jail.’”

Ball said insisted that Trump has overstated his role in freeing the three Americans and added that if he would thank anyone, it would be Xi.

But, he added: “I don’t have to go around saying thank you to everybody.”

The State Department typically takes the lead on cases involving U.S. citizens who are arrested abroad, and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing was aware of the case, officials said.

Trump raised the arrests during a two-day state visit to Beijing, arriving after the three freshman players were accused of stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team’s hotel.

“The basketball players, by the way — I know a lot of people are asking — I will tell you, when I heard about it two days ago, I had a great conversation with President Xi,” Trump said after boarding Air Force One in Manila at the conclusion his Asia trip. “What they did was unfortunate. You know, you’re talking about very long prison sentences. [The Chinese] do not play games.”

When asked specifically whether Xi was helping to resolve the matter, Trump said last week: “Yes, he is. And he’s been terrific. President Xi has been terrific on that subject.

“But that was not a good subject. That was not something that should have happened.”

The sunglasses in the Louis Vuitton store in Hangzhou are priced at or around 4,900 yuan ($750).

According to Chinese law, anyone stealing goods worth between 4,000 and 7,000 yuan faces between one and two years in jail, although the sentence can be mitigated if they confess, show remorse and pay compensation.


At $790, it's more gold than blue

All we can say is that sports watches used to be cheaper:

Enough with the outrage!

We recently reproduced an editorial from the San Francisco Chronicle complaining about the UC prez and her role in the state audit scandal.* Now a similar (copycat?) editorial has appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune.** But one editorial was sufficient. And here's a somewhat different take from yours truly on the scandal.

All large bureaucracies are self-protective. Public, private, it doesn't matter. And in all bureaucracies, the ultimate rule for getting ahead is "please your boss." So that's what happened. The UC prez was already upset with the state auditor's previous encounters with UC. Her underlings knew it. So they proceeded accordingly.

What about the chancellors whose critical comments about UCOP were changed to be positive? Chancellors chafe at being under UCOP; they want more autonomy. So it's not surprising that UCOP's sloppy interventions came to light. UCOP's underlings weren't very good at their attempts to please their boss. And the chancellors and their underlings had an incentive to let what they had done be known.

However, on a scale of bureaucratic misdeeds, this one was maybe a 5 on a scale of 10. UC has more serious issues long term that have to do with funding, state support, etc. I won't reproduce the Union-Tribune editorial, but one sentence from it stands out:

"...(State Auditor) Howle told the Legislature in May that in 17 years as state auditor, she’d never seen such improper behavior from an agency she was reviewing..."

Maybe that's so. Maybe Howle was rightly shocked and appalled and UC's behavior was unique. But maybe it means that the other agencies which she audited over 17 years were just better at covering their tracks. Maybe the other agencies are more cohesive than the UC system with its autonomy-seeking campuses and chancellors. Maybe UC's behavior is less unique than Howle appreciates.

Anyway, enough with the newspaper outrage. The UC prez has done her requisite groveling apology, which we have also previously reproduced, complete with video.*** There is no more there there to be had than we already have. Time to move on.