UC Regents go 'beyond the letter of the law' in revising meeting rules
Beginning with this week's meeting, compensation for certain senior officials will be discussed in open session
| 20 September 2006
University of California Board of Regents Chair Gerald Parsky this week announced that the board's compensation committee will voluntarily vote in open session on compensation for all university officials requiring approval by the regents.
The action, framed as part of the regents' ongoing commitment to transparency and public accountability, goes far beyond a court ruling in August that state law allows regents to discuss compensation matters in closed-session meetings, but that they should act in open session on salaries for a small group of university officials, including the president, chancellors, certain vice presidents, treasurer, assistant treasurer, general counsel, and secretary.
The decision, by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith, came in response to a lawsuit against the university brought by the San Francisco Chronicle. In its suit, the Chronicle argued that UC regents should be prohibited from holding any private discussions regarding compensation for UC's senior-most officials.
In her ruling, Judge Smith affirmed that regents may continue to deliberate in private regarding compensation matters, but must take any action on the abovenamed officials in public, including the discussion of committee recommendations.
Previously, regents' committees were permitted to formulate recommendations in private before acting in public. The court ruling changes UC's procedures only slightly in that both the compensation committee and the full board will now take votes in public session.
"We believe the court's ruling appropriately balances our obligations to the public and our employees," said Parsky. "It recognized the necessity to protect personal privacy by allowing the discussion of performance and certain other sensitive personnel-related matters in closed session and [it] narrowly defined those university officials who should be acted upon in open session."
But after consultation with other regents and the university administration, "our overwhelming sentiment was the university should go beyond the letter of the law," Parsky said. "In the spirit of transparency and public accountability, we will take action in open session on all compensation for university officials requiring the regents' approval.
"UC has an obligation to be open and accessible to the public, and the university is committed to ensuring that obligation is met," Parsky said. "At the same time, we are equally obligated to honor employees' rights to privacy which, among other things, means being able to discuss performance and certain other personnel-related matters in private."
The new policy is effective at this week's regents' meeting, set for Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 20 and 21, and extends to several hundred senior positions.
Parsky said the policy will continue even after the regents make possible changes in the positions that are subject to regental approval, which are under review in light of recommendations by the Task Force on Compensation, Accountability, and Transparency.
A copy of the court ruling is available at www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/2006/openmeetingsuit0906.pdf.