Alas, the squandering of the UC system’s money was far from complete. Embattled since the pepper-spraying incident, Katehi came under additional fire for accepting lucrative positions on the boards of firms that seemed to pose clear conflicts of interest, including a major publisher of college-level textbooks, where she earned more than $400,000 moonlighting over the course of three years, and a for-profit university.
The original plan was to pay her $106,000 in salary to fulfill zero responsibilities for three months while investigators figured out whether she should be fired or retained, because that’s the insane way that California deals with high-ranking bureaucrats who’ve behaved badly—never mind that the vast majority of California residents earn far less with no such job security. Katehi was paid $424,360 annually.
What happened next was even more galling.
Katehi’s bosses finally decided that she should be ousted. It turned out that she had spent $407,000 on a series of PR consultants, a costly effort to make a negative story go away that ultimately brought orders of magnitude more attention to it years later. What’s more, the way she handled outside boards was deemed unacceptable.
And then, having earned that cool 6 figures while being investigated? As I noted at the time:
California’s median household income is $61,933. Assistant professors at UC Davis earn about $80,000.
“After resigning Tuesday as UC Davis chancellor under a cloud of controversy, Linda P.B. Katehi will take advantage of a University of California perk that allows campus leaders to receive chancellor-level pay with few responsibilities for one year,” the Sacramento Bee reports. “Katehi will continue to receive her salary of $424,360 plus retirement and health benefits, but she will not have to teach classes in her transition year, after which she plans to become a UC Davis engineering professor.”
Back then, I thought that was the most insane result of the system the Golden State has set up. I was wrong. And that brings us to the additional million dollar expense that I learned about last week when The Sacramento Bee reported it. Understand that by the time Katehi was investigated, student protesters at Davis were making poster-board signs detailing her transgressions, drawing on detailed reporting from The Sacramento Bee and other news organizations. Some faculty members were saying that they wanted Katehi to step down. A basketball or football coach would never have survived the loss of institutional faith. Any outsider with Google could see she needed to resign or be fired.
But for some reason, the California bureaucracy goes about terminating failing employees using the most drawn out, flagrantly costly methods imaginable. In this case:
University of California officials spent nearly $1 million investigating former UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, a probe that ended in her resignation last August and a deal that allowed her to take a year off at full pay before returning to a faculty job, according to figures released Friday.
The four-month investigation was ordered last April by UC President Janet Napolitano after disclosures in The Sacramento Bee about Katehi’s acceptance of lucrative corporate board seats and her use of university funds to clean up her image online. The final investigative report was released Aug. 9, the same day Katehi agreed to resign after fighting for months to save her job running one of the nation’s premiere universities.
The probe by the Orrick law firm was headed by two former U.S. attorneys from Northern California – Melinda Haag and McGregor Scott – and included interviews with 55 individuals, the compilation of 2.7 million emails and documents and a review of more than 67,000 emails and other electronic documents. Haag and other investigators were to be paid $595 per hour, according to the contract between the university and the firm.
Team members who conducted document review were due a much lower rate, university officials said in June.
After heavy winter rains, California is experiencing super-blooms of spring wildflowers at the moment. And even so, I can’t stop thinking about this saga’s coda.