Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Please support SB 219 visit FELLOW ALUM State Senator Leland Yee's site:

http://dist08.casen.govoffice.com

or
http://www.reformtheuc.com

and sign the petition (it just requires your name and email address) to voice your support of SB 219 - a bill to finally protect UC whistle blowers. Read the stories on the right if you need help to understand why this is important. Many thanks!

UC Whistleblower Protection Bill Sent to Governor
Monday, August 24, 2009

Yee authors legislation in response to state Supreme Court decision

SACRAMENTO – On a 22-14 vote, the California State Senate today approved legislation to provide University of California employees who report waste, fraud and abuse with the same legal protections as other state employees. Despite overwhelming support from open government advocates and UC students, faculty, and workers, the University administration continues to oppose the measure authored by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo).

“This is the classic case of the fox guarding the hen house, and yet another example of UC administrators opposing a commonsense reform,” said Yee. “UC executives should not be judge and jury on whether or not they are liable for monetary claims. This was not the intent of California’s whistleblower law.”

In July 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled (Miklosy v. the Regents of the University of California (S139133, July 31, 2008) that UC employees who are retaliated against because they report wrongdoing cannot sue for damages under the state’s Whistleblower Protection Act, so long as the University itself reviews the complaints in a timely fashion. The ruling uncovered an oversight made by the Legislature when the Act was amended in 2001, which provided legal standing for all other state employees to seek damages.

“In light of the Court’s ruling, it is imperative that the Governor sign SB 219 to immediately correct this statute and protect UC workers from unfair retaliation for rightfully reporting waste, fraud, or abuse,” said Yee.

While the Court was unanimous in their ruling, three of the seven judges urged the Legislature to consider changes to the law, as the current statute undermines the purpose of the Act.

“The court’s reading of the Act, making the University the judge of its own civil liability and leaving its employees vulnerable to retaliation for reporting abuses, thwarts the demonstrated legislative intent to protect those employees and thereby encourage candid reporting,” wrote Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, joined by Chief Justice Ronald George and Justice Carlos Moreno. “If the same government organization that has tried to silence the reporting employee also sits in final judgment of the employee’s retaliation claim, the law’s protection against retaliation is illusory.”

The Miklosy decision deals with the plight of two former scientists at UC’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, who repeatedly told their supervisors about equipment problems and poorly trained operators of a project designed to determine the safety and reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. One of the scientists, Leo Miklosy, was fired in February 2003 and the other, Luciana Messina, resigned a few days later after overhearing a supervisor say she would also be fired.

“This issue is tailor-made for Senator Yee,” said Terry Francke, General Counsel for Californians Aware. “SB 219 will resolve the ambiguity in statute referenced by the Supreme Court and will ensure that all UC employees are given the same real – and not illusory – whistleblower protections as other state employees.”

“We are especially pleased to see Senator Yee address this issue,” said Scott Amey, General Counsel for The Project on Government Oversight. “Whistleblower cases should require an independent evaluation of the retaliatory actions against employees. Without independent evaluation, UC whistleblowers are left out in the cold.”

In addition to Californians Aware, SB 219 is supported by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), California Psychiatric Association, California Newspaper Publishers Association, California Nurses Association, Council of University of California Faculty Associations, First Amendment Coalition, The Greenlining Institute, State Employees’ Trades Council, and the University of California Student Association.

SB 219 is one of several good governance proposals opposed by the UC Board of Regents.

Once received, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Los Angeles) will have twelve days to sign or veto SB 219.

Yet Another UC Compensation Scandal Renews Calls for Legislation
SACRAMENTO – Last month, the University of California Board of Regents yet again approved exorbitant pay raises for more than two dozen executives. The hikes, which include a 25 percent increase for UC San Francisco’s chief financial officer and pay in excess $500,000 for UCSF’s chief operating officer, were documented in last week’s San Francisco Chronicle.

The latest scandal has renewed calls for legislation currently pending that would limit executive compensation increases in years in which the state budget allocation to the UC has not increased.

The legislation, SB 217 authored by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), is set to be heard next Wednesday in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

“The public is tired of the UC administration acting like AIG,” said Yee. “It is imperative that we stop the UC Regents from turning our public university into a private country club. We can ill-afford an administration that continues to disrespect the taxpayers, students, and their low-wage workers and faculty.”

The recent scandal is just the latest of several pay hikes for UC executives in 2009. Earlier this year, the UC handed out 22 percent pay increases for several senior managers and paid exorbitant administrative leave for two former chancellors, receiving over $300,000 and $400,000 a year each. The Regents also approved a $450,000 salary for the new UCSF Chancellor (a 12 percent hike from the previous chancellor) and a $400,000 salary for the new UC Davis Chancellor (a 27 percent hike from her predecessor). UC President Mark Yudof also receives nearly a $1 million in salaries and perks.

These actions come at the same time the Regents approved pay cuts, layoffs, and furloughs for lower wage workers.

“Excessive pay raises and extravagant perks is yet another example of UC executive's misguided choices and misplaced priorities,” said Lakesha Harrison, President of AFSCME 3299. “Workers are being asked to put less food on their families’ tables while UC executives continue to enrich them themselves. Students are asked to pay more but get fewer services. This is outrageous and unacceptable. It is the reason why Californian's need to reform the UC to make it accountable to taxpayers, not their own self interest.”

Senator Yee, along with several Democratic and Republican co-authors, also introduced Senate Constitutional Amendment 21 to require the UC to adhere to all state laws. Unlike the CSU, community colleges, and all other public entities, the UC can currently ignore statutes approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor.

SCA 21 has received over 6,000 letters of support from students, faculty, and taxpayers, and is endorsed by AFSCME, University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE), University Council of the American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT), California Nurses Association (CNA), Service Employees Trades Council (SETC), California Labor Federation, San Francisco Labor Council, State Building and Construction Trades Council, and the Phoenix Project for UC Democracy, among others.

Supporters of the UC reform measures have also launched a Facebook page with over 1,500 fans and a website – www.reformtheuc.com – to call on the Legislature to approve SB 217 and SCA 21, as well as SB 218 (requiring campus auxiliary organizations to adhere to the public records act) and SB 219 (protecting UC whistleblowers).

SCA 21 is currently pending in the Senate Rules Committee; SB 218 will be considered on Wednesday in the Assembly Appropriations Committee; and SB 219 will receive a procedural concurrence vote on the Senate Floor next week before heading to the Governor’s desk.

www.reformtheuc.com

No comments:

Post a Comment