Friday, July 16, 2010

Governor Signs Yee's Bill to Protect UC Whistleblowers

in the midst of a mess - there comes this happy news --a happy anniversary to celebrate in coming years-- the signing of this legislation by the Gov! Progress comes though slowly, but it comes-- thank you to all who helped to get us to this day!!!
“The long arc of the universe bends toward justice”
Governor Signs Yee's Bill to Protect UC Whistleblowers

UC administration denies access to public meeting and continues to oppose transparency reforms

SACRAMENTO – Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Los Angeles) has signed legislation authored by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) to protect University of California faculty and workers who report illegal or improper actions.

SB 650 provides UC employees with the same legal protections as other state employees, including those at California State University and California’s community colleges. The new law will ensure that UC employees can exercise their right to seek damages in court on a retaliation complaint that was not responded to fairly by the university.

In July 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled (Miklosy v. the Regents of the University of California) 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, regardless of their findings. 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.

“This is the classic case of the fox guarding the hen house,” said Yee. “UC executives should not be judge and jury on whether or not they are liable for monetary claims. Finally, we are able to close this legal loophole and restore some dignity for UC whistleblowers and integrity to the system.”

“UC workers deserve to have the same protections as all state workers when reporting waste, fraud, or abuses on the job,” said Lakesha Harrison, a UCLA nurse and President of AFSCME 3299, which represents thousands of UC workers. “SB 650 now gives workers the confidence to report wrongdoing without fear of retaliation.”

“SB 650 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,” said Terry Francke, General Counsel for Californians Aware. “Fraud, waste and corruption in government cannot succeed if public employees are well-protected against punishment for blowing the whistle on wrongdoing.”

“SB 650 will protect UC employees who continue to face reprisal for reporting bad behavior and will allow those individuals to provide journalists, the Legislature and the public with essential information about the operations of these high profile institutions in an era where available financial resources are increasingly scarce,” said Jim Ewert, Legal Counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

SB 650 was supported by UC workers (Council of UC Faculty Associations, California Nurses Association, SEIU, and AFSCME), Californians Aware, City and County of San Francisco, and the California Newspaper Publishers, among others.

The only opposition was from UC administrators, who have opposed every legislative reform to bring greater transparency to the public institution.

Yesterday, UC officials also fought against transparency at the Board of Regents meeting when they refused to allow an independent filmmaker access to the public meeting – a blatant violation of the state’s open meetings law know as the Bagley-Keene Act.

UC’s spokesperson told the San Francisco Chronicle that she had never heard of the landmark open government statute.

“It is hard to believe that UC executives could reach new heights in denying public access and transparency,” said Yee. “Once again, UC administrators are more concerned with protecting their ivory tower and their culture of secrecy than the public trust.”

SB 650 officially becomes law on January 1, 2011.
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  1. Thanks for Passing this news along. I wonder why he signed it this year?

  2. i think he finally signed it - after vetoing in previous years - because "he does not want to go out like that." Perhaps b/c it is his last year- so the obfuscations of UCOP no longer serve and news stories -see listed on the right hand column- are becoming far too common. He is no longer loved by his party - it is a party that is becoming ever more exclusive- and the people of the state are giving him 22% approval rating - so he has nothing left to lose- that is my hunch.
    What will be interesting to see is how much this new law actually does or does not protect UC workers in practice- but I guess it can only get better. Nowhere but up from here - hopefully. Now let's see what he does with SB 330....

  3. Sorry Tale of Chancellor’s Office UC Berkeley: easily grasped by the public, lost on University of California’s leadership. The UC Berkley budget gap has grown to $150 million, & still the Chancellor is spending money that isn't there on $3,000,000 consultants. His reasons range from the need for impartiality to requiring the consultants "thinking, expertise, & new knowledge".
    Does this mean that the faculty & management of UC Berkeley – flagship campus of the greatest public system of higher education in the world - lack the knowledge, integrity, impartiality, innovation, skills to come up with solutions? Have they been fudging their research for years? The consultants will glean their recommendations from faculty interviews & the senior management that hired them; yet $ 150 million of inefficiencies and solutions could be found internally if the Chancellor & Provost Breslauer were doing the work of their jobs (This simple point is lost on UC’s leadership).
    The victims of this folly are Faculty and Students. $ 3 million consultant fees would be far better spent on students & faculty.
    There can be only one conclusion as to why inefficiencies & solutions have not been forthcoming from faculty & staff: Chancellor Birgeneau has lost credibility & the trust of the faculty & Academic Senate leadership (C. Kutz, F. Doyle). Even if the faculty agrees with the consultants' recommendations - disagreeing might put their jobs in jeopardy - the underlying problem of lost credibility & trust will remain.
    Contact your representatives at Cal: tell them of the hefty self-serving $’s being spent by UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau & Provost Breslauer.