Over the past three years, UC Berkeley has spent more than $1 million sprucing up the official home of Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, school records show.
"Some of the work on the 105-year-old University House, on the west side of campus, began in July 2013 to prepare it for the arrival of the then-newly hired Dirks and his wife, associate history Professor Janaki Bakhle. The $247,000 job — which was approved by then-University of California President Mark Yudof — included a $147,000 renovation of the upstairs kitchen, plus $100,000 for painting throughout the house, refinishing the floors in several rooms and replacing worn window coverings in the residence area with roller shades.
A year later, the university spent $14,752 for more floor work on the lower level of the house, according to records furnished to us by the UC Berkeley real estate division.
Then, in early 2015, the school spent $76,886 to redo a downstairs bathroom used mainly during public events. Leaking plumbing fixtures had caused extensive rot and other damage, officials said.
In a separate purchase not handled by the real estate division, Bakhle swapped nine Persian rugs for six newer ones. The net cost was at least $90,000.
Estimated total cost for the in-home work: $428,000. Campus officials hasten to add that none of it came out of state or tuition funds. Gift funds were used to pay for all the work done ahead of the chancellor’s arrival, while investment income and other revenue sources paid for the rest.
In addition to all this, the university spent close to $700,000 — 2½ times the original budget — to install a security fence after protesters sprayed graffiti on the house. And every year, it provides the chancellor with a $179,000 budget to maintain University House.
News of this spending comes as the university struggles with a $150 million deficit.
University House is the source of another headache for the campus — this one having nothing to do with maintenance.
In 2015, Alice McNeil, who was hired as the house manager and executive assistant to Bakhle shortly after the chancellor arrived, was removed from her post. She was given another assignment outside University House for a while, then was laid off.
Those chores, according to McNeil, included picking up groceries for the couple, taking their dogs to the vet and filling out health forms for their teenage son, who was off attending boarding school.
In a follow-up letter to university officials in February, Stephen Henry, McNeil’s lawyer, wrote that “the disagreement (over how many hours were spent doing the couple’s personal business) was made very clear by the chancellor’s wife, who expressed anger over Ms. McNeil’s honesty in preparing the form, and resulted in the removal of Ms. McNeil from University House.”
Napolitano’s office is reviewing the matter. A spokesman there declined to comment.
In an interview, Dirks said he couldn’t comment"...
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