Calif. lawmaker: Silence on Palin visit unlawful


Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, filed a public records request with California State University, Stanislaus last week, requesting any documents related to the former Alaska governor's scheduled June 25 speech to mark the school's 50th anniversary.

The university's compliance officer, Gina Leguria, responded to Yee on Tuesday, saying there were no such documents.

Yee said he has evidence to the contrary. On Wednesday, he circulated a March 29 e-mail sent from a top university administrator to faculty and staff that he said should have been disclosed.

In the e-mail, Susana Gajic-Bruyea, vice president for university advancement, justifies the choice of Palin, who commands speaking fees as high as $100,000.

Gajic-Bruyea said the high-profile -- and controversial -- public figure would attract significant interest and boost attendance at the black-tie gala, whose tickets cost $500 each. She stressed that private donations would fund the event hosted by the nonprofit CSU Stanislaus Foundation.

"Not a cent of state funds will be used for this event," she wrote.

Yee said Gajic-Bruyea's e-mail is the sort of document that should have been provided in response to his public records request. He has asked the state attorney general to investigate the matter.

"What other documents and correspondence are they hiding?" Yee said.

Evan Westrup, an attorney general's office spokesman, said the office had received Yee's request and would review it.

University spokeswoman Eve Hightower said that the fundraiser is a foundation event and that all public records requests are being referred to foundation board president Matt Swanson. She did not respond to Yee's accusations related to Gajic-Bruyea's e-mail.

The Associated Press and other organization have sought details of the compensation package provided to Palin in exchange for her appearance. The foundation has said its contract with Palin prevents it from revealing that information, and on Wednesday it rejected the AP's public records request, citing the non-disclosure clause.

Yee said no contract stipulation can override the California Public Records Act, but a 2001 state appeals court ruling could give the foundation grounds for disputing its public records obligations. The court ruled that auxiliary associations acting on behalf of public bodies are not subject to public records requests.

To address that loophole, Yee is sponsoring a state bill that would require campus foundations and auxiliary organizations to adhere to public records requirements. The measure passed the Senate in January and awaits an Assembly hearing.

Yee said Wednesday that there is significant overlap between CSU Stanislaus and its foundation arm. He notes all but one member of the foundation's staff and several officers from its board are university employees, and the foundation conducts its board meetings and day-to-day operations on the main university campus.

"There is not a fine line or even a blurry line between the foundation and the public university; there is absolutely no line," Yee said.
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