Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Discarded Palin contract sparks investigation
By ROBIN HINDERY
Associated Press Writer
A document fished out of a California state university trash bin last week has prompted a state investigation into the university's foundation arm and its refusal to disclose details related to Sarah Palin's upcoming speech at the school.
On Tuesday, California Attorney General Jerry Brown said his office would look into the finances of the California State University, Stanislaus Foundation, as well as allegations that the nonprofit organization violated public disclosure laws by keeping details of Palin's contract secret.
Palin is scheduled to speak at a June 25 gala hosted by the foundation to mark the university's 50th anniversary.
Brown's investigation was prompted, in part, by a group of CSU Stanislaus students who retrieved five pages of the contract from a campus trash bin last Friday after hearing administrators were engaged in shredding documents.
The contract detailed the former Alaska governor's requirements for her visit, including first-class flights from Anchorage to California - if she flies commercial. If not, "the private aircraft MUST BE a Lear 60 or larger ...," the contract specifies.
Palin also must be provided with a suite and two single rooms in a deluxe hotel near the campus in Turlock in the Central Valley. During her speech, her lectern must be stocked with two water bottles and bendable straws.
The document, dated March 16, does not include compensation details for Palin, who commands speaking fees as high as $100,000. Her appearance at the university gala is expected to draw a large crowd, with tickets selling for $500 each.
"This is not about Sarah Palin," Brown said in a prepared statement Tuesday. "The issues are public disclosure and financial accountability in organizations embedded in state-run universities."
The foundation has previously denied requests by The Associated Press and state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, to disclose Palin's compensation package under the California Public Records Act.
Foundation board president Matt Swanson did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Brown's investigation. He previously told the AP that the contract's strict nondisclosure clause prevented him from sharing it, and that university foundations and other auxiliary organizations were not subject to the same public records requirements as the university itself.
Swanson has said Palin's fee and accommodations will be covered entirely by private donations, not state funds.
Jason Recher, a spokesman for Palin, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The students who found the contract document said they acted on a tip that documents were being shredded at the campus administration building on a day when staff members were supposed to be on furlough.
Alicia Lewis, 26, was one of the students who went to investigate. The building was locked and gated, but the students were able to retrieve piles of paperwork, including the contract document, from a nearby trash bin, Lewis said.
Russell Giambelluca, the university's vice president of business and finance, said Tuesday that no one at the university was advised to destroy specific foundation documents, and staff members routinely shred and dispose of paperwork that is no longer needed.
Regarding the excerpt of Palin's contract, he said: "I find it interesting that among shredded documents you find one that's completely intact related to the contract."
Lewis and another student, Ashli Briggs, traveled to Sacramento Tuesday to give Brown office material they said had been thrown out, including two boxes of documents and two trash bags filled with shredded files.
"This is our little Watergate in the state of California," Yee said Tuesday.
Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/2010/04/13/1874927/calif-students-find-palin-contract.html#ixzz0l6dDz5MY