LONG BEACH — The state auditor general's office moved a step closer this week to initiating an audit of financial practices at California State University, Long Beach, following allegations of serious fiscal mismanagement at the 32,000-student campus.
State Assemblyman Art Agnos (D-San Francisco), chairman of the Legislature's Joint Audit Committee, has sent letters to the committee's 14 members calling for the independent audit, which is expected to take two months. If no committee member objects within five days, according to Kurt Sjoberg, chief deputy auditor general, the audit will begin immediately. Otherwise, he said, the matter will be discussed at a full committee hearing after the Legislature goes back into session Monday.
"It is quite rare for an audit to be denied" even after a hearing, Sjoberg said. Although his office handles an average of one special audit a year of a state university campus, he said, he could not recall one involving allegations as serious as those leveled against the Long Beach administration, which has denied the charges.
Initiated by Assemblyman
The audit was initially requested by Assemblyman Richard Robinson (D-Garden Grove), a member of the committee, who sent a letter to Agnos on June 26 stating that "serious accusations have been made by several members of the faculty of CSULB concerning the administration of the school."
"More specifically," Robinson wrote, "the CSULB administration has been accused of misappropriating funds intended for educational programs" to be "illegally used for administrative purposes."
Contacted by telephone at his Garden Grove office, Robinson would not say specifically which faculty members he was referring to in his letter, nor would he outline the charges. But the charges, he said, were "substantially the same" as those leveled in a two-page document sent to Agnos earlier this year by Leroy Hardy, a recently retired political science professor who in 1984 resigned as chairman of his department because of what he characterized as gross mismanagement by the administration.
"I got tired of waiting," explained Hardy, a Long Beach professor since 1953, who said he had sent 150 pages of documented accusations to the state university chancellor's office nearly 1 1/2 years ago with scant results. "I gave them (the university system) a chance to clean it up and they ignored it."
Jeff Stetson, acting director of public affairs for the chancellor's office, confirmed that the office had received communications from Hardy. But the ones he had seen, Stetson said, were "rambling and incoherent." And none of the professor's allegations, he said, had been borne out by routine periodic reviews of the university's administration.
Hardy's most recent criticisms include allegations that:
- State budgetary allocations have been improperly diverted to special programs without regard to the state-mandated formula by which money is to be divided according to the number of students enrolled in each recipient program;
- University funds have been improperly used for private job-seeking trips by administrators;
- The university is failing to meet its legal obligation to teach by allocating an inordinate amount of money and personnel to research;
- The university's business office, extended education program and foundation are grossly mismanaged;
- The administration obtained state money under false pretenses by proclaiming the need for a new library despite the fact that 20% to 30% of the space in the existing library is being used for "administrative or public relations" rather than library purposes;
- One administrator--whom Hardy identified in an interview as Eugene Asher, executive assistant to the president and director of university relations--obtained a personal loan from student body funds. Asher denied the charges in an interview this week.
'Tired Old Charges'
University President Stephen Horn, said by his office to be away from the campus, could not be reached for comment.
But Asher denied Hardy's allegations, characterizing them as the "tired old charges . . . circulated by Hardy for years."
"None of them have a grain of truth in them," Asher said. "It seems to me that what Mr. Hardy is alleging is deliberate and knowing mismanagement, and I categorically deny this."
While Asher admitted obtaining a $10,000 personal loan, he said it came from the 49er Shops, a private, nonprofit entity contracted by the university to operate the campus book shop and food services, which are entirely self-sustaining and do not rely on student funds.