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Cal State System Trustees Planning to Sell Chancellor's $2-Million Bel-Air Mansion

April 27, 1990|LARRY GORDON | TIMES EDUCATION WRITER

The California State University system is planning to sell the multimillion-dollar Bel-Air residence of its chancellor in a further effort to ease criticism about extravagance that led to last week's forced resignation of Chancellor W. Ann Reynolds.

Under a proposal described by officials Thursday, the three-bedroom house on 1.9 acres, donated to the university in 1972, would be sold for at least $2 million and a less expensive residence for chancellors would be bought in the Long Beach area, closer to the system's headquarters.

"The image of that $2-million structure is unnecessary for the university," said Lee A. Grissom, a member of the system's Board of Trustees. "And in my conversations with a number of other trustees, we are all of one mind--real consideration to sell the property."

Asked about a push to sell the house, Marianthi Lansdale, chairwoman of the board of trustees, said: "We are sure looking into it."

Reynolds was forced to resign last week mainly because of secretive handling of 21% to 43% raises for herself and other top university administrators. But reports that the university and its foundation for private donations spent about $240,000 on repairs, maintenance, security and entertaining at the house over the last three years further angered legislators and embarrassed the Cal State system. Those costs included pay for a housekeeper and a gardener and $65,000 for a new driveway.

Reynolds lives there rent-free, although she paid $3,792 last year for utilities and other costs. Her annual salary had increased 43%, from $136,000 to $195,000, on Jan. 1 but was rolled back to $141,000 last week.

The chancellor's residence was bequeathed to the state by the John Brown Cook family, owners of an electrical-equipment company. If legal complications involving the bequest are solved, purchasing a cheaper house in Long Beach would free money for a permanent maintenance fund, trustees said.

And in terms of public perception, even a mansion in Long Beach would be more palatable than any address in ultrawealthy Bel-Air. Built in 1952, the Bel-Air house has 4,600 square feet with a swimming pool and a pool house that is used for entertaining.

When Cal State's administrative offices were nearby on Wilshire Boulevard, the site of the house made sense, trustees said. But new offices were later built in Long Beach, meaning a long commute for the chancellor as well as for university officials who had to attend functions at the house.

On the other hand, some officials said Reynolds and her predecessor, Glenn S. Dumke, used the house to court wealthy donors who live in Bel-Air and Beverly Hills and who might not want to drive to Long Beach for university events.

Meanwhile, there is uncertainty about Reynolds' future. Reynolds said that leading trustees agreed that she can take leave starting Oct. 1 while her resignation formally takes effect at the end of the year. She plans to spend a year doing zoological research as a "trustee professor," a position created for former top administrators to ease back into teaching. In that job, she would earn about $104,000, although her top possible pay as a professor the following year would be about $67,000.

Some trustees, however, will try at their May 15-16 meeting to get Reynolds out sooner than October. "It is difficult to work with a lame duck, particularly with a lame duck who has lost favor with the board," Grissom said.

In a related matter, William D. (Denny) Campbell, vice chairman of the Cal State Board of Trustees, moved closer Thursday to becoming head of the panel that governs the 20-campus university. A trustees' committee recommended that Campbell succeed Lansdale next month. An Orange County attorney who long was an executive with the McMahan Furniture Co., Campbell was at first a strong proponent of the pay raises but later angrily charged that he had been misled by Reynolds' staff.

For vice chairman, the committee on Thursday recommended trustee J. Gary Shansby, a San Francisco businessman who was the head of the special panel that investigated the pay raises last week. But Trustees Martha C. Fallgatter of Bakersfield and Ralph R. Pesqueira of San Diego are likely to compete with Shansby before the full board at the May meeting.

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