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The State

Davis' Cal State Nominee Drawing Protest

The former faculty union chief would have an inherent conflict, the chancellor's office says. Susan Meisenhelder's approval is uncertain.

October 30, 2003|Stuart Silverstein | Times Staff Writer

Gov. Gray Davis has nominated a former faculty union president to the board of trustees of California State University, a move that brought a quick denunciation from the chancellor's office of the 23-campus system.

Nominated was Susan Meisenhelder, who served as president of the California Faculty Assn. for four years until her second two-year term ended in June. She continues to be active in the union, serving as the chair of its political action and legislative committee.

Cal State spokeswoman Colleen Bentley-Adler said the nomination could create "a blatant conflict of interest."

"She could be sitting in a closed collective bargaining meeting, hearing CSU strategy for bargaining with its 10 unions, and yet she's on the bargaining committee for one of those unions," Bentley-Adler said.

Bentley-Adler also criticized Davis for making an "under the radar screen appointment" without issuing a news release or alerting CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed. She said the governor might be "paying us back because we've had some contentious labor relations."

The appointment was made two weeks ago but came to light Wednesday.

It's not clear whether the appointment will win approval. It is subject to a compromise reached last week between Senate Democrats and aides to Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger in which only 17 of the dozens of last-minute appointments sought by Davis will be endorsed by Schwarzenegger. It is not known whether Meisenhelder's name is on the list.

Davis spokesman Steve Maviglio defended the choice, saying, "She's eminently qualified, and knows all about higher education."

For her part, Meisenhelder promised to recuse herself from the CSU board's collective bargaining committee to avoid any potential conflict of interest.

Otherwise, she said, "I think I would bring a lot of experience to their deliberations and I would hope people would find me helpful and certainly supportive of the CSU. I am disappointed to hear there wasn't enthusiasm on the part of the chancellor's office."

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