State

CSU Stanislaus president Shirvani questions finding of Palin contract

TURLOCK — California State University, Stanislaus, President Hamid Shirvani hurled some accusations of his own Wednesday regarding the discovery of a contract to bring Sarah Palin to campus.

The university issued a statement saying Shirvani is looking forward to an investigation by the state attorney general's office, and said the documents students claimed they discovered in a Dumpster came from a recycling bin inside an office.

The document outlines Palin's contract to speak at a June 25 gala sponsored by the university's nonprofit foundation. That group is a private entity, but state Sen. Leland Yee and others are pushing to open its books because it's staffed by public employees working to support a public school.

"We welcome the investigation and expect it will clarify how a foundation document could have ended up in a state senator's hands," Shirvani said.

Yee, a San Francisco Democrat, held a news conference Tuesday at which he introduced the students. They handed the documents over to Attorney General Jerry Brown, who said his office will broaden an investigation into the nonprofit foundation that began last week.

Brown said he will examine the foundation's finances and the alleged dumping of documents, as well as a possible violation of the Public Records Act.

The university's statement said the documents came from "a recycle bin in the office of CSU Stanislaus Foundation Executive Director Susana Gajic-Bruyea." Gajic-Bruyea is also the CSUS vice president for university advancement.

Alicia Lewis, one of the students who found the contract, called the allegation it came from inside an office "such a falsehood."

"We didn't even enter the building," she said.

The students said they were alerted that papers were being shredded and discarded at the school's administration building Friday, when most staff and faculty were on furlough. They said they went to investigate and found paper shreds and several pages of the Palin contract in a Dumpster between the administration and science buildings.

Lewis said her group has photos and video showing exactly where the papers were. That material was turned over to the attorney general.

"All the documentation puts the university's accusations to rest," she said. "I'm not surprised they went for some type of a low blow to protect themselves, but I didn't think that would be that desperate to make up stuff against their students."

The campus has been in upheaval since the foundation announced that Palin would appear at a fund-raising event celebrating the university's 50th anniversary. Terms of the contract were not made public, the foundation said, because the money is private and isn't subject to the Public Records Act.

Yee, who has tried to pass legislation making foundation records public, has asked for any university records in relation to the event. He said officials told him there weren't any.

CSU, Stanislaus, and foundation officials said they're caught in Yee's effort for political gain.

"The CSU Stanislaus Foundation is not interested in political theater or in being used as a political pawn," Shirvani said. "Its mission is to raise money to support the university, and it is doing just that by bringing a speaker to campus like Sarah Palin who is driving ticket sales to unprecedented levels."

On Wednesday, Yee's chief of staff, Adam Keigwin, said the allegations from the university raise more questions.

"If that document was located within her office, her salary is paid by the taxpayers," Keigwin said. "Why didn't they give us that document?"

The university's statement said campus and Turlock police are investigating the incident.

Lewis said she's not worried and that her group has nothing to hide.

"We're upset, but at the same time we're confident that we're in the right."

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or 578-2343.

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