Open up the books of UConn Foundation
At last state legislators are taking note of the arrogant abuse of the University of Connecticut Foundation by the university's administration, its operating the foundation as a slush fund. The foundation has been used to finance foreign travel for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, to buy a second mansion for university President Susan Herbst, to pay a quarter-million dollars to likely Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for a trivial public chat at the university, and now to finance a $300,000 increase in Herbst's already spectacular salary.
Legislators are starting to talk publicly about subjecting the foundation to Connecticut's freedom-of-information law, from which it long has been specifically exempt.
But even one of the legislators proposing to push the foundation into the open would let it continue to conceal the identities of its contributors, which the foundation long has said is the primary purpose of its exemption from the disclosure law.
Actually, identifying the foundation's contributions is a prerequisite of restoring its operations to the public interest and the university's advancement. For donors who are not publicly identified may be seeking and receiving secret favors from the university and may be influencing policy in ways the public and legislators themselves can never discover.
Such influence has already been accomplished by a major donor to the UConn Foundation at least once. In 2011 a Greenwich business executive who had given $3 million to the foundation demanded his money's return because UConn's athletic director wouldn't take orders from him about the football team.
The governor and Herbst talked the donor out of the demand, but a few months later the athletic director was fired.
What has been or will be sought secretly from the university in exchange for the donations that financed Herbst's second mansion, Clinton's grotesque speaking fee, and now Herbst's huge raise, which is being paid even as services to Connecticut's neediest are being reduced to save money? Which students will be admitted to UConn because of intercession by secret donors to the foundation? Which contractors will gain business with the university because of their connections to secret donors?
Subjecting the foundation to the FOI law while continuing to allow secrecy for donations won't stop use of the foundation for obtaining secret favors from the university, nor stop use of the foundation as a slush fund by university administrators. Indeed, bringing integrity to the foundation requires making its board fully independent of the university's administration.
By definition a public university should operate in public. Donors to the UConn Foundation whose motives are admirable won't mind being identified, and if the foundation operates in the open, university administrators themselves will be less subject to temptation and extortion.
New York's police may have reason to resent Mayor Bill de Blasio's suggestion that white cops abuse young black men out of racism. The mayor's comment ignored the far bigger problem, the huge racial disproportion in crime.
But New York cops are not just disrespectful but insubordinate as they keep turning their backs on the mayor. The cops are entitled to their political views and to express them, but not in uniform and not on the job.
In a democracy police departments and other military organizations must not be politicized and they must observe a chain of command and civilian control. In New York, the mayor is the superior officer of the entire city administration, including the police. Insubordination like the back turning should be a firing offense. Police Commissioner William Bratton should make this clear to the ranks and to the public and show that no more violations will be tolerated.
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