Commentary: Secrecy around university nonprofits must stop

You might recall a Bee story in 2007 on questionable activity by a foundation at California State University, Sacramento.

University Enterprises spent $27,000 on a kitchen remodel for a house that Sacramento State President Alexander Gonzalez purchased. And it gave him $233,000 in personal loans at an attractive 1.697 percent interest rate.

This doesn't seem to be all that unusual. News reports this month have revealed that a Sonoma State University foundation made personal loans to a former foundation board member — and might be out more than $1 million because he can't repay.

In both cases, the money didn't come from the university directly. And that means the public is shut out from getting details on the public's business — where did the money come from, and who decided to use it that way?

The reality is that California's public colleges and universities receive and spend millions in gifts, property and funds through nonprofit foundations and enterprises that are largely hidden from public view. Unlike the colleges and universities themselves, these "auxiliary organizations" are not subject to California's Public Records Act — a major loophole that the Legislature needs to close.

Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, has legislation (Senate Bill 218) that would do that.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.