Phooey to PHEEIA
by Buck Quigley - posted 2:43 pm, July 15, 2010
In today’s Buffalo News, you can read about UB Law school dropping out of the top 100 in the US News and World Report rankings. The school isn’t even given a ranking—it’s as if they got tired of counting after 100.
Then, on page 10, you can read the editorial “Keep Pushing for UB,” the latest in a long string of puffy marketing pieces promoting UB2020/PHEEIA that the News has published in the guise of thoughtful insight from its editorial board. This one says the plan “would unlock the educational and economic potential of the university.”
(An outsider, upon noticing the number of times words like “unlock” or “unshackle” are used by WNY leaders, would conclude that the area has a bondage fetish.)
“This is an important and useful development for SUNY, its students and faculty and for taxpayers, as well,” the News writes, “The Assembly’s refusal, allegedly based on a fear of how the change would affect poor students, doesn’t hold water. That issue is dealt with in the legislation, which the Assembly leadership has done nothing to try to modify.”
Have you read the legislation? Well, click here to read the breezy little bill known as the New York state Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act—or PHEEIA.
Read language describing how and when tuition will rise, especially for students going through a program like UB Law. Note the possibility of some scholarships for poor people. Is that how the “issue” is dealt with?
Whatever. The business community is not concerned with poor people. What they love in the bill is that freewheelin’ public/private partnership lingo. Read what “state oversight” would mean under PHEEIA:
25 ï¿½ 361. State university asset maximization review board; creation;
26 procedure. 1. Creation. (a) The state university asset maximization
27 review board (“the board”) is hereby created to have and exercise the
28 powers, duties and prerogatives provided by the provisions of this
29 section and any other provision of law.
30 (b) The voting membership of the board shall consist of three persons
31 appointed by the governor, of which one shall be upon the recommendation
32 of the temporary president of the senate and one upon the recommendation
33 of the speaker of the assembly. Upon recommendation of the nominating
34 party, the governor shall replace any member in accordance with the
35 provision contained in this subdivision for the appointment of members.
36 The governor shall designate one of the members to serve as chairperson.
37 The board shall act by majority vote of the members of the board;
38 provided, however that within forty-five days of receipt of an applica-
39 tion specified in paragraph (b) of subdivision three of this section,
40 the designated board chairperson shall convene a meeting of the board,
41 consisting of all voting members of the board pursuant to paragraph (b)
42 of this section. Any determination of the board shall be evidenced by a
43 certification thereof executed by all the members. Each member of the
44 board shall be entitled to designate a representative to attend meetings
45 of the board on the designating member’s behalf, and to vote or other-
46 wise act on the designating member’s behalf in the designating member’s
47 absence. Notice of such designation shall be furnished in writing to the
48 board by the designating member. A representative shall serve at the
49 pleasure of the designating member during the member’s term of office. A
50 representative shall not be authorized to delegate any of his or her
51 duties or functions to any other person.
52 (c) The governor shall also appoint two non-voting members to the
53 board of which one shall be upon the recommendation of the minority
54 leader of the senate and one upon the recommendation of the minority
55 leader of the assembly. Each non-voting member shall be entitled to
S. 6607–A 65 A. 9707–A
1 designate a representative to attend meetings of the board in his or her
3 (d) Two ex-officio non-voting members of the board shall be the state
4 comptroller and the state attorney general. Each ex-officio member shall
5 be entitled to designate a representative to attend meetings of the
6 board in his or her place.
7 (e) Every officer, employee, or member of a governing board or other
8 board of any college or group or association of colleges, and every New
9 York state regent, every officer or employee of the board of regents or
10 the department and every trustee, officer or employee of the state
11 university of New York shall be ineligible for appointment as a member,
12 representative, officer, employee or agent of the board.
13 (f) The members of the board shall serve without salary or per diem
14 allowance but shall be entitled to reimbursement for actual and neces-
15 sary expenses incurred in the performance of official duties pursuant to
16 this section or other provision of law, provided however that such
17 members and representatives are not, at the time such expenses are
18 incurred, public officers or employees otherwise entitled to such
20 (g) The members, their representatives, officers and staff to the
21 board shall be deemed employees within the meaning of section seventeen
22 of the public officers law.
23 2. Powers, functions and duties of the state university asset maximi-
24 zation review board; limitations. Pursuant to this chapter, the board
25 shall have the power and it shall be its duty to approve or deny: (a)
26 requests received from the trustees of the state university for the
27 lease, transfer or conveyance, other than the conveyance of title, of
28 state-owned real property under the jurisdiction of the state
29 university, and (b) requests from the trustees of the state university
30 to participate in joint and cooperative arrangements with public, not-
31 for-profit and business entities as partners, joint venturers, members
32 of not-for-profit corporations, members of limited liability companies
33 and shareholders of business corporations, as authorized by paragraph z
34 of subdivision two of section three hundred fifty-five of this article.
35 3. (a) The trustees of the state university of New York shall submit,
36 in writing, an application to the board for the lease, transfer, convey-
37 ance, other than the conveyance of title, of state-owned real property
38 under the jurisdiction of the state university. The application shall
39 include, but not be limited to, the name or names of the prospective
40 entity for which a lease or agreement shall be entered, the geographical
41 location and parcel of real property that would be utilized, the period
42 of time for which the lease, transfer or conveyance is to be executed
43 and any consideration which is to be granted to the state university for
44 the lease, transfer or conveyance of such real property. Where a lease
45 agreement for student and/or faculty housing is submitted to the board
46 for approval, if applicable, the board may take into consideration
47 whether the agreement would impact occupancy in dormitories financed
48 pursuant to agreements between the dormitory authority of the state of
49 New York, the state university of New York or the state university
50 construction fund. The trustees shall also furnish any other informa-
51 tion that the board deems necessary within fifteen days of the request.
52 (b) Upon receipt of an application from the trustees, the board shall
53 have no more than forty-five days to deem an application for the lease,
54 transfer or conveyance of property, other than the conveyance of title,
55 approved or denied.
S. 6607–A 66 A. 9707–A
1 (c) If the board fails to act on an application within the allotted
2 time period specified in paragraph (b) of this subdivision, the applica-
3 tion shall be deemed approved.
4. (a) The trustees of the state university shall submit, in writing,
5 an application to the board to participate in joint and cooperative
6 arrangements with public, not-for-profit and business entities as part-
7 ners, joint venturers, members of not-for-profit corporations, members
8 of limited liability companies and shareholders of business corpo-
9 rations, as authorized by paragraph z of subdivision two of section
10 three hundred fifty-five of this article. The application shall include,
11 but not be limited to, the name of the entity with which the state
12 university seeks to participate, the type of legal entity to be created,
13 and the transaction that the state university and the other participant
14 seek to undertake. The trustees shall also furnish any other information
15 that the board deems necessary with fifteen days of the request.
16 (b) Upon receipt of an application from the trustees, the board shall
17 have no more than forty-five days to approve or deny the application.
18 (c) If the board fails to act on an application within the allotted
19 time period specified in paragraph (b) of this subdivision, the applica-
20 tion shall be deemed approved.
Can you imagine how many projects and ventures will be “approved” because the state university asset maximization review board will “fail to act” within 45 days?
This legislation has been sold to WNYers as a silver bullet that will save the region by allowing for public-private partnerships between SUNY and businesses and pave the way for a downtown UB medical campus. What it will also do is enable the already secretive public institution to further flip the bird to citizens seeking public records.
Rather than conniving ways to further shield SUNY from sunlight, our local legislators should be moving the public institution toward public disclosure.
Take for example the recent denial of access to records pertaining to the various UB Foundations we received on June 17 from SUNY FOIL Appeals Officer Rose Marie Scrodanus in Albany, who wrote: “You have also requested ‘records of all individuals employed by each organization including salaries and positions of individuals in which they are employed.’ Such records do not presently exist at the University at Buffalo.”
That’s odd, because only six days earlier UB spokesman John DellaContrada and SUNY counsel Robert Ruggeri in Albany had offered us portions of those same records—if we would just settle for that info and go away.
If those records don’t presently exist at the University at Buffalo (as Scrodanus claims), we’re left to wonder where they do exist, or at least where they existed at the time DellaContrada and Ruggeri were dangling portions of them in front of us over the phone.
In a conference call, they offered to share payroll information for people who are paid by both SUNY and the UB Foundations, but not those employed by the UB Foundations exclusively. That group includes people like President John Simpson’s California buddy Scott Nostaja—who is Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the State University of New York at Buffalo—and yet, amazingly, is not paid by the state! He’s paid by UB Foundation Activities. $332,307 in 2008.
Let me ask you this: if Nostaja is not paid by the state, then who is his boss? Who is he accountable to?
We said “no thanks” to the partial disclosure offer. Either the records are public or they aren’t, and we’re not particularly interested in finding out how little a grad student is being paid by the UB Foundations to teach undergrad courses.
You can click here to read the 2008 990 tax form filed by UB Foundation Activities, Inc. Click here to read the 2007 990 that shows there are 79 individuals paid over $50,000 by them. Who are these people, what do they do, and who are their bosses? If you click here, you can see who’s on the compensation committee. It’s two people. Angelo M. Fatta, chair of the board of trustees of the foundation, and university president John Simpson, who is quite generous to himself when doling out compensation.
Then take a look at all the vendors and law firms making a good living off the UB Foundations. The list goes on and on.
The citizens of New York could learn a lot if the State University of New York at Buffalo and its spinoff entities would “unlock” and “unshackle” that information and make it available to the public.
As for the legal games they continue to play with us regarding other current FOIL requests, maybe they will take a tip from Makau W. Matua, UB Law School dean, who says in today’s Buffalo News story: “Lawyers should be able to talk privately with their clients about social responsibility, about what is right and what is wrong.”