Calif. students find Palin contract in trash

Posted: Wednesday, April 14, 2010

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Sarah Palin will get first-class airfare for two and three rooms at a luxury hotel when she gives a speech in June for a university foundation.

Rich Pedroncelli / The Associated Press
Rich Pedroncelli / The Associated Press

And organizers better not forget to stock her lectern with two water bottles and bendable straws.

The details of Palin's contract with the California State University, Stanislaus Foundation were contained in five pages of the document retrieved from a campus trash bin by students who heard administrators might be shredding documents related to the speech.

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who has been seeking details of Palin's compensation package for several weeks, provided copies of the paperwork Tuesday.

Among other perks, the former Alaska governor will fly first class from Anchorage to California - if she flies commercial. If not, "the private aircraft MUST BE a Lear 60 or larger ...," the contract specifies.

Palin also must be provided with a suite and two single rooms in a deluxe hotel near the campus in Turlock in the Central Valley.

The Turlock Convention and Visitors Bureau said that would place the high-profile politician at the year-old Comfort Suites, where high-end rooms go for $139 a night.

The document, dated March 16, does not include compensation details for Palin, who commands speaking fees as high as $100,000. Her appearance at the university's 50th anniversary gala is expected to draw a large crowd, with tickets selling for $500 each.

Palin's fee and accommodations will be covered entirely by private donations, not state funds, said Matt Swanson, president of the nonprofit foundation's board.

The students who found the document said they acted on a tip that documents were being shredded last Friday, when campus staff members were supposed to be on furlough.

"I was informed that there was suspicious activity taking place at the administration building, which I found very alarming," said 23-year-old Ashli Briggs, a junior at the school.

Briggs contacted senior Alicia Lewis, 26, who went with several other students to investigate. The building was locked and gated, but the students were able to retrieve piles of paperwork, including the contract document, from a nearby trash bin, Lewis said.

The contract pages have Washington Speakers Bureau printed at the top and a contract number. The speakers bureau did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Yee called the incident "a dark day for the CSU."

"This is our little Watergate in the state of California," he said Tuesday at a news conference where he was joined by Briggs and Lewis.

Russell Giambelluca, the university's vice president of business and finance, said no one at the university was advised to destroy specific foundation documents, and staff members routinely shred and dispose of paperwork that is no longer needed.

Regarding the excerpt of Palin's contract, he said: "I find it interesting that among shredded documents you find one that's completely intact related to the contract."

The CSU Stanislaus Foundation previously denied the AP's request to release details of Palin's contract under the California Public Records Act.

Last week, the university responded to a similar public records request by Yee by saying it did not have any documents related to Palin's appearance and had referred the matter to Swanson.

The next day, Swanson sent letters to both Yee and the AP stating that Palin's contract includes a strict nondisclosure clause. University foundations and other auxiliary organizations were not subject to the same public records requirements as the university itself, he said.

"At this point, we believe it's within our legal right to keep that information to ourselves," Swanson said Tuesday, calling the latest dust-up "a little bit ridiculous."

Yee disputes the claim, pointing to significant overlap between the university and its foundation arm. For example, he noted, all but one member of the foundation staff and several officers from its board are university employees, and the foundation headquarters is located in the administration building where the students said the document shredding was taking place.

To eliminate any legal loopholes, Yee is sponsoring a bill that would require campus foundations and auxiliary organizations to adhere to public records requirements. The measure passed the Senate in January and awaits an Assembly hearing.



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