SACRAMENTO (CN) — The beleaguered chancellor of the University of California - Davis was placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday following reports that the school paid more than $175,000 to clear its social media reputation.
Lawmakers and UC Davis students have clamored for Linda P.B. Katehi's removal for weeks after a stream of controversies were revealed surrounding her involvement with a textbook publisher and large University raises given to her son and daughter-in-law.
University of California President Janet Napolitano said the suspension was due to the "serious and troubling" nature of the accusations and that an outside investigator will be hired to conduct an investigation prior to the start of the 2016-17 academic year.
"Information has recently come to light that raises serious questions about whether Chancellor Katehi may have violated several University of California policies, including questions about the campus's employment and compensation of some of the chancellor's immediate family members," Napolitano said in a statement late Wednesday.
The suspension comes after a series of public relations mishaps surrounding Katehi and the University's handling of a 2011 incident where student protestors were pepper-sprayed by campus police officers. Documents obtained by the Sacramento Bee through a California Public Records Act request revealed that the University paid consultants more than $175,000 to scrub its online image on search engines such as Google in wake of the highly-publicized incident.
Katehi has also been scrutinized for sitting on the board of a private textbook publisher and the for-profit university, DeVry Education Group, which is being sued by the Federal Trade Commission for lying about graduate employment rates.
Katehi become chancellor in 2009 and her attorney called the suspension "entirely unjustified." She cancelled several local radio interviews and public appearances this week.
At least seven lawmakers have publically called on Katehi to resign this month, including Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento. McCarty said Thursday that it's time for UC Davis to "turn the page" and move forward without Katehi.
The University of California's largest employee union said Katehi's "moonlighting activities" call for an in- depth investigation of all UC administrators.
"The growing scandal involving Chancellor Katehi calls for much more than her immediate termination," said Kathryn Lybarger in a statement, president of AFSCME Local 3299. "It demands a top to bottom, system-wide review of potential conflicts involving other university executives, and increased scrutiny of the top-heavy administrative bloat that is enriching UC elites and the well-connected at the expense of students, patients, frontline workers and the institution's core public mission."
UC Davis alumnus and Sacramento business owner Greg Cotta was an undergraduate student during the 2011 pepper spraying incident and told Courthouse News Katehi was "terrible at handling crises." Cotta said Katehi's decisions often divided students and praised current UC Davis students for continuing to have their voices heard.
"It's frustrating to see UC Davis in the New York Times because our Chancellor, who should have resigned over four years ago, was finally removed for office as opposed to something like having the nation's number one veterinary school," Cotta said.
UC Davis Provost Ralph Hexter will become the interim chancellor while Katehi is away on paid administrative leave.