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Wednesday August 15, 2001

Fresno State Admin. Must Tell All!
Appellate Court Orders
Disclosure of Secret Donor's Names!
Howard Hobbs Ph.D. President
Valley Press Media Network

    FRESNO STATE -- The court Order of the 5th District Court of Appeal  issued in July requiring CSU Fresno administration to turn over the names of SaveMart Center luxury suites to the McClatchy Co. was affirmed in the court's latest opinion . Back on December 10, 1999, the attorneys for McClatchy wrote to the University requesting it reconsider its refusal to provide the requested documents. On December 20, 1999, counsel for the University repeated that, "The University's position that the records, to the extent they exist in state files, are protected from disclosure because the public interest in nondisclosure outweighs the public interest in disclosure."
     The Order had been appealed by CSU Fresno administration officials who attempted to divert or delay disclosure of the records by claming the CSU Fresno  administration"... had no such records, and that the agreements, were with The CSU Fresno Association, a nonprofit corporation..." not subject to the court's Order.
     At issue is the identity of big SaveMart Center donors and possibly some project subcontractors which CSU Fresno has, for reasons unknown, refused to make public.
    The proposed a $103 million multipurpose SaveMart Center is on the CSU Fresno  campus. The project is to be funded primarily by private donations and operated by a University-affiliated, nonprofit auxiliary corporation, The CSUFresno Association.
    In exchange for a generous gift to the California State University, Fresno Foundation , also a University-affiliated auxiliary corporation, donors may obtain luxury suites in the arena for five, seven or ten-year terms. The donors enter into license agreements with the Association for use of the luxury suites. Some of the donors who obtained luxury suites requested to remain anonymous.
     The McClatchy Company, doing business as the Fresno Bee , requested the names of the donors documents from the University, pursuant to the California Public Records Act . The request seeks the identity of the individuals and business entities which purchased million dollar luxury suites   in the arena.
     The University promptly denied the request, and McClatchy filed a petition for writ of mandate. The court promptly ordered both the University and the Association to disclose the identities of the undisclosed luxury suite purchasers and to turn over he license agreement to McClatchy.
   Instead of obeying the court's Order, CSU Fresno  president, John Welty Ed.D. and the Association then filed petitions for writ of mandate  challenging the court's Order and requestin a stay  pending resolution by the Court.
     The 5th District Court of Appeals  in Fresno reviewed president Welty's request and promptly denied the University's petition and the court's Order for the University to disclose the requested documents identifying the names was affirmed.
    When complete the Save Mart Center  will house the University's sports teams, including basketball, volleyball and wrestling, and will be a venue for community concerts, cultural events, educational conferences and graduation ceremonies. It will seat 16,000 for sporting events and 18,000 for concerts and stage events.
     The plans call for state-of-the-art classrooms, computer rooms and conference rooms, with an anticipated date of completion in the fall of 2002. The estimated cost of the Save Mart Center is approximately $103 million. The State of California contributed approximately $8 million for pre-planning and design costs and offsite improvements to the roads and freeways providing access to the site. The remainder of the funding is from private donations.
     Save Mart Supermarkets and Pepsi Bottling Group together pledged a $40 million sponsorship gift, payable over 20 years. The Save Mart Center will feature 32 luxury suites available for use by purchasing a license. Each suite will have 18 seats, a private restroom, refrigerator, wet bar, television monitors and Internet access. Prices for the suite licenses range from $45,000 to $63,000 per year, and license terms are five, seven and ten years.
     The Save Mart Center will house the University's sports teams, including basketball, volleyball and wrestling, and will be a venue for community concerts, cultural events, educational conferences and graduation ceremonies. It will seat 16,000 for sporting events and 18,000 for concerts and stage events.
     According topublic information provided by the University and the Association, plans call for state-of-the-art classrooms, computer rooms and conference rooms, with an anticipated date of completion in the fall of 2002. The estimated cost of the Save Mart Center is approximately $103 million. The State of California contributed approximately $8 million for pre-planning and design costs and offsite improvements to the roads and freeways providing access to the site. The remainder of the funding is from private donations.
     Save Mart Supermarkets and Pepsi Bottling Group together pledged a $40 million sponsorship gift, payable over 20 years. The Save Mart Center will feature 32 luxury suites available for use by purchasing a license.
    Each suite will have 18 seats, a private restroom, refrigerator, wet bar, television monitors and Internet access. Prices for the suite licenses range from $45,000 to $63,000 per year, and license terms are five, seven and ten years.
    The suite licenses are expected to generate approximately $1.5 million annually for the construction and operation of the Save Mart Center. The University considers the license fees to be charitable donations, the majority of which are tax deductible. The license agreements are entered into between the donors, "licensees," and the Association, "licensor."
     According to court records, the questioned agreements provide, "Licensor does hereby grant the privilege of use to Licensee, and Licensee accepts that certain space shown known as Preferred Seating Area (PSA) No. _____ (the 'Premises') located in the structure commonly known as the Save Mart Center for ________ consecutive terms commencing on 2002 and expiring on __________, (the 'Term') unless terminated sooner as provided herein ." And the "Licensee hereby acknowledges that the privilege of use granted by Licensor in the Agreement is based upon annual execution of the terms of Licensee's Pledge Agreement between Licensee and [the Foundation ."
     The Association holds a charter from the State of California as an educational program under California Education Code section 89900, which addresses auxiliary organizations of state universities and colleges.
     The Association operates all the University's commercial enterprises, including the University's bookstore, food services, housing and student union. The Foundation is also a California nonprofit corporation operatingas an educational program. The purpose of the Foundation  is to provide assistance to faculty and staff with the administration of grants, contracts and trust accounts.
     The Foundation manages all aspects of the financial activities for grants, contracts, trust accounts, investments, endowments, scholarships, loans, gifts and donations.
     The land under the Save Mart Center is to be leased by the University for the Save Mart Center to the Association, which will operate the facility. The Association was designated the official recipient of the funds obtained from suite licenses. However, payments for suite licenses are made to the Foundation  but, it has been learned, the checks are being mailed to University offices. However,      the Association maintains the original license agreements in their locked files.
    In a dramatic revelation during the Court hearing on McClatchy's appeal last week, the University administration finally admitted that it is in possession of the names of the licensees, and that the University made copies of the license agreements for their files.
     Donations to the University for the Save Mart Center were promised anonymity by the University, according to court records, for donors may wished to remain anonymous.
     In an attept to state a legal justificationm for refusal to gravt the Fresno Bee  request for the names of the donors, the University administration presented the following argument: "...the information requested, to the extent, if any, that it is contained in state records, is 'official information,' and the benefit to the public from non-disclosure outweighs the benefit to the public in disclosing it."
     The University argued: "Donors expect that the University will keep their donations private. If the University were to be required to disclose this information, there is a very real possibility that it would lose the benefit of many donations. Loss of donations would work a great harm to the University and to the State, which supports it, and is therefore against the public interest."
         On March 24, 2000, McClatchy filed a petition for writ of mandate pursuant to the CPRA against the University, the Association, and the Foundation to compel disclosure of the requested documents. As of August 2000, the University had received approximately $80 million in pledges.
     However, actual gifts received totaled only $12.6 million. The University contends that if fundraising efforts fall short of its goal, certain design features of the Save Mart Center will be eliminated and, if it is unable to make the down payment on construction costs, the entire project could be jeopardized. The hearing on the petition was held on September 21, 2000.

    [Editor's Note: On December 19, 2000, the court issued its ruling, granting McClatchy the information sought because - - The University is a state agency or state body within the meaning ofGovernment Code section] 6252(a) and, the writings that contain the names of the undisclosed licensees of the luxury suites and copies of the license agreements between the licensees and the Association that are in the possession of the University are public records within the meaning of the law, and the University was not able to prove that the public interest in nondisclosure clearly outweighed the public interest in disclosure, and the Association must disclose the identities of the licensees and the license agreements between the licensees and the Association because, the University is a state agency and the Association is under the direct control of the University in all of its activities.]

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