It seems like whenever the name "Sarah Palin" is mentioned, the word "controversy" always follows. That's the case yet again, this time over her appearance fee for a speech at California State University.
Palin will deliver a speech at the school's 50th anniversary celebration in June, on the Stanislaus campus in the city of Turlock. While many students are not fans of Palin, it is not her presence at the bash that bothers them, more than the fact that the school won't say how much it is paying Palin.
“We are demanding that the CSU Foundation disclose the full amount paid for Mrs. Palin's speaking fee and all other expenses associated with the contract that both parties have entered,” student leader Alicia Lewis said in a statement.
They suspect it may be $100,000, or even more. At a time when California's public universities are cutting back, critics say such an expenditure is unwarranted.
“Our students are being slammed by enormous fee hikes while cuts mean they can’t get the classes they need,” says Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association. “This resistance to transparency is another slap in the face. CSU executives are at the top of these so-called auxiliaries, and they need to show more respect for the people they supposedly serve.”
Then there is that issue of secrecy. CSU officials say they cannot disclose how much Palin is being paid because of a confidentiality agreement in the contract. But State Sen. Leland Yee, who chairs the committee on public records and open meeting laws, says the public – including students – has a legal right to the information.
“CSU Stanislaus officials sought out Sarah Palin, negotiated her contract behind closed doors, and are now welcoming her to our public university, yet they think they are above the law in disclosing to the public the cost of her appearance,” said Yee in a statement. A law authored by Yee in 2008 states that regardless of any contract term to the contrary, a contract between a private entity and a state or local agency is subject to the same disclosure requirements as other public records.
Yee says if the university’s administration has documentation of the Palin contract – which he claims “would be logical” – then state law would require the release of such information at the request of a member of the public. “State law is explicitly clear that such confidentiality clauses hold no legal bearing,” he says. “If the CSU administration has documentation of this compensation contract, then they need to immediately disclose it. Students and members of the public deserve and have a right to view this contract.”
CSU Stanislaus President Hamid Shirvani has declined to comment about Palin's appearance, referring questions to Matt Swanson, president of the university foundation that invited Palin. "I am thrilled that we're in a country where we can exercise our free speech," Swanson told the Sacramento Bee.