Senator Pushing for CSU Foundations' Transparency

FRESNO, Calif.

It means promises and plans to build new athletic facilities and pay for scholarships are on hold.

Fresno State's Bulldog Foundation is protected from having to release donation records because of its designation as a charitable foundation.

As we researched this story, we tried to get information about the status of this celebrated pledge from June 2009. But we found getting that information from the Bulldog Foundation is impossible.

A $10 million pledge from Alphonso Bigelow's company has become a taboo topic around Fresno State.

Eleven months ago Bigelow announced the gift on behalf of the company he founded Nykel Bam International. Since then, Action News has learned only $100,000 has been put into that pledge account. Deadlines for payment installments have not been met.

Fresno State's Bulldog Foundation has turned down numerous requests from Action News for financial records of pledges and donations. And it can, because it is considered a charitable foundation.

Bay-area Senator Leland Yee has spent the past few months pushing CSU related foundations to become more transparent. "More of the functions of the university are being shifted over to the foundation for the sole purpose of escaping any scrutiny whatsoever," Yee said.

Yee's mission has been sparked by a foundation at Cal State Stanislaus and its plan to bring Sarah Palin to the Turlock campus in June.

Yee wants to know how much money the foundation is spending on Palin's appearance. Since then he's researched the protection foundations are allowed because they operate as private entities.

"It's extremely important that anything that goes on in a public institution, particularly one that is affecting our students and our children that we be told exactly what's going on," Sen. Leland Yee (D) San Francisco said.

"Some state officials are hoping the controversy at cal state stanislaus will encourage members of the bulldog foundation to open up their books and show the people of fresno exactly what money is coming in and where it's being spent."

Yee is aware of the Nykel Bam pledge and Fresno State's refusal to respond to questions about the donation. 'It's unfortunate that Fresno State isn't forthcoming, it's unfortunate they've had a record of not being forthcoming. I just hope there's enough pressure put on Fresno State that in fact they will change their ways," Yee said.

Yee has proposed senate bill 330 to provide more oversight for foundations affiliated with state universities. In the meantime, he's hoping Fresno State administrators will voluntarily lay out the facts of this pledge and what will happen now that the donation has hit a snag.

"Now that donation has gone sour, I think everybody should in fact be told and anybody that wants to know what were the terms and conditions of that particular payment because it affects our students."

Late Friday afternoon the California State University Chancellor's Office issued a statement saying in part quote:

"We do not object to transparency and accountability; we do not agree with how Senator Yee wants to do it. His measure will change the nature of our auxiliaries, auxiliaries that were created for the purpose of raising much needed resources for our students and faculty."

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