UC DAVIS ADDS HIGHLY PAID OFFICIAL TO BOOST IMAGE: SACRAMENTO AP) — The University of California, Davis, has added a position of associate chancellor for strategic communications at a $260,000 annual salary as part of a plan to improve the university's image.
The university hired Luanne Lawrence earlier this year at a salary higher than any other campus communications chief in the University of California system.
The university's image has suffered since a 2011 incident in which a campus police officer used pepper spray on students who were protesting tuition increases. Video of the incident went viral and the university reached settlements with several of the students.
Lawrence said her job includes persuading potential students and donors that the university can compete for research funding and maintain its high academic ranking despite decreasing state funding for higher education. The university also wants to boost enrollment by 5,000 students by 2020.
Susan Gilbert, the university's associate vice chancellor for human resources, said the new position is vital to "help raise the public profile and visibility of UC Davis."
Administrator pay has become a controversial topic in the University of California and California State University systems at a time of declining state support and rising tuition. Figures released by the UC system show pay for top managers and executives have increased 7 percent since 2011, higher than the 4 percent increase among academic personnel.
CA HIGH COURT: LA CAN EXTEND EXPO LINE 8 MILES: LOS ANGELES (AP) — The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that Los Angeles transportation officials can extend the city's light-rail Expo Line 8 miles west from Culver City.
The divided court on Monday tossed out a neighborhood group's lawsuit alleging transit officials failed to properly assess the project's effect on traffic and pollution. The majority opinion said that while the report was flawed, it provided the public with enough legitimate information to pass muster.
The majority opinion upheld two lower court decisions tossing out the lawsuit. The high court said transit officials didn't mislead the public when they based their environmental study on predicted traffic patterns in 2030 rather than on current conditions. The decision also said the Exposition Metro Line Authority sufficiently planned for parking along the planned line to Santa Monica.
A group calling itself Neighbors for Smart Rail filed a lawsuit in 2010 to stop the project, alleging transit officials failed to properly assess the environmental impact the project would have along the rail line.
A majority of the court agreed with the group that the environmental study should have been based on current traffic conditions rather than predicted ones. Nonetheless, Justice Kathryn Werdegar writing for the majority ruling said including current traffic conditions in the review wouldn't have "substantially" changed the outcome.
CRASH SUSPECT SERVED TIME FOR SHOPLIFTING IN COLO. : LOS ANGELES (AP) — Court records show the man arrested for investigation of plowing into a crowd at Venice Beach once lived in Colorado and served time for shoplifting.
The records say 38-year-old Nathan Campbell was accused of shoplifting at Denver Pavilions in February 2009. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five days in jail.
Five months later, he was accused of trespassing at the outdoor mall on Denver's 16th Street pedestrian mall and later sentenced to 10 days in jail.
Campbell lived in Colorado at least as recently as last year.
He was evicted from his apartment in Denver for not paying $655 in rent in March 2012.
STATE INVESTIGATES FIRM BEHIND DANGEROUS DEMOLITION: BAKERSFIELD (AP) — State officials are investigating the company that handled the demolition of a Central California power plant where five spectators were injured.
The state's Division of Occupational Safety and Health said Monday it's looking into whether Alpha Explosives broke any regulations Saturday when pieces of shrapnel flew into a crowd of more than 1,000 spectators during the plant's demolition in Bakersfield.
The Lincoln, Calif.-based company was hired by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to manage the demolition of the plant's boiler structures. The companies worked with local authorities to set up a safe perimeter 1,000 feet from the site.
Even though spectators stood beyond the safety perimeter, one man's leg was severed by shrapnel and four other observers sustained minor injuries during the demolition.
CALIF COUPLE CHARGED IN QATAR FOR DAUGHTER'S DEATH: LOS ANGELES (AP) — A married couple from Los Angeles has been jailed in the Middle East on a charge of starving their 8-year-old daughter to death, according to a nonprofit legal group that has taken their case and is trying to draw publicity to what it claims is an unjust arrest.
Matt and Grace Huang were arrested shortly in Qatar after their daughter, Gloria, died on Jan. 15, said Alex Simpson, associate director of the nonprofit California Innocence Project. The Huangs adopted the child at age four from Ghana.
The couple's two other children, also adopted from Africa, have been banned from leaving the country and are being cared for by their grandmother, who is living with them there.
According to the California Innocence Project, the Huangs moved to Qatar in 2012 so Matt Huang could work as an engineer on two major infrastructure projects associated with improvements for the 2022 World Cup.
Their daughter would periodically refuse food for several days and then binge eat or get food from bizarre sources, such as garbage cans — a behavior her parents traced to her impoverished upbringing, according to the website freemattandgrace.com.
INVESTIGATORS QUESTION FILNER'S EX-FLACK: SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego County Sheriff's investigators on Monday will question Bob Filner's former communication director about allegations she made in her sexual harassment lawsuit against the mayor, her lawyer said.
Attorney Gloria Allred said she and her client, Irene McCormack Jackson, will meet with investigators at the California attorney general's office in downtown San Diego.
Allred declined to say who requested the meeting or to offer more details.
McCormack is among 10 women who have publicly accused Filner of making unwanted advances.
The sheriff's department last month opened a hotline for people to report any possible misconduct by the mayor.