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Diane Leite (UC Berkeley Communications Department)

A longtime UC Berkeley administrator has been demoted and docked in pay for improperly giving several raises to an employee with whom she was having a sexual relationship -- but she will still make $175,000 a year.

Diane Leite, a former assistant vice chancellor, "should have known better" than to push through five raises in two years for a purchasing manager, university investigators concluded. The scandal in UC Berkeley's office that provides administrative services for campus research is detailed in a report obtained by the Bay Area News Group using the California Public Records Act.

Jonathan Caniezo, 30, who earned less than $70,000 in 2007, saw his pay balloon to more than $110,000 by 2010, according to university pay records -- despite months of objections from his direct supervisor, who argued Caniezo had not earned the raises. The university blacked out Caniezo's name in Leite's disciplinary report, but campus sources, emails and pay records confirm he is the employee mentioned by investigators.

Leite, 47, supervised Caniezo's boss and later became his direct supervisor, according to the report.

Investigators found Leite violated the university's sexual harassment policy. As a result, she lost her assistant vice chancellor title and suffered a pay cut -- from $188,531 to $175,000 -- according to a Feb. 17 letter from Vice Chancellor Graham Fleming. The demotion took effect March 1.


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A Jan. 6 email from Associate Vice Chancellor Robert Price to employees said Caniezo had been "temporarily reassigned to other duties."

Leite should have had her pay slashed more dramatically, said Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, a frequent critic of university administrators' high salaries.

"Here you have an administrator who crossed the line, and the only thing she gets is a slap on the wrist," Yee said. "At the same time, student fees are going up. That's why UC has no credibility."

Neither Leite nor Caniezo, who public records show lived less than a mile from each other in Rodeo, responded to phone and email messages Thursday and Friday. Leite's attorney, Jane Brunner, also did not respond to messages. It was not clear whether Caniezo had an attorney.

In a written statement, Fleming, who is Leite's boss, defended the level of her punishment.

"The disciplinary action was quite substantial," he wrote, "involving significant reductions in salary, job classification and title, as well as removal of all supervisory responsibilities."

Leite and Caniezo also were partners in a nonprofit baseball team called Balzout Baseball, according to tax documents. The affair began in September 2009, Leite told investigators, the same month Caniezo's raises started, and lasted through the end of 2010 or early 2011.

Caniezo's supervisor, who was not named in the report, told investigators she fought his pay hikes in 2009 and 2010, but Leite insisted on them.

Compelling evidence in the supervisor's text messages from Leite "suggests that Leite did exert pressure on her to support a pay increase for (Caniezo) that she ... did not believe, as his supervisor, was justified," investigators wrote. "Leite's ongoing romantic relationship with (Caniezo) more likely than not provided the underlying motivation for her support of this salary action, despite (the supervisor's) disagreement with it."

In February 2010, Leite requested a $1,117-per-month stipend for Caniezo and asked that it be applied to the five previous months, according to emails also obtained through the Public Records Act. The messages show that payroll administrators at first questioned both the amount and the length of the stipend, but they approved it anyway.

The university refused to respond to questions from this newspaper about the rapid growth in Caniezo's pay. But spokesman Dan Mogulof said in a written statement that salaries in Caniezo's department increased because of "explosive growth" in the office's size and responsibilities. Others in the office also received pay raises, he said.

Questions about Leite's relationship with Caniezo arose after somebody filed an anonymous complaint against her, investigators said. Then, in August, a formal complaint was filed against her, and Leite was shifted out of her role in charge of the university's Research Enterprise Services, which manages human resources, purchasing and other administrative tasks for UC Berkeley's research centers and institutes.

Matt Krupnick covers higher education. Contact him at 510-208-6488. Follow him at Twitter.com/MattKrupnick.