UC Davis

Brown adviser to lead changing campus counsel’s office

By From page A1 | July 31, 2013

Jacob Appelsmith. Courtesy photo

Jacob Appelsmith. Courtesy photo

UC Davis has named a senior adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown as its new chief campus counsel.

Jacob Adams Appelsmith, a member of Brown’s executive staff since 2011, will join UCD in September, taking over an office undergoing a controversial expansion by Chancellor Linda Katehi and that in recent years came under fire for its handling of critics of the university.

Since 2011, Appelsmith has served as a member of Brown’s executive staff. He advises the governor on issues that include public safety, emergency management, the California National Guard, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the California Lottery and Gaming, according to UCD.

Appelsmith acts as a negotiator for tribal-gaming compacts, tribal land-use issues and all legal matters related to the state’s Native American tribes. He is also director of the State Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, overseeing the alcoholic beverage industry and its 85,000 licensees.

As part of that job, he is a sworn peace officer overseeing more than 200 special agents whose tasks include criminal investigations and enforcement.

At UCD, he will provide advice and counsel on a range of legal matters, including business and corporate structures, competitive bidding, international initiatives and business, finance and energy projects. He also will be a member of the chancellor’s senior management team.

Appelsmith holds a bachelor’s degree in American history from Middlebury College and a law degree from UC Berkeley.

“We are most pleased to welcome Jacob back to the UC system. His broad experiences not only in practicing the law, but in working within state government, promise outstanding leadership for UC Davis,” Katehi said in a new story in UCD’s online publication Dateline.

“We welcome his experience also in working with communities throughout the state and the breadth of knowledge he offers regarding California — our laws, our government and opportunities for higher education.”

Appelsmith will join senior campus counsel Mike Sweeney and UCD Health System chief counsel Anna Orlowski and counsel David Levine.


Sweeney took over as interim in December when Katehi announced changes to the office. After 16 years in the position, chief campus counsel Steven Drown was demoted to a new position, deputy chief campus counsel.

In a Dec. 7 letter, Katehi said the reorganization was due to a need for “additional expertise and experience in negotiating research and service agreements with a diverse business community, broader experience dealing with a variety of increasingly complex political entities and additional resources to advise on the myriad legal decisions confronting a university of this size and stature.”

That decision drew questions from the Davis Faculty Association. It raised concerns about adding the salary of another attorney at a time of tight budgets.

In January, Katehi responded that bringing on another attorney would reduce the amount of money the campus spent hiring more expensive outside legal help. Doing so “will more than pay for itself through the additional risk management services that will be provided to the campus,” she wrote.

Katehi emphasized that since 2000, the campus population has grown by 20 percent and its research programs tripled in size to about $750 million annually, and with the growth has come an increase on the counsel’s office workload. She noted that both UCLA and UC Berkeley have attorneys in their main campus counsel offices.

Appelsmith will receive an annual salary of $240,000. Sweeney, who held the interim post, was paid $159,000 in 2011, according to UC’s salary database.

Appelsmith’s predecessor, Drown, received a 21.9 percent raise, to $250,000, in 2011. That raise and others for five other top campus lawyers and four other administrators from around the 10-campus system drew ire because it came at a time of shrinking state funding and increased student tuition.

Drown has since left UCD. He returned in April to the UC Office of the President in Oakland as deputy general counsel for educational affairs and campus services. He previously worked there as an environmental attorney.

Campus tensions

Under Drown, the counsel’s office played a key role in both the run-up to the Nov. 18, 2011, pepper-spraying of Occupy UC Davis protesters and UCD’s response to a bank blockade at the Memorial Union in early 2012.

Drown and Sweeney took part in ad hoc phone meetings with Katehi other senior administrators about the presence of an Occupy encampment on the Quad. The security firm and task force that investigated the incident placed blame on that leadership team for its decision-making as well as campus police.

There was “no legal basis” to remove the tents, the investigation found. It noted that two top police lieutenants were among those who questioned the counsel’s office about the legal grounds for removing the tents in the hours leading up to the ill-fated operation.

The pepper-spray incident cost the university more than $2 million, including a $1 million settlement with protesters sprayed or arrested that day.

In January 2012, still reeling from the negative worldwide publicity about the incident, UCD chose not to remove protesters blocking a US Bank branch in the student union. The bank ultimately shut its doors, saying UCD had failed to resolve the protests.

UCD filed a lawsuit against the bank for breach of contract — only to end up paying out $225,000 in a settlement. The lost deal with the bank was to have brought in an estimated $3 million for student services.

One professor and 11 students, who were informed of their arrest by mail, ultimately pleaded guilty to an infraction in connection with the protest. They were ordered to perform community service.

Also in 2012, the UCD Academic Senate condemned Levine and Drown for “drafting inappropriate and apparently threatening letters that violated a faculty member’s right to academic freedom.”

They and other administrators were rebuked for threatening Michael Wilkes, a medical professor who in 2010 co-authored an opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle criticizing the health system’s promotion of a controversial prostate cancer screening procedure.

Broad background

Appelsmith has previously served in the state attorney general’s office, as special assistant attorney general and chief of the Bureau of Gambling Control and in the Department of Justice as senior assistant attorney general for employment, regulation and administration.

He also has worked in private practice for Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro in San Francisco and Sacramento. That firm, headquartered in New York and now called Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, describes its focus as energy and natural resources and financial services, including financial institutions, technology and real estate and construction.

Appelsmith told Dateline that working with Brown has been “interesting and exciting,” but that “the opportunity to be part of the senior management team at a great public university is rare.”

“During the interview process, Chancellor Katehi and UC General Counsel Charles Robinson impressed me with their vision for Davis and the UC system, as did the engaging, talented staff I met on campus and in Oakland,” he said. “I am eager to be part of this wonderful school and its mission of teaching, learning, research and public service.”

The chief campus counsel reports jointly to the chancellor and Robinson at UCOP.

Moving on

With Appelsmith’s selection and the promotion of Adela de la Torre from interim to full-time vice chancellor of student affairs, also last week, six of the 11 people who took part in those ad hoc phone meetings prior to the pepper-spraying remain on

They are: Katehi and her chief of staff, Associate Chancellor Karl Engelbach; Sweeney; Provost Ralph Hexter; John Meyer, vice chancellor of administration and resource management; and Griselda Castro, assistant vice chancellor of student affairs.
Those who have left the UCD are: Drown (now at UCOP); Annette Spicuzza, police chief (retired, having stepped down while under investigation after the pepper-spraying); Fred Wood, vice chancellor of student affairs (chancellor of the University of Minnesota, Crookson); Cynthia Harrison Barbera, executive director of strategic communications (co-founder of eGlobal Reader, a maker bilingual electronic educational books); and Claudia Morain, news service director (director of communications at University of the
Among the steps UCD has taken in response to the pepper-spraying: forming a campus community council that has been meeting regularly since May 2012; putting in place a new emergency operations plan and an emergency and crisis team; and providing additional training for police, administrators and faculty and student representatives.

— Reach Cory Golden at [email protected] or 530-747-8046. Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden

Correction: In Wednesday’s Enterprise, a box accompanying a story about the UC Davis campus counsel’s office incorrectly identified the job title of Griselda Castro. She retired from her position as associate vice chancellor in June 2012. In August 2012, she returned to campus to begin working part-time as a special assistant to the vice chancellor of student affairs.

Cory Golden

Cory Golden

The Enterprise's higher-education and congressional reporter. http://about.me/cory_golden
  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • Special Publications »

    Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Service (updated 4/30/2015) and Privacy Policy (updated 4/7/2015).
    Copyright (c) 2016 McNaughton Newspapers, Inc., a family-owned local media company that proudly publishes the Daily Republic, Mountain Democrat, Davis Enterprise, Village Life and other community-driven publications.