Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Symmetry (of lack thereof)

Talking about the Regents - as we did in our previous post - and talking about the UC-Davis chancellor removal - as we have also been doing - brings us to an issue of symmetry of treatment. The UC-Davis chancellor was removed (suspended pending an investigation) due in part to her bad choice of corporate board membership and violation of policy in that choice. Now the Chronicle of Higher Ed is running a story that a member of the UC Regents - William De La Peña - had a possible conflict of interest involving the potential acquisition of certain clinics he owned by UCLA.* But in that case, despite an official internal investigation that determined that a violation of policy had occurred, no further action was taken. The Chronicle's story is a summary of a lengthier piece from ProPublica:

A doctor on the University of California’s Board of Regents has been allowed to keep his seat despite a secret investigation that concluded he violated ethics rules by trying to strike a financially beneficial deal between his eye clinics and UCLA, part of the university system the regents oversee.

Dr. William De La Peña also engaged in discussions about a prominent eye center affiliation involving UCLA even after recusing himself, an investigation found. At the time, he was chairman of the regents’ health services committee.

A (redacted) March 2015 letter from Daniel M. Dooley, who was appointed by the UC to oversee the investigation of whistleblower complaints against De La Peña, summarized the findings of an outside investigator hired by UC. Dooley concluded that De La Peña violated the board’s conflict of interest rules and that his behavior “clearly constitutes an improper governmental activity.”**

[Note: Dooley is an executive at UCOP.]

Copies of the letter, which was obtained by ProPublica, were sent for possible action to UC President Janet Napolitano and then-Regents Chairman Bruce D. Varner, but the findings were not made public.

In response, De La Peña resigned from the health committee and gave up its chairmanship on April 2, 2015 “in the best interests of the university.” Yet he remains a member of the overall governing board, eligible to vote on items involving UC medical centers. His term expires in 2018.

Asked why the inquiry’s conclusions — or even its existence — had been kept confidential until ProPublica asked about them, UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein wrote in an email, “The outcomes of whistleblower investigations are not routinely announced publicly.”

“The investigation was carried out according to UC policy,” she wrote. “His resignation [from the committee] was consistent with what sanction the investigation recommended.”...***

But wait! There's more from ProPublica:

...In a May 10, 2015 letter to Napolitano and Varner released by UC,**** De La Peña strongly disputed the investigation’s findings. He said that it was UCLA itself that first raised the possibility of leasing space from his eye clinics. And he said he spoke to the university’s general counsel, Charles F. Robinson, and told him “I did not want to do anything that was wrong or inappropriate under UC’s policies.”
In his letter, De La Peña blamed Dr. David Feinberg, the former chief executive of the UCLA hospital system, for the whistleblower complaint. De La Peña wrote that Feinberg had violated UC rules by signing a deal with Anthem Blue Cross in September 2014 without the regents’ permission. De La Peña also wrote that Feinberg’s allegation against him “was simply a way of ‘getting even’ with me.”
Varner wrote a letter to Napolitano in June 2015, released (in redacted form) by UC last week, saying he agreed with De La Peña...*****
Will this matter be discussed at the upcoming Regents meetings? There is a closed session of Compliance and Audit scheduled, but exactly what is on the agenda is, of courses, unknown. It may be too late, in any case, for this matter to be discussed at the May meetings.

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