Tuesday, June 25, 2019

UCLA's Heads-Will-(Likely)-Roll Scandal Continues

USAC, GSA call for greater transparency following Heaps investigation

Marilyn Chavez-Martinez and Sameera Pant, June 24, 2019, Daily Bruin

UCLA took over a year to notify students of the investigation of a former doctor accused of sexual battery.

University officials sent a campuswide email June 10 regarding the arrest of James Heaps, a former UCLA Health obstetrician and gynecologist. Undergraduate Student Association Council President Robert Watson said he felt the fact that students were not immediately informed of the Title IX investigation may have put students in danger.

“Students didn’t know about it until maybe a month ago, which is not only, I think, a threat of safety, but also just doesn’t really show a lot of accountability and transparency behind these accusations,” Watson said.

In December 2017, UCLA launched a Title IX investigation after receiving a complaint of inappropriate touching and comments made by Heaps toward patients, said David Olmos, a UCLA Health spokesperson, in an email statement.

Heaps’ arrest came about a year and a half after UCLA began investigating him.

Heaps pled not guilty to two counts of sexual battery and one count of sexual exploitation by a physician. The initial investigation led to the discovery of two other complaints against Heaps from 2014 and 2015.

The 2015 complaint stemmed from an anonymous Yelp review about 2008 events, Olmos said. The review alleged that Heaps had sexually assaulted the person who posted the comment while they were a UCLA student.

UCLA Health notified Heaps on April 25, 2018 that his employment would end.

Heaps has not practiced at the what is now known as the Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center since 2010, Olmos said. Prior to that, Heaps was a part-time consulting physician starting in 1983.

In May 2018, the Title IX office referred the case to medical staff to assess whether Heaps’ treatment was medically appropriate.

“The results of that initial investigation were not concluded due to a need for clarification as to the medical appropriateness of Heaps’ practice,” Olmos said.

That investigation was concluded some time after his termination, but Olmos did not give a specific date for the end of the investigation.

Heaps was removed from clinical practice and placed on paid investigative leave June 14, 2018, after an investigation substantiated allegations of billing irregularities and violation of the UCLA Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment policy, Olmos said. The leave was paid, as required under the University’s academic personnel policies, Olmos added.

“We reported him to the Medical Board of California, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, and law enforcement,” Olmos said. “We also informed Dr. Heaps that his employment was being terminated, after which he announced he was retiring.”

Olmos said UCLA Health learned of a fourth patient complaint about 2018 events after Heaps was no longer employed.

Since his arrest, at least 22 women have come forward against Heaps, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Student government officials from UCLA and USC, who collectively represent over 93,000 students, released a joint statement calling for more transparency.

“As we approach a new school year, both institutions have an extraordinary opportunity to rethink health approaches and reshape workplace culture,” the joint statement said. “They also have a necessary obligation to protect the integrity, well-being, and safety of all students; we call for this to be the top priority for all campus departments at USC and UCLA.”

Watson said Chancellor Gene Block has not addressed the matter with USAC directly. Watson added he would like administrators to communicate more with USAC in regards to matters concerning student safety and well-being, such as the Heaps investigation.

Watson said he thinks the way UCLA handled communication about this case resembled the way UCLA handled communication regarding former professor Thomas Denove, who was arraigned for charges of sexual assault of minors one month before he retired from UCLA. The university did not notify students of the charges brought against Denove.

“We just don’t know … whether it’s a professor, whether it’s a health practitioner, until they’ve already been interacting with students, seeing more students after these allegations, we just don’t know about it,” Watson said.

Watson said he understands there are privacy regulations regarding the communication of personnel matters and investigations. However, he said he thinks students should be informed due to the gravity of the accusations.

“It seems like for accusations that are as serious as these, that the student body or students that have the potential to interact with these individuals should be made aware that there is some sort of ongoing conduct investigation,” Watson said.

Under the Clery Act, universities are required to immediately notify the campus community upon the confirmation of a significant emergency or dangerous situation involving an immediate threat to the health or safety of students or employees on the campus.

Graduate Students Association President Zak Fisher said he thinks students should be able to publicly voice their concerns to administrators regarding the Heaps investigation.

“I understand and respect that there are ongoing legal proceedings that limit our capacities to prudently speak on any individual case, but there is consensus among graduate students that Chancellor Block’s administration lacks fundamental transparency, including and perhaps especially when it comes to very serious issues like sexual assault,” Fisher said.

The preliminary hearing for the charges against Heaps will take place Wednesday at the Airport Courthouse.


We continue to remind blog readers that what the facts are of the specific case of Dr. Heaps will be determined through a judicial process. The administrative scandal involves the official response to the reports of a possible problem.

Silo Thinking and the Runaway Train on Retiree Health Care

The current rush to adopt a Medicare Advantage plan, probably by next month, is a perfect illustration of "silo thinking."* Basically, the issue is being driven by cost - although, as we have pointed out - the cost information seems to be provided by a UCOP-hired consultant. The new committee that was hastily set up (after the original retiree health committee was abruptly killed) has no independent means of verifying what it is being told about the proposed privatization.

You cannot separate retiree health care from other forms of compensation. In the end, it's all compensation. Focusing on just one form of compensation and calculating supposed cost savings is silo thinking. Retiree health care is a significant benefit for active employees. Apart from legal issues of vesting, it figures into attraction and retention. If it didn't, why was it created in the first place?

Over the years - certainly at UCLA - there have been efforts at UCLA to encourage long-service, older faculty to retire. Various forms of phased retirement have been offered. Yours truly has participated as a presenter at an annual conference encouraging such faculty to consider their retirement options. The availability of retiree health insurance is important in such decisions. Ignoring the consequences of degrading retiree health care on such behavioral aspects and focusing on cost is silo thinking.

Of course, the problems that arise from silo thinking occur only if there is a degrading of the retiree health care offerings. The official word has been that everything will be much the same, that it is possible to save $40 million - or whatever the latest estimate is - without a degrading. So it is important to reproduce UCOP's own words from its FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) document:

Q:  Are similar services covered under MA PPO plans as traditional Medicare? 

A: Yes, MA PPO plans are regulated by Medicare and required to cover the same services as traditional Medicare. One difference is that in traditional Medicare, the Medicare program makes decisions about whether a service is ‘medically necessary,’ which is not universally defined. Under an MA PPO plan, the insurer offering the plan makes those decisions. High-quality evidence does not currently exist concerning how, if at all, medical necessity decisions differ between traditional Medicare and MA PPOs. In both traditional Medicare and an MA PPO, patients have the right to appeal any decision that they believe is made in error.


If there is no high quality evidence about the impact of shifting the definition of what is medically necessary, wouldn't it be a good idea to gather some? The shift from Medicare decision-making to private insurance carrier decision-making is the key aspect of a Medicare Advantage plan. All the rest is frills, even if ostensible coverage is widened. Isn't it more likely than not that the $40 million comes from this aspect of privatization? Looking at bids and ignoring the impact of privatizing is silo thinking.

We'll have more to say about this issue in the future.

*Past postings on this subject: [Includes previous links.]

Monday, June 24, 2019

The On-Again/Off-Again Hawaiian Telescope Seems to be On (Again)

In Hawaii, Construction to Begin on Disputed Telescope Project: Work on the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea, bitterly opposed by Hawaiian activists, could start soon.

By Dennis Overbye, June 20, 2019, NY Times

Gov. David Ige of Hawaii announced on Thursday that a “notice to proceed” had been issued for construction of a giant, long-contested telescope on Mauna Kea, the volcano on the Big Island that 13 major telescopes already call home. Construction could start as soon as July.

Such an announcement has been anxiously awaited both by astronomers and by Hawaiian cultural activists since last year, when Hawaii’s Supreme Court restored the telescope’s building permit. As part of the deal, five telescopes currently operating on Mauna Kea will be shut down and their sites restored to their original condition.

“We are all stewards of Mauna Kea,” Governor Ige said. He pledged to respect the rights and cultural traditions of the Hawaiian people, including the freedom to speak out against the telescope.

He asked that further debate happen away from the mountain, where steep roads and limited water, oxygen and medical services pose a safety risk. As he spoke, arguments were already breaking out on Twitter and Facebook.

“This decision of the Hawaiian Supreme Court is the law of the land, and it should be respected,” he said.

The announcement was another skirmish, surely not the last, for control of the volcano’s petrified lava slopes and the sky overhead. The Thirty Meter Telescope would be the largest in the Northern Hemisphere. Hawaiian activists have long opposed it, contending that decades of telescope-building on Mauna Kea have polluted the mountain. In 2014, protesters disrupted a groundbreaking ceremony and blocked work vehicles from accessing the mountain.

Mauna Kea is considered “ceded land” held in trust for the Hawaiian people, and some Hawaiians have argued that the spate of telescope construction atop the mountain has interfered with cultural and religious practices.

The Thirty Meter Telescope would be built by an international collaboration called the TMT International Observatory. The project, which involves the University of California and the California Institute of Technology as well as Japan, China, India and Canada, is expected to cost $2 billion.

In December 2015, the state’s Supreme Court invalidated a previous construction permit, on the grounds that the opponents had been deprived of due process because a state board had granted the permit before the opponents could be heard in a contested case hearing. The court awarded a new permit last year.

At the time, astronomers with the project said they would build the telescope in the Canary Islands if denied in Hawaii.

On Wednesday night, in a precursor to Thursday’s announcement, state authorities dismantled an assortment of structures that had been constructed on Mauna Kea by protesters.

The structures included a pair of shacks called “hales,” one located across from a visitor center halfway up the mountain, where protests had been staged, and another at the base of the mountain that activists were using as a checkpoint.

Also dismantled were two small stone monuments, or “ahus” — one on the road leading to the telescope site, the other in the middle of the site, according to a spokesman for the TMT project. They were built only recently, without a permit, and so were deemed by the court to have no historical value.

But Kealoha Pisciotta, a leader of the opposition, called the dismantling a “desecration” and “a hostile and racist act,” in an email. “They call these Religious structures illegal structures but our rights are constitutionally protected and the right specifically protected is our right to ‘continue’ our practice,” she wrote.


Sunday, June 23, 2019

Geffen Measles

From the Bruin: A Westwood playhouse was identified as a possible site for measles exposure in June following two confirmed cases of measles in Los Angeles, according to a press release from the LA County Department of Public Health on Saturday.

The Geffen Playhouse theater, owned by UCLA, was potentially exposed to measles June 7 between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Another location named in the press release was the Toscana Restaurant in Brentwood, which was potentially exposed to the disease June 8 between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m...

Those who visited these locations on the specified dates could be at risk of developing measles for up to 21 days after exposure. LA health officials recommend potentially affected individuals review their immunization records and talk with their health providers if they are pregnant, have a weakened immune system or have not been vaccinated for measles.

The cases come three months after UCLA was identified as a site for possible measles exposure, causing 119 students to be initially quarantined while their immunization records were verified...

Full story at

100-200-300 Parking

As you likely will know, the parking system for faculty, staff, and students (including emeriti) at UCLA is changing. Up until June 30, the old system with permits hanging from windshield mirrors continues. Thereafter, for the vast majority, there will be some kind of electronic screening of license plates. The gates to the parking lots and structures have been removed.

But there is an exception. For medical appointments in the 100-200-300 medical buildings, many people park in the underground structure beneath those buildings through the circular ramp shown above. In order to get into the B2 parking level for patients, drivers must take a ticket from a machine which opens a gate. That gate will remain in service since the parking level serves mainly non-UCLA patients. To exit, you must pay at a machine with the ticket. The ticket will then open an exit gate.

However, those with UCLA permits in the past were allowed to park free for up to 3 hours in the B2 level. You had to give both your ticket and your permit to an attendant to exercise this privilege. The attendant would then open the gate. This privilege will remain in effect after June 30, but there will be no permit. So how will the system operate starting July 1?

Basically, we are told by the parking powers-that-be that it will operate much the same as it has in the past. But since you won't have a parking permit, you will have to give your University ID (UID) number to the attendant with your ticket. The attendant will then open the gate.

It's not clear whether you need to show something with your UID for this process to work. Yours truly advises having your Bruincard handy - which should look something like the one shown here. Your Bruincard has both your picture and your UID.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Sunset of Easy Summer Traffic to UCLA

If you think Gloria Swanson had it rough, wait 'til you get to experience traffic on Sunset Boulevard when commuting to UCLA this summer. Normally, summer traffic is light. But Sunset will be a mess this time. And as folks divert to Wilshire Blvd. and other routes, the traffic will be messy there, too:

Project Description: 

LADWP will be adding new circuits to existing underground electric infrastructure that services the Bel Air, Beverly Crest, Westwood, and Holmby Hills communities. A total of 4 new underground circuits will be installed to house approximately 27,000 feet of new cable. These additional circuits will relieve demand off overloaded circuits.

The project will take place in two phases:
  • Phase I is located on Sunset Blvd and will begin June 18, 2019 and will be completed by summer 2020
  • Phase II is expected to begin in 2020 and will include several streets: Bellagio Road, Chalon Road, Bel Air Road, and South Beverly Glen Boulevard. More details about Phase II will be provided at a later date.
LADWP worked closely with several agencies to develop a traffic mitigation plan. Construction will begin after UCLA is out of session to take advantage of the summer schedule when there will be fewer students and faculty on campus. Working hours have been reduced to avoid heavy commute times. In addition, flaggers will be on-site to assist with traffic flow and changeable message boards will be located in several locations to notify motorists.

Phase I: Sunset Boulevard - (June 25, 2019 – Summer 2020)

Phase I construction will take place simultaneously along the following areas on Sunset Boulevard:
  • Sunset Boulevard between the 405 Freeway and Bellagio Road Crews will begin near the 405 and work east towards Bellagio Road. Construction will progress in roughly 500 feet increments until this portion of work is completed.
  • Sunset Boulevard between South Beverly Glen Boulevard and Carolwood Drive Crews will be working on this area at the same time as the 405 to Bellagio Road area.
Crews will be working primarily in the two middle lanes of Sunset Boulevard. During construction, at least one lane will remain open in each direction to maintain both eastbound and westbound traffic flow. Hours may be extended as needed to expedite the project’s completion.

Construction Hours

Monday – Friday 9:00 am to 3:30 pm
Saturday 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
Weekend prep time begins at 6:00 am but construction will not begin until 8:00 am. At the end of each work day, all lanes will be restored for traffic.

Want to vent?

Power Upgrade Project on Sunset Blvd in Greater Bel Air Area 

Councilmember Koretz Asks for Public’s Cooperation with Partial Road Closure on Sunset Blvd

Councilmember Paul Koretz, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) to host a PRESS CONFERENCE to alert the public that LADWP is initiating a year-long power upgrade project along two areas of Sunset Blvd, east of I-405 in the greater Bel Air area. LADWP, together with its City partners, will announce traffic and public safety mitigations.
  • LADWP will be upgrading underground power infrastructure that was installed in the 1930s.
  • Due to increased power demands in the Bel Air, Beverly Crest, northern Westwood and Holmby Hills communities, additional power capacity needs to be added.
  • Construction along Sunset Blvd will cause reduced lanes and slowdowns.
  • Traffic, public safety, and emergency response plans have been developed and will be deployed throughout the duration of the project.
Monday, June 24, 2019 at 2:00 p.m.
Fire Station 71, 107 S Beverly Glen Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024
Councilmember Paul Koretz, 5th Council District
Representative from LADWP

Nickie Miner, Bel Air Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council
Deputy Chief Armando Hogan, West Bureau Commander, LAFD
Captain Vic Davalos, LAPD
Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT)
Los Angeles Department of Public Works, Bureau of Street Services (BSS)
Project Details:
  • Four new underground electric circuits will be installed under Sunset Blvd.
  • Crews will be working simultaneously in two locations:
    • Sunset Blvd between I-405 freeway and Bellagio Rd.
    • Sunset Blvd between S. Beverly Glen Blvd and Carolwood Dr.
  • Construction dates: June 25, 2019 – Summer 2020
  • Construction hours: Monday – Friday 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
    Hours may be extended as needed to expedite the project’s completion
  • Affected Communities: Bel Air, Beverly Crest, northern Westwood, Holmby Hills
  • Project hotline: (213) 367-6045 or 1(800) DIAL DWP (342-5397)
  • Email:
  • Website:
Alison Simard, Office of Councilmember Paul Koretz
213-473-7005 (o) / 213-505-7467 (c)
Deborah Hong, LADWP
213-367-5204 (o)/ 213-948-9816 (c)
Are you ready?

Friday, June 21, 2019

Yet More on the Heads-Will-(Likely)-Roll Scandal

This matter is becoming something of an industry. But undoubtedly, the lawsuit - and maybe others - will expand.