— Two months ago, FBI agents swept into San Diego's Alvarado Hospital Medical Center, armed with warrants to search for evidence that the institution had been paying off doctors to refer new patients to the hospital. It was the third such federal raid and document demand conducted as part of the federal probe into alleged Medicare corruption at 19 facilities owned by Santa Barbara-based Tenet Healthcare Corporation, which runs a total of 114 hospitals. The company continues to deny that anything is amiss, but its stock has been hit hard, dropping from a high of about $52 a share, down to as low as $15 in recent months. And the timing could have been a bit better for Alvarado, which is the "official hospital sponsor" of San Diego's Super Bowl host committee, the group of local business types who promote and help subsidize the game and its subsidiary events here. Boardmembers include Herb Klein, the "editor in chief" of the Union-Tribune and other Copley-owned newspapers, which critics say have been less than zealous in reporting on Tenet's ongoing woes. Besides Alvarado, other sponsors include the U-T, radio-station giant Clear Channel, the Port of San Diego, the casino-owning Sycuan tribe, defense contractor SAIC, and troubled Gateway Computers. The port spent $500,000 of public money for its sponsorship. Asked this week about how much Tenet paid for the Super Bowl honor and whether it got any tickets for the game or other goodies for its doctors, Alvarado's Mina Nazaryan said, "We cannot disclose that." Asked about the status of the investigation, she said, "It's coming along fine." Hospital sponsorship of Super Bowl host committees has been common but has grown more controversial in recent years, as issues such as soaring costs and lack of trauma care have roiled the largely subsidized industry. In Jacksonville, Florida, which is set to host the 2005 Super Bowl, Gainesville-based Shands Healthcare came under heavy fire last week when it was announced that the north Florida hospital chain had agreed to pay $500,000 to become a sponsor of the host committee. Shands had just received a taxpayer-funded $150 million bailout, and officials there denounced the sponsorship as a waste of money. "It just astounds me we're going to spend $500,000 for PR, and we're not going to deal with the care issue," Jacksonville city councilwoman Suzanne Jenkins told local media. A Shands spokesman defended the move, saying the money would come out of three years' worth of the hospital's marketing budget.

Hooters of America A worker who was seriously injured during a brawl at a Christmas party for Hooters employees has been awarded more than $860,000, reports the National Law Journal. The incident, which happened at the Clarion Hotel Mission Valley on December 19, 2000, involved a head-butt by guest Robert Womack to 32-year-old security guard Evan Johnson and a subsequent melée. The jury found Womack liable but exonerated Hooters of America Inc. and local franchisee Hoot Winc LLC ... Warren Hellman, the wealthy father-in-law of UCSD chancellor Robert Dynes, said to be in the running to become UC president, has quit the board of San Francisco's troubled Magnes Museum, which he joined only last fall in a widely heralded move to save the institution. But a bitter board split over direction of the museum, which highlights Jewish art and culture, couldn't be mended, said Hellman. "The unpleasantness has caused my family tsuris (Yiddish for troubles) and has caused me not to spend necessary time on Hellman & Friedman (his investment firm), which is supposed to be my primary activity," Hellman told the San Francisco Chronicle ... San Diego's super-rich are well represented on that special committee appointed by UC regents to investigate wrongdoing at UC-managed Los Alamos National Labs. In addition to UCSD's Dynes, regents Peter Preuss of La Jolla and financier Gerry Parsky of Rancho Santa Fe are on the team. Parsky is a close chum of the Bush administration but less well admired by the state GOP's conservative wing.

Taxing matters In the crush of this week's Super Bowl, it may be hard to remember the hype of 1996's Republican National Convention, which cost city taxpayers millions of dollars but arguably put the town on the big-time convention map, for better or worse. The Internal Revenue Service, however, never forgets. Earlier this month, it filed a lien for more than $50,000 against the local GOP host committee, which has long since disbanded, for taxes and interest remaining unpaid during 1997 through 1999 ... San Diego is rated as only the ninth-largest convention destination in North America, with 331 annual meetings, reports the Orange County Register. Tops is Orlando, Florida, with 625. Las Vegas is number two with 589.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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