The announced departure of Paul Viviano, who currently enjoys the lengthy title of chief executive officer for the University of California, San Diego Health System and associate vice chancellor for UC San Diego Health Sciences, has further shaken up the already controversy-filled university on the Pacific Ocean.
And even more unpleasant surprises could be in store for the tax-funded institution, based on a flurry of so far largely behind-the-scenes legal and law-enforcement maneuvering.
Starting August 24, Viviano will become the new president and chief executive officer of the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.
"Viviano says he was attracted to CHLA because of its commitment to patient care, education and research, as well as its investment in technology, service to its community and a longstanding mission to improve the health care of children around the nation and the world," according to a Children’s' July 7 release.
He did not bid a fond goodbye to UCSD in the release, instead being quoted as saying, "I look forward to working with the Board as well as the faculty and staff at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to fulfill our mission and achieve our goals.”
For local consumption, Viviano told the Union-Tribune that his decision to leave had been "agonizing," and that he wanted to be closer to his family in Huntington Beach.
No salary was given; Viviano's retiring predecessor at Children’s, Richard D. Cordova, received total annual compensation of $826,589 during the 12 months ending in June of 2013, according the nonprofit's 2013 IRS disclosure report, the most recently available.
Viviano made more at UCSD, with gross pay of $831,147 during 2013, according to UC salary data posted online, the latest available.
As reported here last year, in July of 2014 Viviano’s salary was boosted $21,600 by action of the university's regents.
Viviano was also eligible for an unspecified amount of "Regentally approved incentive pay,” according to regents minutes.
Hired in May 2012, one of Viviano's early tasks at UCSD was overseeing the abrupt December 2012 shutdown of the university's costly Nevada Cancer Institute in Las Vegas.
Media there had reported charges of mismanagement.
It subsequently came to light in March 2013 that Michael Steven Goldman, ex–chief executive of the cancer institute, was busted that January for alleged unlawful sexual activity, transporting child pornography, and coercion and enticement.
Goldman later pled guilty to possession of child pornography and in March 2014 was sentenced to five years in federal prison.
A June 30, 2013, university audit, released by the school in response to a request made under the state's public records act, reported that the total operating loss for the cancer institute from July 2012 through March 31, 2013 had been $9.9 million.
Of late, more trouble has been brought to light by an August 2014 university audit that criticized the handling and accounting of body parts and other human specimens used by the school in research and treatment.
As first reported here, the internal audit was released by the university last month after months of delay following a request made under the public records act last year.
"Management advised us that the number of UC San Diego conferences and/or physician training sessions that utilize anatomical materials purchased from outside companies has been consistently increasing,” the document said.
"In addition, there are UC San Diego Health Sciences research units including, but not limited to the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the UC San Diego Brain Observatory that receive donations directly."
Continued the report, "When materials not managed by the [body donation program] are used in UC San Diego facilities, there is greater risk that methods of transporting, testing, storing and disposing of materials may not fully comply with University requirements."
Two weeks ago, university vice chancellor for research Sandra Brown announced formation of a Human Anatomical Specimen and Tissue Oversight Committee to manage the growing problem.
"As many of you know, the University of California system has had issues around the appropriate use and disposition of anatomic specimens, and the use of these specimens has come under increasing scrutiny," said Brown's notice, adding that the new group had been set up at "the directive from the University of California Office of the President."
Continued the June 22 announcement, "The committee will oversee the appropriate and ethical handling of anatomical and tissue specimens at UC San Diego."
The academic body parts-trading business has been under scrutiny for months by a nationwide FBI dragnet that has raided offices and cadaver depots in Arizona and Illinois, causing speculation that indictments may be forthcoming.
Meanwhile, the UCSD-based Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study has been disrupted by a legal war between director Paul Aisen and UCSD over Aisen's plans to depart for the University of Southern California, taking much of the staff with him.
"On June 18, 2015, I tendered a notice of resignation to UCSD, with an effective date of July 1, 2015," Aisen said in a July 7 declaration filed in the case.
"I moved up this resignation date to June 21, 2015, in response to hostile treatment by UCSD after it received my notice of resignation."
The statement continued, "My resignation from UCSD was the culmination of several issues I had with UCSD with respect to funding delays and shortfalls that I believe hampered the work of [the Alzheimer's study], and particularly the clinical research work done to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease."
Aisen asserted that "clinical trials that [the Alzheimer’s study] was handling were hampered by a lack of contracting support at UCSD." In addition, Aisen said his group's work "required UCSD’s assistance with negotiation of contracts, but because of a lowered workforce at UCSD the process was slowed down, causing detriment to the studies. Additionally, staff salary restrictions imposed by UCSD impacted [the Alzheimer’s study’s] hiring abilities."