USC had many warnings about medical school dean’s behavior but took little action

For years, the troubling reports circulated among the faculty of USC‘s Keck School of Medicine: Their dean had a drinking problem.

One colleague told of witnessing a boozy Dr. Carmen Puliafito reeling and shouting at a university dinner. Another said Puliafito appeared drunk at an off-campus gathering as he spilled into his car and drove away.

Then there was a Keck medical conference, a researcher who attended recalled, in which the dean seemed inebriated when he fell asleep in his chair.

Complaints of Puliafito’s drinking began to reach USC administrators more than five years ago. Then in 2016, and again last March, the university received information that Puliafito was in a hotel room with a young woman who suffered a drug overdose.

But USC allowed Puliafito to remain at the Keck school, where the renowned eye surgeon continued to treat patients. The university did not report him to the California Medical Board during that period, a USC source confirmed. The board routinely suspends physicians from patient care if they are suspected of being impaired by alcohol or drugs.

The medical profession’s principles of care state that supervisors and others in hospitals and clinics have a responsibility to act promptly to remove from practice doctors showing any signs of alcohol or drug abuse. That did not happen with Puliafito.

The university did not suspend Puliafito’s medical privileges until after publication of a Times investigation in July that detailed his second life as an associate of abusers and dealers of hard drugs with whom he regularly used methamphetamine and other drugs. The newspaper’s investigation triggered a medical board inquiry that resulted in formal allegations last month that Puliafito, for 21 months, smoked meth “within hours” of seeing patients and abused that drug on a near-daily basis at the Keck campus and elsewhere.

Dr. Nancy Jecker, a professor in the University of Washington School of Medicine’s Department of Bioethics and Humanities, said the complaints of excessive drinking “were a sufficient basis to suspend Dr. Puliafito from practice while these reports were competently investigated.”

“The ethical choice could not be clearer: serve the interests of the institution or the welfare of vulnerable patients,” she said.

USC has not provided a full account of how it handled the various allegations about Puliafito. University President C.L. Max Nikias said in a letter to the USC community this summer that the school referred Puliafito to Keck’s Hospital Medical Staff — a peer review panel — last March, after The Times inquired about the former dean’s presence at the drug overdose at a Pasadena hotel. The panel found “no existing patient care complaints and no known clinical issues” with Puliafito, Nikias wrote.

The school did not review his clinical privileges when he stepped down last year because there was no evidence of “illegal or illicit activities,” Nikias said in the letter.

Even some within the medical school leadership question why more wasn’t done.

Two days after The Times story ran, scores of medical school students packed a campus forum to get answers from Dr. Rohit Varma, who succeeded Puliafito as dean of the Keck school. Varma said USC administrators knew nothing of Puliafito’s use of drugs until The Times published its investigation. But Varma acknowledged that the school was aware of Puliafito’s problems with alcohol.

“It raises an issue of why more wasn’t done at that time,” Varma told the students, adding that he personally had seen Puliafito “in that alcohol abuse haze,” but not when he was treating patients.

Varma told the students that Puliafito had sought and received treatment for alcohol abuse.

In a recent statement, USC said Varma “regrettably misspoke” when he related that Puliafito had received treatment. “He intended to say Puliafito had been counseled on his professional behavior,” the statement said. “We have no record of Puliafito receiving treatment for alcohol issues.”

Experts said any USC leaders who knew about Puliafio’s drinking had a duty to intervene, regardless of whether he was in treatment for alcoholism.

Varma and other USC administrators, including Nikias, declined to be interviewed for this story. A university spokesman said in a statement that “there have been no documented patient complaints, malpractice reports or other issues with patient care related to Carmen Puliafito.”

Varma stepped down as dean last month as The Times prepared to report that the university had concluded in 2003 that he had sexually harassed and then retaliated against a female fellow he supervised.

The medical board has suspended Puliafito’s license to practice pending the panel’s decision on the findings of its investigation. If the board decides to punish Puliafito, it could revoke his license or reactivate it with certain restrictions, such as a requirement that he undergo drug and alcohol testing. The inquiry has been conducted by the investigation division of the state Consumer Affairs Department, which has the option of referring its findings to local prosecutors for criminal charges.

The state agency responsible for regulating hospitals, the California Department of Public Health, said it is not investigating Keck. The department said in an email that it “has not received any complaints or facility reported incidents involving Dr. Puliafito.”

The American Medical Assn. and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education advise physicians and their supervisors to promptly remove from practice doctors who could be impaired by alcohol or drug abuse.

The council accredits Keck Hospital and other institutions as sites where medical residents can train. Puliafito headed the medical school from 2007 until last year and remained in practice until July.

A publication of the accreditation council states that “impaired physicians must be recognized and removed from patient care activities. Residents and faculty are human and on rare occasion are found to be impaired. … It is the responsibility of anyone in the health care system observing impaired behavior to report it to a supervisor or other individual who can intervene.”

State regulators have taken disciplinary action against doctors for intoxication not just at work but off-hours as well, including when they receive drunk-driving citations. A state 2nd District Court of Appeal ruling in 2002 stated that doctors could face discipline by the medical board even if there was no finding that they harmed patients.

From August 2016 to last April, drinking was cited as either the sole reason for or a contributing factor in the revocation, suspension or restriction of the licenses of more than 40 doctors by the medical board. Most of the sanctions stemmed from convictions for driving under the influence; others resulted from observations of suspected intoxication.

For example, a Sacramento-area doctor in 2013 was seen with a vodka bottle at work and was visibly intoxicated while attending a meeting with the chief executive of the telemedicine company that employed him, according to medical board records. The executive reported him to the board.

After an investigation, the board required the doctor to submit to random drug and alcohol testing, and be overseen by a monitor, the documents show.

In 2015, a Concord physician crashed his car into a parked vehicle and was taken to a hospital and underwent treatment for alcohol withdrawal, medical board records said. The board ordered him to submit to regular alcohol and drug testing as a condition of keeping his license.

Last year, a manager at Folsom medical clinic required a doctor to take a Breathalyzer test after colleagues expressed their suspicions he had been drinking, according to records. The medical board subsequently suspended his license for 60 days, placed him on seven years of probation and imposed other restrictions, including a requirement that he undergo psychotherapy, the documents said.

The AMA’s guidelines for bylaws that govern hospital medical staffs state that a doctor can be required to undergo testing for alcohol or drugs even if the measure is based merely on witness accounts of suspected intoxication and there have been no reports of harm to patients.

USC’s former human resources director, James Lynch, told The Times that an unnamed Keck staffer made multiple complaints about Puliafito’s drinking, including suspicions from more than five years ago that he was driving drunk. Lynch recalled doing nothing with those complaints and telling the staffer to instead confront the dean. It is not known if the staffer did confront Puliafito.

Current and former Keck staffers said in Times interviews that they saw Puliafito drink to excess on several occasions, including at the conference in March 2016, other university events and on campus late into the evening.

The Times began investigating Puliafito after receiving a tip about the March 2016 drug overdose of Sarah Warren, then 21, in a room he rented at the Hotel Constance. The incident brought paramedics and police officers to the hotel, although no arrests were made.

The overdose occurred three weeks before Puliafito abruptly resigned as dean.

In his letter to the university community after The Times story appeared, Nikias said the resignation followed a confrontation between USC Provost Michael Quick and Puliafito over complaints about his performance as dean and his behavior. Nikias provided no details.

The July 28 letter said USC received “various complaints” about Puliafito over the years and provided a timeline that included references to Puliafito receiving unspecified discipline and “professional development coaching.” It makes only one reference to any scrutiny of his competency to practice medicine — the review last March prompted by The Times’ inquiry about the overdose.

A USC spokesman said the review by the Hospital Medical Staff “found that there were no concerns about his clinical competency.”

About a year ago, an unnamed member of the USC communications staff received a tip about Puliafito’s involvement in “a Pasadena hotel incident,” according to Nikias’ letter. In response, administrators questioned Puliafito, and he said a friend’s daughter had overdosed at the hotel and he accompanied her to the hospital, the letter stated.

Nikias provided no other details, including the source of the tip, and gave no indication that USC contacted Pasadena authorities or investigated further.

“USC should have done more to determine what exactly happened in the hotel room once it received reports of Dr. Puliafito’s presence and the overdose,” said Jecker, the University of Washington professor. “A careful investigation into these matters was warranted.”

USC fired Puliafito and formed an internal task force to examine how the university handled the complaints about him. The school said it has improved communications in Nikias’ office, which received an anonymous phone call in March 2016 from a person who reported Puliafito’s involvement in the overdose 10 days before his resignation as dean.

Nikias’ letter said two receptionists took the six-minute call, but the information was never passed to senior administrators because they didn’t find the caller “credible.”

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-usc-dean-20171114-story,amp.html

Arkansas QB Cole Kelley arrested for drunk driving

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark –  Arkansas quarterback Cole Kelley has been arrested for driving while intoxicated, careless driving and other offenses in Fayetteville.Continue Reading BelowA report filed by the Fayetteville Police Department says the 20-year-old redshirt freshman was booked at 8:47 a.m. Sunday. Bond for Kelly was set at $935 and records indicate Kelly was being held at the Washington County Jail two hours later.The police report says Kelley refused to take a breathalyzer test. Records indicate an initial court hearing for Kelley is scheduled Monday.In a statement, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema says he’s aware of the incident involving Kelley and that the university is gathering information.Kelley played in the fourth quarter in Arkansas’ 33-10 loss to LSU on Saturday. He has 1,038 passing yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions this season.

Source: Arkansas QB Cole Kelley arrested for drunk driving | Fox News

Trooper claims he was forced to change DUI arrest record for judge’s daughter

Mass. state trooper claims he was forced to change DUI arrest record for judge’s daughterFox NewsA Massachusetts state trooper is claiming that he was forced to alter an arrest record for a local judge’s daughter after she was stopped for driving under the influence.Continue Reading BelowTrooper Ryan Sceviour, 29, was reprimanded last month for allegedly including comments about oral sex in the Oct. 16 arrest report of Allie Bibaud, the daughter of Dudley District Court Judge Timothy Bibaud.According to Boston 25, Sceviour arrested the younger Bibaud after she allegedly swerved into a police construction detail on I-190 in Worcester. During her arrest, Bibaud allegedly said: “My dad’s a [expletive] judge. He’s going to kill me,” along with comments seemingly implying she would trade sexual favors for leniency.Sceviour wrote everything she said in his report. He claims he was simply doing his job.Continue Reading BelowBut Bibaud’s father allegedly asked friends in positions of authority to have the comment removed from the arrest report, Boston 25 reported.Sceviour claims his superiors, including State Police Major Susan Anderson, forced him to redact the arrest warrant three days later and threatened to fire him if he refused. “You are to immediately code 7 to the barracks, per the colonel. It’s an order from the colonel. It’s got something to do with an arrest report, umm, a judge’s daughter,” said a voicemail recording left on Sceviour’s phone.After Sceviour edited the report, he was reprimanded for including her salty language.“The revision consisted only of removal of a sensationalistic and inflammatory directly quoted statement by the defendant, which made no contribution to proving the elements of the crimes with which she was charged. Inclusion of an unnecessary sensationalistic statement does not meet the report-writing standards required by the department,” a police statement said at the time. Sceviour told Boston 25 he has not been able to sleep since he was forced to alter the police report. He wants an apology and to clear his name.“They have impaired his reputation. People hear his name, ‘isn’t that guy who faked the report. Isn’t that the guy who covered up for the judge?’” Sceviour’s attorney Lenny Kesten told the news station. “He said, ’I don’t want to. This is wrong.’ He said, ‘this is morally wrong.’ [Anderson] said it’s a direct order from the colonel.”In a statement, the state police stood behind its decision to revise the arrest report.“The removal of the inflammatory and unnecessary quotation did not change the substance of the trooper’s narrative, did not remove any elements of probable cause from the report, and, most importantly, had no impact on the charges against the defendant,” the statement read. “The defendant remains charged – as she was initially charged — with operating under the influence of drugs, operating under the influence of liquor, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, and two other motor vehicle offenses, and she will be held accountable for those crimes based on the evidence collected by State Police.”

Source: Mass. state trooper claims he was forced to change DUI arrest record for judge’s daughter | Fox News

Trustee charged with OVI ordered to spend 3 days in jail

Howland Twp. trustee charged with OVI ordered to spend 3 days in jailThe trustee was pulled over on Oct. 28 on Route 422By WKBN StaffPublished: November 10, 2017, 5:28 am Updated: November 10, 2017, 7:16 am NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – The Howland Township trustee charged with OVI will spend three days in jail.According to court records, James Lapolla, Jr. pleaded no contest to the charges and was sentenced Wednesday to 30 days in jail, 27 of those days were suspended. His license is also suspended for six months.Lapolla will have to serve those three days in jail within 60 days. His attorney also filed a motion Thursday for Lapolla to attend a driver intervention program.AdvertisementLapolla was charged with OVI and a lane violation after police pulled him over on Route 422 on Oct. 28.A police report says Lapolla told officers he had a few drinks but didn’t submit to a blood alcohol test.

Source: Howland Twp. trustee charged with OVI ordered to spend 3 days in jail – WKBN.com

Suspected drunk driver crashes into McDonald’s drive-through, fights police – TheIndyChannel.com Indianapolis, IN

INDIANAPOLIS — Police say a woman drunkenly crashed into a McDonald’s drive through early Sunday morning before attacking responding officers.The crash happened around 2:00 a.m. Sunday at the McDonald’s located at 3649 South Keystone Avenue.According to an incident report, 29-year-old Skyla Bolden crashed her 2009 Nissan into a pole in the restaurant’s drive-through.When officers responded, Bolden allegedly kicked one of them.According to police, Bolden has a prior OWI arrest and blew a 0.220 BAC on a portable breathalyzer.Bolden was arrested on preliminary charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and battery on a police officer.

Source: Suspected drunk driver crashes into McDonald’s drive-through, fights police – TheIndyChannel.com Indianapolis, IN

Actor Lou Diamond Phillips charged with DWI in Texas | Newsday

Actor Lou Diamond Phillips charged with DWI in Texas

This undated photo provided by the Portland Police

This undated photo provided by the Portland Police Department shows Lou Diamond Phillips. The actor has been charged with DWI in Texas just hours before a scheduled appearance in Corpus Christi. Police in nearby Portland arrested Phillips early Friday, Nov. 3, 2017. Jail records show bond wasn’t immediately set for Phillips, who starred in “La Bamba.” / Portland Police Department via AP

PORTLAND, Texas — Actor Lou Diamond Phillips faces a driving while intoxicated charge in Texas for an incident that happened just hours before he appeared at a speaking engagement in Corpus Christi.

Police in Portland, Texas, arrested Phillips around 1:30 a.m. Friday. Jail records show the “La Bamba” star was freed after posting bail, which had been set at $2,500.

Police Chief Mark Cory says an officer was conducting an unrelated traffic stop when the 55-year-old Phillips drove up and asked for directions. The officer suspected Phillips had been drinking.

Cory says Phillips’ blood alcohol level was .20 percent — more than twice the legal limit for driving.

Cory says Phillips, who listed a California address, was cooperative.

Jail records listed no attorney for Phillips, a 1980 graduate of Corpus Christi’s Flour Bluff High School.

Source: Actor Lou Diamond Phillips charged with DWI in Texas | Newsday

Charleston-Area State Senator arrested for DUI, providing false information – WCBD News 2

CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) — South Carolina Senator Paul Campbell has been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) and providing false information to police.According to South Carolina Highway Patrol, the crash happened on Saturday, at 9:15 PM on I-26 near mile marker 204 in Charleston County.Troopers say Campbell’s vehicle rear-ended another car in congested traffic. When SCHP arrived on scene, there was discrepancy about who was driving the at-fault vehicle.AdvertisementThe incident report explains Campbell’s wife told authorities she was driving the vehicle. Campbell also told authorities his wife was driving.  Through witness interviews, Troopers determined Sen. Campbell was the driver of the car and administered a field sobriety test.The test registered his blood alcohol level at .09%, while the legal limit is .08%. Campbell was arrested for DUI and providing false information to police and booked in the Charleston County Detention Center. Campbell’s wife was also cited for providing false information to police. She was released at the scene.Campbell is a Berkeley County Republican, representing Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester Counties, and is Chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee. He has served in the SC Senate since 2007. He is also Executive Director and CEO of the Charleston International Airport.Campbell had a bond court hearing Sunday morning. However, his image did not appear on the large, public monitor. Audio could be heard in the courtroom, and the judge could see the streaming image, but staff members say the public monitor was in sleep mode.Charleston County authorities released the full video to media Monday.

Source: Charleston-Area State Senator arrested for DUI, providing false information – WCBD News 2

Driving While Stoned: The Penalties and Gray Area in Marijuana Law

smoking a joint

As of November 2017, some 29 states had legalized marijuana for medicinal use. By 2018, eight of those states will allow the recreational use of pot, too. Add in the millions of Americans who smoke weed illegally and you have a small army of stoned individuals hanging out in public at all hours.

At your local bar or drum circle, that’s not a problem. On the other hand, when driving your kids home from school, you don’t want to run into a guy who just took a round of bong hits. Likewise, marijuana users need to know the risks they face if they get behind the wheel high. State penalties for stoned driving are mostly as harsh as they are for drunk driving. Nothing kills a buzz like 120 days without your license or $1,500 in fines.

However, there is no “pot breathalyzer” yet, and officers usually need special training necessary to otherwise judge intoxication via weed. Overall, confusion reigns, and the arrests of people who hadn’t used marijuana before driving have made the situation worse. Here’s what everyone needs to know about pot and driving, down to the gray areas in the law.

1. The risks of driving while high

While there is agreement among scientists that driving under the influence of marijuana creates a more dangerous situation, there is no consensus of just how much danger. A 2016 paper from the Society for the Study of Addiction found the increase in crash risk “of low to medium magnitude.” That assessment scaled back some of the hyperventilating following the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Even government agencies have a hard time saying how marijuana affects motorists. In February 2015, NHTSA released a study on alcohol and drug use among drivers. Once again, they found clear evidence of impairment among drunk drivers, down to the degree. Drug users proved harder to gauge. “At the current time, specific drug concentration levels cannot be reliably equated with a specific degree of driver impairment,” the report concluded.

Source: Driving While Stoned: The Penalties and Gray Area in Marijuana Law

Man held for allegedly smashing in door of city home in a rage

PITTSFIELD — A city man already facing charges has had his bail revoked after allegedly starting to “act crazy out of nowhere” last weekend, damaging a car, kicking in a locked door and smashing a cellphone.

Zachary W. Love, 23, faces multiple new charges in addition to charges on two open cases, which include credit card larceny and operating under the influence, from June and July, respectively.

Responding to a report of a breaking and entering in progress on John Street about 1:38 am. Saturday, police encountered a witness who said Love had kicked in the door of the apartment and was still inside.

The door showed signs of forced entry, police said.

Police spoke to Love, who insisted nothing was going on and said the damage from the door was from a previous break-in.

Another witness told police that a group including Love had a few drinks earlier and had come back to John Street to hang out.

That witness said when the group pulled up to the house, Love began having a “crazy attitude” and accusing a woman in the group, with whom he’d had a relationship, of having received photos from another man, police said. He began hitting the outside of the car with his fists, leaving dents.

Once inside the house, Love allegedly took a woman’s cellphone and went outside with it, removed its SIM card and smashed it. It was at that point, witnesses said Love was locked out of the house, prompting him to kick in the door to get back inside.When police attempted to take Love into custody, he allegedly resisted and thrashed around to avoid being handcuffed.

He pleaded not guilty in Central Berkshire District Court on Monday to three counts of vandalizing property and one count each of felony nighttime breaking and entering, larceny under $250, assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest

Judge Paul Smyth then revoked Love’s bail on charges of operating under the influence, unlicensed operation and threatening to commit a crime July. He set a nominal bail of $50 on the new charges.

He is due back in court on Nov. 28 for a pretrial hearing.

A Florida woman rode her horse on a highway drunk, police say.

 She was charged with a DUI

Polk County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Donna Byrne Thursday for riding a horse while drunk. (Courtesy of Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

Nothing’s unusual in Florida, a sheriff department spokesman said Friday. But some things — like a woman arrested this week for allegedly riding a horse while drunk down a busy highway — are still surprising.

Around 3 p.m. Thursday, a passer-by saw Donna Byrne, 53, on the horse looking confused and possibly in danger and notified officers, according to her arrest affidavit. Sheriff’s officers found Byrne on Combee Road near North Crystal Road in Lakeland, about 35 miles east of Tampa. She smelled of alcohol and had red watery eyes. When she dismounted from the horse, she staggered from side to side.

Byrne had ridden the horse for a 10 to 15-mile stretch from Polk City, said Brian Bruchey, a spokesman for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Byrne is being charged with driving under the influence while operating a vehicle — which in her case was a horse equipped with a saddle and bridle. She is also charged with animal neglect for putting the horse in danger of being injured or killed.

“We haven’t had a horse DUI that I’m aware of. We’ve had incidents of bicycle DUIs and motorcycle DUIs, so this was a different kind of thing.”

Donna Byrne, 53, is charged with a DUI for riding her horse drunk on a Florida highway. She also faces a count of animal neglect. (Courtesy of Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

Whether an intoxicated person on horseback can be charged with a DUI or DWI varies from state to state.

In 1993, an appellate court in California ruled in People vs. Fong that people riding animals on the highway are subject to the same rules as the drivers of automobiles, meaning people must ride their animals at a reasonably safe speed and avoid reckless behavior.

The issue was a hot topic in Montana in 2011, when the state’s department of transportation aired an advertisement featuring a horse picking up its owner after a night of drinking at the bar. In Montana, horseback riders can’t be arrested for driving under the influence, because state law’s criteria for a vehicle in a DUI excludes devices moved by “animal power.”

Several criminal defense lawyers in Florida interviewed by The Post are skeptical of whether the DUI charge will hold up in Florida court. Thomas Grajek, a Tampa attorney who specializes in DUI cases, said he thinks Byrne can’t be charged with a DUI because Florida law states that people riding animals on roadways or shoulders are treated as pedestrians, and are not subject to the same rules as automobile drivers. Grajek said that, if anything, someone riding a horse drunk might be charged with disorderly conduct, similarly to a publicly intoxicated pedestrian.

Officers arrested Byrne after conducting a sobriety test, during which Byrne registered blood-alcohol levels of .157 and .161, twice the state’s legal limit of .08. The horse was taken to the Polk County Sheriff’s Animal Control livestock facility, officers said.

“The road she was stopped on was a very busy road,” Bruchey said. “Of course, if somebody hit the horse, then that person would be in danger. And (Byrne) was a danger to herself.”

The Polk County State Attorney’s office could not be immediately reached for comment. Bruchey, the sheriff’s department spokesman, said the officer who arrested Byrne thought he had sufficient probable cause to consider the horse a vehicle.

“I can tell you it’s going to be interesting if (the DUI charge) goes through,” Bruchey said. “The way sheriffs look at it, the woman put a saddle and bridle on this horse and was riding it to get from point A to point B. For all intents and purposes, we look at that as a vehicle.”

Byrne’s criminal history includes five felony and ten misdemeanor charges, consisting of cruelty to animals, drug possession, probation violation and criminal traffic, officers said. She could not be reached for comment.