Investigation concludes UC regent violated ethics rules

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Update: 05/02/2016: This article has been updated to reflect new information from documents regarding the investigation into William De La Pena’s alleged misconduct. 

A confidential investigation found that William De La Pena, a member of the UC Board of Regents, violated conflict of interest rules when he attempted to make a financial deal involving his eye clinics and UCLA, as first reported by ProPublica on Monday.

The investigation found that De La Pena, who operates several ophthalmology clinics, continued to engage in discussions about a financially beneficial deal regarding his clinics even after he had forfeited participation in the matter. De La Pena allegedly asked David Feinberg, the former chief executive of the UCLA hospital system, to purchase his clinics without approval from the regents, according to a March 2015 letter written by the UC-appointed investigator.

“The facts are clear that Regent De La Pena engaged in a series of discussions about a potential transaction in which he had a financial interest, from October 14, 2013, through and including the January 2014 Regents meeting,” stated Daniel Dooley, the UC-appointed investigator, in the March letter.

The letter was previously forwarded to UC President Janet Napolitano and former chair of the UC regents Bruce Varner for potential action.

In De La Pena’s April 2015 resignation letter, he announced his resignation from the board’s health committee and relinquishment of the position of chair. He still sits as a member of the governing board, however, and is able to cast his vote on items regarding UC medical centers.

Kevin Sabo, UC Student Association president, said De La Pena’s alleged misconduct is representative of a larger trend of corruption within the UC system.

“I know that I should be surprised, but I wasn’t it’s sort of that we just generally accept the fact that there is corruption happening in UC administration,” said Sabo. “So seeing this story come out, it just sort of affirms what I think a lot of people have suspected.”

De La Pena disputed the investigation’s conclusion in a May 10, 2015, letter addressed to Napolitano and Varner, attributing the decision to lease space from his eye clinics to UCLA.

According to UC spokesperson Dianne Klein, De La Pena said that his resignation from the health committee and relinquishment of the chair position were in the best interest of the university.

“He did not want his presence on the committee to be a distraction,” said Klein an email. “His resignation was consistent with what the investigation recommended.”

Varner expressed his disagreement with the findings against De La Pena in a June 2015 letter addressed to Napolitano.  

Appointed to the UC Board of Regents in 2006 by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, De La Pena’s company, De La Pena Eye Clinic, currently operates five ophthalmology and optometry clinics in Los Angeles and Orange County. 

 

Cassandra Vogel is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected].