Spreading Taint in Fertility Clinic Case : New questions are raised about the credibility of UC Irvine chancellor

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New disclosures about allegations of wrongdoing at the UC Irvine fertility clinic raise further questions about Chancellor Laurel L. Wilkening’s handling of the investigation and her explanations of just what happened.

Wilkening originally said she learned last July of claims that human eggs had been improperly transferred. But newly revealed documents indicate that not only did she know of allegations about the clinic two months before then but that she told internal auditors to hold off on their investigation.

The chancellor conceded that she had been “maybe not consistent” in her previous accounts of how the investigation shaped up. All this understandably raises doubts about how forthright she and other top university officials have been. It also is likely to increase skepticism about the university’s future statements on the matter.


UCI already had suffered a black eye for its admission that without the knowledge of UC regents it paid nearly $1 million to campus whistle-blowers who told of possible wrongdoing at the fertility clinic and as a result suffered retaliation. The university insisted that the payments be kept secret by the people who received them and later contended that the reason for the secrecy was to safeguard patients’ privacy. Despite university denials that the payments were “hush money,” testimony at a Sacramento hearing indicated that confidentiality was demanded at least in part to protect the university’s reputation. Some regents said confidentiality stopped the public from learning about the clinic’s problems sooner.

This week, Wilkening said she never told the auditors to stop or slow work, but the university’s internal auditor said the chancellor’s attorney told him not to push hard on the investigation. The auditor said he does not know why the order was given. Wilkening said she thought there was a better way than the audit to get medical records from the fertility clinic’s director, who along with two colleagues has denied wrongdoing. But records indicate the auditor was correctly pushing for a full investigation of the fertility clinic and recommended what appear to be sound steps for conducting it.

For the university leadership, these varying statements have imposed a credibility problem atop the clinic crisis. The Legislature’s investigations now must uncover all the facts, determine what went wrong and identify appropriate measures to prevent a recurrence.