Police union examines incident at Pasadena hotel involving a former USC dean after an officer is disciplined
The union that represents the Pasadena police officer who was disciplined for not filing a prompt report on a drug overdose witnessed by the then-dean of USC’s medical school is conducting a legal review of the incident, the labor organization said Thursday.
A tip about the March 2016 overdose of a young woman at the Hotel Constance in Pasadena led to a Times investigation that found that Dr. Carmen Puliafito associated with criminals and drug abusers who said they used methamphetamine and other drugs with him while he headed the Keck School of Medicine.
Puliafito, 66, resigned as dean three weeks after the overdose. USC kept the renowned ophthalmologist on faculty and he continued to accept patients at university medical offices, according to a USC website. The overdose suffered by Sarah Warren, who survived after being rushed to a hospital, was not publicly reported until The Times published its findings Monday.
Officer Alfonso Garcia did not write a required report on the overdose until three months after the incident — in response to repeated requests by The Times for information about the episode.
Garcia did not respond to an interview request made through the Pasadena city manager’s office Thursday. He otherwise could not be reached.
The president of the Pasadena Police Officers Assn., Sgt. Roger Roldan, said in emails that attorneys for the union are reviewing the circumstances surrounding the overdose. Roldan declined to provide any details about the review, including whether it was aimed at challenging the discipline of Garcia.
The type of discipline has not been disclosed.
Last year, a Pasadena police spokeswoman said Garcia’s failure to file the report was a “training issue,” but offered no details. This week, city spokesman William Boyer said Garcia was disciplined.
City Manager Steve Mermell said in an email Thursday that the Times’ findings “have raised many questions. As it relates to the city, I have made a public commitment to review the facts and circumstances involving city personnel. I expect to have more information in the near future.”
Mermell did not elaborate.
Puliafito has not responded to numerous interview requests. In an email shortly after resigning the $1.1-million-a-year deanship, Puliafito told The Times he made the move voluntarily to pursue a biotech job.
In the wake of The Times’ investigation, USC has said that Puliafito is on leave from the university and is no longer seeing patients. Puliafito’s successor as dean, Dr. Rohit Varma, on Wednesday told a gathering of students, many of them angry about the affair, that Puliafito’s conduct is the subject of several internal investigations.
The Medical Board of California has said it is also investigating Puliafito on the basis of The Times’ reporting.
In the months after the overdose, authorities did not release Warren’s name. The Times identified her through interviews, social media and property records.
Now 22, Warren has been in an Orange County drug treatment program since November, and said she no longer has contact with Puliafito. She told The Times in interviews that she and Puliafito had been partying at the hotel for two days. Then she “took too much GHB” — gamma-hydroxybutyrate, the so-called date-rape drug that some users take in lower doses for its euphoric effect. Warren said the drug left her “completely incapacitated.”
After she awoke in the hospital six hours later, Puliafito picked her up, and “we went back to the hotel and got another room and continued the party,” she said.
Puliafito and his much younger acquaintance captured many of their exploits together in videos and photos. Sources allowed The Times to review dozens of the images on condition the videos not be published. They were consistent with Warren’s account of drug use at the Hotel Constance.
The police confiscated a little more than a gram of meth in the hotel room. No arrests were made, and Warren said the police never interviewed her.
A week after the March 4, 2016, overdose, a witness filed an anonymous complaint through a city website urging Pasadena authorities to investigate Puliafito and the police handling of the incident, according to a copy of the complaint obtained through the California Public Records Act.
Three days later, the same witness phoned the office of USC President C.L. Max Nikias and told two employees about Puliafito’s role in the hotel incident. The witness spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity.
Phone records confirm that the witness made a six-minute call to Nikias’ office on March 14, 2016, 10 days after the overdose.
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