Mulch

Second Opinion on UC-Stanford Merger
The merger between the University of California at San Francisco and Stanford University medical centers (see "Pinstriped Medicine," Jan. 29) just hit what could be a serious obstacle -- S.F.'s Democratic power brokers.

As a result of last year's election, John Burton became head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and his ally Carole Migden landed as chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which funds the university system. Burton is also the oldest political ally of Mayor Willie Brown, who's been significantly silent on the deal.

And Burton seems none too pleased about the merger.
"I never liked it from the get-go," he says. "How can you take something that taxpayers have put millions of dollars into and set it up into some kind of goddamn deal where the public has no control over it?"

To that end, Burton has called a hearing for March 14 to examine the arrangement's legality. Migden and former Assemblyman Phil Isenberg, an authority on hospital merger oversight, are likely to play starring roles.

Burton's agenda ranges beyond the basic issue of whether the Board of Regents can legally hand over the $400 million UCSF operation to a private entity. He also plans to look into potential antitrust violations; the merger would combine a significant amount of high-end, specialty care under one corporate roof.

Seems that the regents' closed meetings and refusal to release documents related to the merger haven't exactly instilled confidence in their decision. The senator plans specifically to review the data showing that UCSF would benefit financially, according to a Burton aide.

Critics have tagged the Senate hearing a token dog-and-pony show staged to please the unions, but too late to stop the merger. Recent events around the state, however, suggest otherwise. Following a lively hearing by Senate Health Committee Chairwoman Diane Watson in Southern California, a plan to contract operations of UC San Diego's Medical Center to a private bidder died.

-- L.D.

Spotting the Con
The tables may be on the verge of turning for dapper swindler Peter Louis Rowland. During a four-year stretch that ended in April 1995, he made fools of S.F.'s courts, the district attorney, and one of the city's most visible elected officials, retired Supervisor Angela Alioto. Now, he may be forced to actually pay for his crimes.

Rowland's tear began in late 1991 when he insinuated himself into the social and financial life of soon-to-be Board of Supervisors President Alioto, becoming her regular companion, while he scammed various individuals and businesses out of $250,000. Alioto (perhaps unwittingly) ran interference for Rowland, and, when he was finally arrested in September 1993, visited him in jail.

Rowland, then 30, persuaded the court to appoint a public defender for him, even though he comes from a well-to-do family. Eventually, then-District Attorney Arlo Smith and trial judge Paul Alvarado agreed to a plea bargain giving Rowland a light prison sentence without restitution. Only when a victims' rights advocate pointed out the deal's illegality did Alvarado order Rowland to pay back $140,000 he admitted stealing. Rowland appealed, saying he wouldn't have accepted the plea if he'd known he'd have to reimburse the money. Violins, please.

Six weeks ago -- with Rowland already free on parole and driving around town in a Jaguar -- the state Court of Appeal upheld the restitution order. Rowland filed another appeal, this time with the state Supreme Court.

According to sources familiar with the case, the District Attorney's Office, now under new management, is preparing to drag Rowland back to court if his latest appeal is rejected, as expected, in the next few weeks.

--

 
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