Pasadena's city manager Tuesday authorized the release of police interview recordings that officials say show former USC medical school dean Carmen Puliafito did not try to influence a police officer regarding his investigation into a woman's hotel room drug overdose.
USC has begun the process to terminate Puliafito and strip him of his faculty tenure because of alleged substance abuse activities.
Released Tuesday along with the audio recordings of police interviews with Puliafito and hotel staff after the March 4, 2016, overdose were the incident and property seizure reports.
Top news of the day
"Due to the intense public interest in this matter regarding Dr. Puliafito's interaction with Pasadena police, the city is releasing these documents and the recordings,'' according to a statement from Pasadena City Manager Steve Mermel.
"We want to assure the public that our officer responded and investigated the incident. The recordings clearly show no one, including Dr. Puliafito, attempted to influence the officer or have him dismiss the incident in any way."
Redacted copies of the written reports had been previously released to news media under a public records request.
"The Pasadena Police Department continues to review its records for additional information that can be released regarding this incident," according to a city statement that said, "There was and still is no evidence in the possession of (police) that Dr. Puliafito committed a crime the night of March 4, 2016.
Although 1.16 grams of methamphetamine were found inside an unoccupied hotel room, the substance was "not in anyone's physical possession, limiting any value as possible evidence for prosecution," according to the city, which cited statements by Police Chief Phillip Sanchez.
"The officer filled out a property report that night and he preserved the evidence and documented the confiscation of methamphetamine in a timely manner," Sanchez stated.
"The officer also conducted and recorded an interview of Dr. Puliafito, correctly preserving his statement and ultimately writing a report on June 8, 2016. We do recognize that the incident report was not written in a timely manner in conjunction with the property report."
No reason was given for the delay.
Puliafito is under immediate suspension from the university, barred from its campuses and any association with USC, including attending or participating in university events, Michael W. Quick, the university's provost and senior vice president for academic affair wrote in a memo to faculty members.
"We certainly understand that substance abuse is a tragic and devastating disease,'' Quick wrote. "But we are also bound to our responsibilities as a university to take the necessary actions concerning Dr. Puliafito's status."
USC President C.L. Max Nikias has announced that former federal prosecutor Debra Wong Yang has been hired to look into recent allegations by the Los Angeles Times that Puliafito abused hard drugs and associated with criminals and drug users.
Puliafito, 66, a renowned eye surgeon, led the Keck School of Medicine for almost a decade before resigning in 2016. He remained on the Keck faculty and continued to represent the university at public events as recently as this summer.
The Times published an article reporting that during his tenure as dean, Puliafito kept company with a circle of criminals and addicts who said he used drugs with them.
The paper also reported that Puliafito was with a prostitute when she overdosed on drugs at the Pasadena hotel room and had to be rushed to a hospital.
The same day as the report, USC said Puliafito was no longer seeing patients and was on leave. Puliafito resigned his $1.1 million-a-year dean's post in March 2016, saying he wanted to explore outside opportunities.
Yang is a former U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, a former state judge and a former member of the Los Angeles Police Commission. She currently is a partner in the international law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
Nikias said Yang will investigate the details of Puliafito's conduct, the university's response, as well as its existing policies and procedures and make findings and recommendations to the USC Board of Trustees Executive Committee.