Sex and cash

— San Diego State University is known the world over as one of America's biggest party schools. The academic playland has made the list of Playboy's ten most sexually active campuses twice over the past decade. All that student intercourse has apparently created a ready-made laboratory for San Diego State researchers, who, according to recently released documents, have been getting cash from pharmaceutical companies to use the university's student-health clinic as a test bed for a variety of drugs against sexually transmitted diseases. Last year, for instance, Dr. Kevin Patrick (of Student Health Services and codirector of the UCSD-SDSU Preventive Medicine Residency program, adjunct professor of public health) picked up $12,000 from Bayer Pharmaceutical Corp. for a "trial to evaluate efficacy and safety of Cipro XR [extended release] for patients with UTIs [urinary tract infections]." Cipro is also used to counteract the effects of Anthrax, but Bayer apparently wants to expand its use. SDSU students have also been used to test other drugs. In 2002, the school's health-services department received a $10,620 grant from Personal Products Company of Skillman, New Jersey, for "a clinical evaluation of time to symptomatic relief of vaginal yeast infection." The study pitted the effects of the drug "Monistat (ovule) combination vs. Fluconazole." The same company also paid the university's health-services department another $20,000 to study the "safety and efficacy of Monistat, nighttime vs. daytime." But not all the grant money was given for the study of sexual disease. Last year SDSU biologist David Lipson got $300 from Menon and Associates, listed as an "engineering firm" in Del Mar, for "production of Bacillus subtilis spores for anti-bioterrorism research."

Audit of holes While rumors of the imminent departure of San Diego Unified School District chief Alan Bersin have been grabbing headlines lately, another intriguing district story has gone unnoticed. KPMG, the big accounting firm that has done the district's annual external audit for the past several years, has parted company with the district. According to an internal e-mail from a top district official downplaying the departure, the move was made because regulatory red tape was causing the firm to do more work than its staff could handle. But some insiders are skeptical. The news came as Bersin and other district honchos were spending the week at a seminar in Boston sponsored by Harvard. The most recent KPMG audit arrived months late and was loaded with "qualifications" -- the accounting term for the discovery of accounting irregularities, some major, some minor. In payroll accounting, for example, the auditors say, "We tested the sign-off control and found 4 instances out of a sample of 30" where proper review was lacking. Also, the audit notes that district "attendance reported to the state and funding amounts were overstated." The district's alibi was that it "inadvertently misplaced the teacher attendance rosters" and thus was unable to account for the attendance claim. The auditors said that the district "must develop and maintain accurate and adequate attendance records to support the attendance reported to the State." The district responded that it was beefing up its clerical staff. The audit also discusses "significant deficiencies" that could hurt the district's ability to administer at least one of its federally funded programs. The auditors also criticized the fact that the school board was not receiving enough detailed information about the status of the district's investments and expenditures. According to the audit, the administration told KPMG it is working to fix the problems.

Editor in motion San Diego Chargers owner Alex Spanos, fresh from his latest sweetheart stadium deal in San Diego and lavish praise in the Union-Tribune, is ruffling feathers in his hometown of Stockton. A measure has just qualified for the ballot there, and some wealthy campaign contributors are putting pressure on city hall, reports the daily Stockton Record. "The landowners -- including major developers Alex Spanos and Fritz Grupe -- want their projects in the approval pipeline before Stockton's voters get a crack at an antigrowth initiative headed for the November 2 ballot," writes editor Will F. Corbin. "The first application, the big one that includes Spanos and Grupe, slid through the City Council virtually unnoticed, tucked into the council's 'consent agenda,' a big pile of routine matters the council can approve in one fell swoop. Never mind that it could lead to the biggest annexation in Stockton history and the first of meaningful magnitude in more than 30 years." At the U-T, that would probably have been the end of the story, but Corbin told his readers that the council's secrecy was so egregious that his newspaper was going to take action. "Transparency of government is always in the public interest. So this is one case where we thought the watchdog needed to bite. It's not about taking sides on the issue. I sent a letter on Thursday to Stockton Mayor Gary Podesto. It's mostly a form letter, one of those fill-in-the-blanks things that makes it easy enough for anyone, even a newspaper editor, to seek redress under the Brown Act. It demands the City Council start this one all over, that it vacate the action it took Tuesday night on this on-again, off-again agenda item. The City Council can do what it thinks is best and wisest regarding the future growth of Stockton. But the council needs to do it in the open, and with the full participation of its residents." The Record reports that the proposed development projects involve a total of 6000 acres of currently undeveloped property.

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