The Medical University of South Carolina – no stranger to scandals involving millions of tax dollars – is facing fresh scrutiny after allegedly making questionable concessions related to the hiring of a new dean.
The latest scandal involves Dr. Etta Pisano, the newly-appointed Dean of the College of Medicine at MUSC. Pisano – a renowned radiologist and breast cancer researcher – was recruiting from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill last year.
According to sources and documents obtained by FITS – and by her own admission – Pisano’s hiring was contingent on MUSC also hiring four additional employees. Among them? Her husband, an eye surgeon, and three researchers affiliated with a start-up company that Pisano co-owns.
That company – Next Ray, Inc. – is a public-private partnership with UNC.
Pisano draws a taxpayer-funded salary of $220,000 a year at MUSC – not including benefits. The salaries of her husband and the other three employees were not immediately available – although Pisano boasted of her husband’s hiring in a letter sent to colleagues.
“On a personal note, I am pleased that my husband, Jan Kylstra, is also joining the MUSC College of Medicine family as a retina surgeon in the Department of Ophthalmology,” she wrote.
A S.C. State Ethics Commission investigation supported several of the material allegations against Dr. Pisano, but the agency ended up tossing the complaint last November because the alleged violations “occurred prior to her becoming a public employee within the jurisdiction of the State Ethics Commission.”
Frankly, that strikes us as an outrageous technicality – not to mention an invitation to all sorts of future corruption.
Seriously … is this ruling saying that government employees from other states allowed to shake down state agencies prior to being hired?
Nonetheless, Pisano says the ethics ruling “cleared” her of any wrongdoing and to quash any media coverage of the scandal – and to threaten employees who continue to raise questions about this shady deal.
For example, in an email sent to an MUSC employee earlier this year, the school’s general counsel Joe Good threatens legal action if the employee’s “harassing” inquiries are not stopped.
“As you know, the University and the State Ethics Commission have thoroughly and aggressively investigated the issues you raised and have provided clear and unequivocal opinions that there have been no violations of State laws or University rules and regulations,” Good wrote. “In the absence of evidence of wrongdoing, your continued pursuit of these issues are distracting University officials and others from other responsibilities and is extremely hurtful to the individuals involved and to this institution. Your continued inquiries are being perceived as harassment and possibly legally questionable.”
Good then offers to meet with the employee “in hopes that we can bring closure to this matter without having to enter a more formal legal process.”
Sources close to the Pisano deal tell FITS that the goal of the entire endeavor is to secure millions of dollars for Next Ray from a controversial “economic development” fund that doles out lottery revenue to politically-connected “start-ups.” This fund is supposed to match public money with private grants, but as we have reported previously that almost never happens.
In a telephone interview with FITS on Tuesday afternoon, Pisano claims that her company has “no intention” of applying for a grant from the fund. She also claims that someone at MUSC is “spreading lies” about her.
Pisano also warned us to “be careful” about assisting those who were spreading those lies.
Hopefully, South Carolina’s command economic scammers will have more sense than to subsidize start-up funding for a North Carolina-based company – but then again these are the geniuses who keep pouring money into the University of South Carolina’s failed “Innovista” project.
Also, aren’t we already paying for Pisano, her husband and her “research team?”
Sources tell FITS that information regarding Pisano’s “conditions of employment” has been provided to S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office, as well as state and federal law enforcement agencies. In fact, a copy of the information packet that was sent to the local FBI office was provided to FITS by a friend of ours at the bureau.