Regents respond to Carlson’s request

by Brian Bakst

In a formal response to Gov. Arne Carlson’s request that the University reinstate former surgeon John Najarian, Board of Regents Chairman Tom Reagan said the University’s decisions must be made without outside interference.
Reagan also emphasized in the letter the Board of Regents’ decision to not reimburse Najarian for his legal fees or reinstate the doctor to a faculty position.
In a July 8 letter to the regents, Carlson said the University should repay Najarian and appoint him to a position such as Wangensteen surgery chair. Carlson added that the University’s differences with Najarian must be brought to a close.
Reagan wrote Tuesday that the University has allowed Najarian to continue practicing surgery at the University Hospital. He also said the University has continually and repeatedly recognized Najarian for his work. “We think this arrangement has brought closure to this matter.”
Najarian was acquitted in February on charges that he illegally sold ALG, embezzled from the University and evaded taxes. ALG is an anti-rejection drug used in organ transplants that Najarian developed and tested for more than 20 years.
Carlson wrote that Najarian’s “wealth of teaching talents” should be shared with students, adding that not using Najarian’s talent would disadvantage the Academic Health Center.
But Reagan wrote that the academic misconduct findings of four panels speak for themselves. “I can assure you that no other person under these academic clouds would be eligible or invited to assume an academic position in our Medical School.”
Najarian said he never formally requested reinstatement, although his lawyers have mentioned the possibility of such a request during reimbursement negotiations with the University.
Reagan wrote that the University paid more than $175,000 in legal fees for Najarian before concluding that University policy did not apply to the case. He included the regents’ policy, which “requires that the individual seeking public funds for his lawyers acted in good faith, and did not engage in malfeasance or willful neglect of duty.”
As a result, Reagan added, public funds should not be used to pay the more than $1 million in legal fees incurred by Najarian.
A representative from Carlson’s office said the governor’s office had not received Reagan’s letter as of Wednesday.