Legislature may investigate questionable donations to the University of Utah

The Utah Legislature may conduct some kind of audit/investigation into a wealthy L.A. doctor’s $12 million gift to the University of Utah, supposedly for research work, says House Speaker Greg Hughes.

This is just the latest twist into the messy removal of a Huntsman Cancer Research Institute/Hospital CEO by U. President David Pershing and health services vice president Vivian Lee.

Dr. Mary Beckerle was reinstated as CEO of the Huntsman organizations on Tuesday, after a blow-up last week where Jon Huntsman Sr. publicly called for Pershing’s and Lee’s removal and Beckerle’s reinstatement.

In any case, Hughes, R-Draper, who is clearly siding with Huntsman Sr. in this battle, told UtahPolicy that there appears to many layers to the current Huntsman leadership crisis.

He points to two articles, one by STAT, affiliated with the Boston Globe, and in the LA Times, that throw questions behind the $12 million donation to the U. by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong.

To add to all the intrigue, Soon-Shiong is also, apparently, attempting to buy a controlling interest in the parent company of the Times.

But, said Hughes, with all the rest that is happening at the U., the Legislature’s Audit Subcommittee may want to look at the Soon-Shiong $12 million donation, as well.

“We have heard things” about the donation, and how Soon-Shiong’s firm may be getting some medical research proprietary information after making such donations to other medical research institutions.

 “After this open war with the Huntsman’s breaks out,” said Hughes, referring to the Beckerle firing, “a ridiculous situation, and now these questions about the $12 million donation,” it may be appropriate for the Legislature – which funds the U. of U. to the tune of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars each year — to step in and take a look.

With some criticism attached to it, the Legislature last year audited the situation where the U.’s basketball coach canceled a men’s basketball game with Brigham Young University, claiming the U. players may not be safe after a BYU player punched a U. player in a previous game.

So the U. has faced a legislative audit over its actions, before.

But this case may be more serious – and more impactful.

“There have been” legislative “frustrations with the University” actions before, said Hughes, who sits on the audit committee with other GOP and Democratic leaders.

“We are concerned about what we are hearing up there,” he added.