USC paid former Keck dean over $1.8 million in a settlement following his termination

Former Keck dean Carmen Puliafito was paid $850,000 in severance, $624,000 in base pay and $124,000 in bonus pay, among other payments. (Photo from USC News)

USC paid former Keck School of Medicine dean Carmen Puliafito over $1.8 million following his termination from the University, according to University tax filings disclosed this week.

The Chronicle of Higher Education, which first reported the University payments, stated that USC paid Puliafito $850,000 in severance along with $624,000 in base pay, $124,000 in bonus pay and a remaining $206,215 in unidentified payments. A University spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times that Puliafito’s bonus was paid in accordance with his employment contract.

While the dean resigned in 2016, he was not officially barred from campus and stripped of his tenure until a settlement was reached in Fall 2017 following a Los Angeles Times investigation into the matter that summer. The settlement included the $1.8 million payment, according to this year’s tax forms, which are required to be publicly disclosed due to USC’s status as a nonprofit organization.

In a statement to the Daily Trojan, USC said the previous University administration was responsible for the settlement payments.

“In 2017, the University’s previous administration reached a settlement agreement with Carmen Puliafito to resign from his faculty position, give up his tenure and separate from the University,” USC wrote. “Since that time, USC has implemented significant reforms regarding what corrective actions must be taken when any employee violates university policies and the procedures that must be followed regarding their separation.”

The L.A. Times investigation uncovered footage and photographs of Puliafito smoking methamphetamine and ingesting ecstasy in various settings, including on campus.

Former president C. L. Max Nikias said USC was not aware of Puliafito’s illegal activities prior to his resignation. Following the Times report, the University hired former U.S. attorney Debra Wong Yang to lead an internal investigation. According to the Times, the findings of Yang’s report have been kept secret for two years.

Puliafito, who was stripped of his medical license by the Medical Board of California last summer, has a court hearing scheduled next year to determine if he can return to treating patients, the Times reported.