Last year we told you about the relatively new president of the UT-Health Science Center and the generous contract terms he was getting to have homes here and in Pennsylvania.
The situation is still ongoing, and the Hearst newspapers have taken notice.
Gary Scharrer of the Hearst Austin bureau wrote of the $2,500 a month Larry Kaiser is getting for renting a condo here, not to mention getting his weekly commuting costs back east paid from a non-taxpayer-funded special account. (View spreadsheets on the details here and here.)
His story, in these cut-the-bureaus, share-the-load days of journalism, was printed in both the San Antonio Express-News and the Houston Chronicle.
Well, most of it was. The Chronicle, which has been ever gentle in its treatment of most Medical Center matters, chose not to include some of the sharpest criticism that ran in the Express-News version of the story.
What they left out:
It's one thing for a university to use special accounts for coaches' salaries and another to finance fringe benefits for a health science center president when so many Texans lack access to basic medical care, said Trent Seibert, editor of Texas Watchdog, a Houston-based group that focuses on government transparency.
"It sounds like the public has very little understanding that Dr. Kaiser is getting all these fringe benefits," Seibert said. "And even it's covered by the 'practice plan,' it sounds like it's still being paid for by money from a public entity. That means the public has a right to question why the university would spend its money on all this when it could go directly to direct classroom instruction for new doctors or helping to pay for health care for the needy."
Also missing: "An examination of thousands of pages of expense vouchers showed that in addition to $113,000 spent as of mid-February for Kaiser's temporary living and weekly commutes, the university system also has spent $85,000 on business-related expenses, including Kaiser's Pennsylvania medical license renewal, and $10,000 worth of memberships in 22 professional organizations and meetings associated with those groups."
The Chron did manage to include the finish to the article:
Kaiser's bosses credit the surgeon-administrator for putting UTHSC-Houston on the road to becoming a world-class institution.
Last year, only two of UT's 15 component institutions raised more money than the previous year, [UT Sysytems exec Kenneth] Shine said, noting that under Kaiser, UTHSC-Houston's fundraising increased by nearly 12 percent, from $33.7 million to $37.6 million.
Shine acknowledged that the reimbursement arrangement is "a bit unusual."
"But my job is to make things happen as long as it's entirely legal and it's transparent," he said.
It should be noted, by the way, that the Chron's abridged version we're talking about comes from the web, which doesn't exactly have any problems like not having enough space to print the full story.