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The director of Parkland Hospital uses his office to crusade for the poor and the underprivileged. To him, substandard health care is a crime. But his passion has made him some powerful enemies. Last year, they tried to take him down.
By Glenna Whitley |

AT FIRST, HE DOESN’T SEEM TO UNDERSTAND THE question: Why? Why care so passionately about the poor, the sick, the powerless? Why work sixteen-hour days, six or seven days a week for $175,000 a year, instead of going to work at a more prestigious institution for twice that salary? Behind aviator glasses his eyes, made bluer by the thick silver bangs dipping into them, look astonished, even shocked. He shifts his bulky frame, hidden under a white lab coat. Doesn’t everyone care? Shouldn’t everyone care? As director of Parkland Memorial Hospital, Dr. Ron Anderson is one-third doctor, one-third administrator, and one-third Mother Teresa. He spends much of his time out in the community buttonholing donors, giving speeches, campaigning for the ninety-four-year-old institution that is the last, best hope for people in Dallas who cannot afford private hospitals. He’s out to make accomplices, converts to his cause, in a state that historically has put public health care far down on the list of funding priorities.

That’s why you’ll find him dragging someone such as former congressman Jim Collins, hardly a free-spending advocate for the poor, to Los Barrios Unidos Community Clinic. “Once they see it,” Anderson says, “they get interested. They can’t stay neutral, or there’s something wrong with them.”

As unfashionable as it might seem in the look-out-for-number-one Eighties, Anderson really believes that. Since 1982, when he became Parkland’s chief executive officer at thirty-five, Anderson has preached the often unpopular gospel of helping the poor and the sick. A gifted speaker, he has a passion for the subject that, combined with an almost photographic recall of facts and figures and a machine-gun delivery, undermines resistance. When he perceives injustice or insensitivity. Anderson takes off the gloves and comes out swinging, coming at the problem from a high moral perch. Most of the time his zeal pays off. In 1985. for example, after Anderson tackled the patient-dumping issue, the Texas Legislature passed a bill prohibiting the practice of for-profit hospitals transferring indigent patients to charity facilities.

In Anderson’s six years at Parkland, the budget has increased from $110 million to $197 million. Waiting lines are down, halls are clean, relations between the hospital and The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas are better than ever. In January, the hospital was the subject of a CBS “48 Hours” documentary that boosted the hospital’s reputation around the country.

Anderson has found many accomplices, people willing to join the fight. But he’s also made enemies. A man who sees inadequate health care as the underpinning for a wide variety of social problems, he’s been accused of using the hospital as a forum to advance his liberal political agenda. Anderson has traded angry words with more than one conservative politician-state Rep. Bill Ceverha of Richardson, County Commissioner Jim Jackson, U.S. Rep. Beau Boulter of Ama-rillo. Even his supporters say he’s too political, that he sees himself as the global champion of the downtrodden, out to right society’s wrongs. They urge him to pull back, to pick and choose his fights more carefully. It’s an approach he scorns. To Ron Anderson, it would be immoral to see a wrong and not attempt to right it.

But Anderson’s problems go deeper than rabid idealism. At times, even his friends in high places have wondered just what’s going on at the hospital. In the last two years, Anderson and his hospital have been investigated by the District Attorney’s office, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. He’s been quizzed by the Environmental Protection Agency and Parkland has been sued by the Dallas Gay Alliance. He’s been called “sneaky” at the commissioners court. Accused of spending hospital money on political contributions, he’s been seen on the ten o’clock news next to words like “allegations” and “criminal investigation.” He later was cleared of any wrongdoing, but the damage to his reputation was done.

“The whole thing questioned his integrity, professionalism, and honesty, which he holds quite dear and which I think are unquestionable,” says Paul Bass, chairman of the board of managers of the Dallas County Hospital District. “It spilled over into his family, It’s possible that he will never be made whole.”

The origins of the Anderson investigation are still somewhat mysterious. Rumors of Republican political vendettas against the liberal Anderson, reaching from Dallas County Commissioners Court to the governor’s office, permeated the hospital’s upper echelons. Another rumor had it that an unsuccessful candidate for sheriff was using the investigation to further his chances in the next election. But even those who repeat the rumors admit there’s little solid evidence to support them. (Indeed, when Governor Bill Clements was asked why he had removed Anderson from his position as chairman of the Texas Board of Health in April 1987, the governor replied, in effect, “Who’s Ron Anderson?”)

But it’s clear that the complexity of managing a public entity like Parkland-and to some extent, Anderson’s passion and political naivete-have dragged the hospital into a morass of charges and countercharges that ultimately cost Parkland more than half a million dollars in legal fees and settlements and maybe as much as $1.5 million in lost productivity. While the investigations are over, the fallout still remains, for Anderson and the hospital. “People believe where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” Anderson sighs.

THE SEVENTIES WERE A TIME OF struggle for Parkland Hospital. After years of being known as the trauma center where President John F. Kennedy was taken after being shot, the facility had deteriorated. Under administrator Jack Price, says a former member of the board, the hospital was an administrative and fiscal mess. Commissioners court held a parsimonious line on spending. Halls were dirty. The Dallas County Hospital District administration routinely heard complaints about patient care. Relations with the medical school were at an all-time low.

In 1978, a new board swept in, headed by Ralph Rogers, chairman of the board of Texas Industries. Committed to change, realizing that Parkland was one of the city’s untapped resources, they began to look for a doctor to serve as administrator; most of the best charity hospitals in the country are run by physicians. They also began looking at other ways to make changes. In the process, a thirty-two-year-old professor of internal medicine named Ron Anderson put on a dog-and-pony show for the board-dazzling them with facts, figures, and ideas about how Parkland could be upgraded. “He was completely confident, extremely articulate, and extremely passionate about the ways Parkland could be improved,” says the impressed board member.

Even so, the board hired Charles Mullins, a cardiologist. Head of Parkland for two years, he helped to pass a $90 million bond issue for hospital improvements. Relations between the medical school and the hospital began to improve. Mullins was regarded as an excellent administrator, but in 1981, he left to serve as executive vice chancellor for health affairs of The University of Texas System. Again, the board began its search fora replacement.

Anderson’s name came up early in the process, but some board members were scared off. He was too self-assured, too cocky. And he was only thirty-five. A head-hunter brought in top candidates from Chicago, Los Angeles, New York. For various reasons, no one worked out. Anderson’s name kept popping up. The board finally decided brashness and youth were poor reasons not to give him the job.

For his part, Anderson wasn’t sure he wanted the position. After growing up poor in the tiny town of Chickasha, Oklahoma, he had earned a pharmacy degree and then attended medical school at the University of Oklahoma, graduating in 1973. He came to Dallas to do an internship and residency at Parkland and the Veterans Administration Medical Center. His belief in the duty of serving the poor, which began in Chickasha, grew stronger at Parkland, where the down-and-out crowded the halls.

Anderson quickly climbed the ladder. In 1975, he was named chief resident in internal medicine at Parkland. That same year he married Sue Ann Blakeley, a psychiatric nurse he met in the emergency room. Today, they have three children and live in a quiet Duncanville neighborhood.

In 1976, Anderson was promoted to division chief of general internal medicine at Southwestern. Three years later, he was named medical director of Parkland’s emergency room. But the move from there to chief executive officer was a leap even for an overachiever like Anderson. He wondered if he was ready. Maybe later, when he was older and wiser. Besides, he liked being a hands-on doctor. His wife told him he’d be crazy to take the job.

But Rogers and Donald Seldin, chairman of the department of general internal medicine, were persistent, and eventually they persuaded Anderson to take it. Instead of helping hundreds of patients each year, they said, he could affect the lives of thousands. It was the right button to push. Anderson became president and chief executive officer of Parkland on January 1, 1982.

The head-butting started early. As medical director of the emergency room, Anderson had seen numerous cases of patient dumping: for-profit hospitals would discover that injured patients in the emergency room had no insurance, then patch them up and send them to Parkland. The practice cost Parkland hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, but what made Anderson so angry were cases where patients’ conditions deteriorated during the move or when they died in transit.

After he came out and named the hospitals who were dumping on Parkland (among them Irving Community Hospital and Methodist Medical Center) several hospital administrators, including a nun, threatened to sue Anderson. And after he and an associate wrote an article on the subject for the New England Journal of Medicine, Anderson says, an executive with the Texas Hospital Association told them they would be blacklisted and unable to get jobs in Texas hospitals. But in 1985, in large part due to Anderson, Texas became the first state to ban patient dumping. Since then, twenty-two states have followed suit. Parkland reports no current problems with patient dumping.

But even the storm created by the dumping issue was nothing compared to what was to come in 1987. On April 24, a Friday afternoon, Anderson got a call from Charles Mitchell, chief of the public integrity section of the specialized crime division of the District Attorney’s office. The call was brief and to the point: Anderson was under criminal investigation.

TO UNDERSTAND THE CHARGES that would be leveled at Anderson, it is necessary to understand the hospital’s turmoil that began in 1986. The inner workings of Parkland were undergoing changes. Administration was beefing up the internal auditing department and the hospital’s in-house security force was being upgraded. Anderson had supported state legislation that was designed to give public hospitals’ in-house security forces more clout. While their chief purpose was to provide protection for patients and escort employees to their cars late at night, at times they needed to be more than a presence. The emergency room could get rowdy; drunks and people aggravated at having to wait had been known to cause trouble. Anderson thought the hospital needed officers who could carry firearms and, if necessary, make arrests. Under the current system, the hospital’s security guards had to make citizen’s arrests and hold the prisoner until Dallas police could arrive.

Anderson looks back and sees the irony: the two departments he strengthened would soon make his life miserable. Why? He doesn’t know. Perhaps the people involved really believed that he was “dirty,” as one later told an investigator. Or perhaps they- like many politicians he had tangled with- thought that he was too liberal, spending tax money too freely and always demanding more. Or maybe they were simply ambitious. If they pulled down Ron Anderson, it might pave the way to bigger and better things for them.

The head of the security department was John Vance, now forty-five, who is described by hospital insiders as a “likable and ambitious” man. Sometimes confused with District Attorney John Vance, this John Vance was best known for running unsuccessfully for Dallas County sheriff on the Democratic ticket against Jim Bowles in 1984. He had served as assistant deputy chief for Sheriff Carl Thomas in the Seventies.

Vance had worked as head of hospital security since 1981 when he was hired by Mul-lins. About two months later, Vance hired Hal Cook, who one hospital administrator calls a “macho, make-my-day” kind of cop. Cook helped on Vance’s campaign for sheriff, and the two became friends. Cook, now thirty-four, had moved to Dallas after serving as chief of police in Mart, a small town outside Waco, where he had also worked for the police department in the late Seventies. In 1983. Cook sued the city of Waco for libel and slander. He had applied for a job with a federal law enforcement agency, and during the routine background check, the chief had been critical of Cook. The case, which asked for several million dollars in damages, was settled out of court “for a small amount,” according to one source in Waco.

But all that was before Anderson created a private posse at Parkland-or at least Vance and Cook thought he did-with the power to investigate wrongdoing anywhere in the hospital, and with protection from retaliation through a whistle-blower statute. “In a lot of respects, Vance did a good job,” says Steve Nathan, Parkland’s chief operating officer and Anderson’s right-hand man. “But he thought that because he was a police force, he worked for the attorney general, not the hospital board.”

Anderson, who had little day-to-day contact with the officers, says he became concerned when it soon appeared that the hospital security department was “making more arrests than many small municipalities.” The officers investigated a rape that occurred at Parkland instead of turning it over to the DPD or the sheriffs department; the incident caused an uproar between the hospital and the police forces. Anderson says that when hospital administrators suggested Vance and Cook curb their zealous approach, they got nowhere. “It offended them to answer to civilians,” Anderson says.

Vance and Cook also clashed with administrators over the way Vance was upgrading the security force. A number of employees were required to take exams and pass tests on the firing range that would allow them to carry guns. In 1986, Vance fired eight employees who failed to make the grade; one source says Vance was angered when, in the grievance procedures, all were later reinstated and some received back pay. “The process of certification was too subjective,” Nathan says. “We reinstated them and had them [Vance and Cook] rewrite the process.”

Other grievances against the heads of security were filed, Nathan says, including several charges of alleged discrimination against blacks or women. Reviewing the grievances, the administration found in favor of almost all the disgruntled employees, Nathan says, charging that “things weren’t always done in the letter of the law.”

Insiders say the officers became irritated by the administration’s interference in their department. Encouraged by several anonymous tipsters, Vance and Cook began to mount a campaign against Anderson, meeting with employees away from the hospital, asking questions and gathering documents about bid procedures and other hospital business. A number of employees cooperated. Some apparently believed there were serious problems with the administration.

In late 1986, Cook heard a rumor that an auditor had been fired because he had discovered wrongdoing by hospital administrators during an audit. He contacted the auditor, Tom Fleming, who had left the hospital in late October.

According to one source. Cook met twice with Fleming at a restaurant in early December. Fleming gave him copies of an audit he had performed on the hospital’s discretionary fund that showed Anderson’s political contributions to a number of state and federal legislators, all Democrats. Fleming told him he had been asked by DCHD board member and finance committee chairman Mike Myers to do an audit on the hospital auxiliary’s discretionary fund in midsummer after County Commissioner Nancy Judy, a Republican, was contacted by two Parkland auditors with evidence that Anderson had been making the contributions, then authorizing his own reimbursement through the discretionary fund. According to one source, one of the auditors was Judy’s constituent, Sam Langley, who quit Parkland several weeks later for a better job; the other was Tom Corey, who says he had performed a partial audit that uncovered the political payments. Corey says he and Fleming showed the documents to the hospital’s chief financial officer, MacGregor Day.

The two auditors showed that Anderson authorized reimbursements to himself from a fund donated by the hospital auxiliary for use by the administration on such things as employee retirement gifts. Most of the contributions were for $100 or less and included tickets to events for then-state Rep. Jesse Oliver (who had carried the patient-dumping bill), state Reps. Steve Wolens, David Cain, Wilhelmina Delco, Gib Lewis, and Al Gran-off; and U.S. Congressmen John Bryant and Martin Frost of Dallas. Also on the list were the United Negro College Fund, which re-ceived $100, and the Texas Medical Political Action Committee.

Apparently, MacGregor Day reacted to the information about Anderson with something less than outrage. Corey, who says he feared the administration would do nothing about the matter, decided to go with Langley to see Commissioner Judy.

Corey met with Judy at a restaurant near the hospital and showed her the documents. “My reaction was that it was wrong,” says Judy. She went to then-County Judge Dave Fox, board chairman Paul Bass, and Myers. It was the first Bass had heard of the political payments. He and Myers confronted Anderson, who explained that he bought tickets to events where he or Barbara Watkins, another staff member, could talk to legislators about health care issues. Many of the board members had attended the same events. The reason the money went only to Democrats was simple, at least to Anderson: Democrats were more likely to be sympathetic to his cause than most Republicans.

“We thought it looked improper.” Bass says, “The funds were available to do that, but it was a gray area.” Myers asked Fleming, who actually was employed by the board, not the hospital, to make a more thorough audit of the fund.

Hospital attorney Tom Cox says that in September 1986, after seeing Fleming’s incomplete audit for 1985 and 1986, Anderson offered to reimburse the fund. Cox told Anderson to reimburse the discretionary fund a total of $800. Later, after the audit was completed, he told Anderson to pay back another $175. After finding out that the DA’s office was investigating. Cox was determined to sponge the record clean. He went through the records as far back as 1979, to the time when Anderson was hired, and suggested Anderson pay back another $300. Eventually, a total of $1,275 was repaid.

Shortly after the audit was finished, Fleming was terminated. Cox says there was no attempt to punish Fleming and that the timing was coincidental-Fleming was given the choice of improving his work performance or quitting. One source says that Fleming was given a year’s pay-$52,000-in return for leaving, leading to speculation that the hospital was paying him off to keep quiet. Anderson says the auditor was given only two months’ severance pay to help him through the holidays. Fleming did not return D’s phone calls about the matter.

Corey, who says he was harassed by Parkland officials because they believed he was an informant, also was fired in late May 1988. According to Cox, Corey was fired for inadequate work performance and because he refused to sign a work schedule agreement. Corey is appealing his dismissal.

BY APRIL 1987, VANCE AND COOK weren’t limiting their investigations to rapes and in-house theft. Now they were investigating their direct supervisors, including Anderson. Some insiders speculate that Vance and Cook believed that their evidence could bring down top hospital officials-and certainly would garner favorable publicity to buttress Vance in another race for the sheriffs office or a move to a more prestigious law enforcement office.

The relationship between the hospital administration and the security department deteriorated rapidly. On Wednesday, April 22, Nathan, Cox, and Barry Tillman, acting director of the internal auditing department, launched their own offensive, meeting with John Willis, senior vice president in charge of security, about allegations that employees in the security department were claiming overtime they had not worked. One source claims that Cox, Nathan, Anderson, and Tillman decided to order an audit of the security department’s time and attendance sheets in an effort to find something on Vance and Cook. Anderson denies any retaliation against the officers and says he ordered a further audit after being told by Tillman of serious discrepancies in the security department: 75 percent of the time cards showed inaccuracies clocking in and clocking out, Anderson says.

The next morning, the group met with Vance to tell him there would be an investigation of his department and that Vance himself also was under investigation-one secretary had alleged that Vance had told her to claim overtime even though she hadn’t earned it. (In an almost comic cross fire of allegations and counter-allegations, Cox later was investigated for alleged coercion of a witness for telling her that the hospital might not pursue criminal charges against her if she cooperated in the investigation of the security department. Cox never was formally charged.)

About noon that day. according to one source. Cook called in three internal auditors, including Tillman and Corey, told them they were under investigation, and read them Miranda warnings in what the auditors perceived as an effort to intimidate them. They called Nathan, complaining that they were being threatened. (It wasn’t the first time Cook had read hospital employees their rights, an event that usually coincides with an arrest. Anderson says another staff member reported that Cook read her the warning after she refused to meet off-campus with him to discuss alleged wrongdoing.)

On Friday, Nathan called Cook to ask him what was going on. The two ended up shouting at each other. Later that afternoon, Mitchell of the District Attorney’s office called Anderson. “He told me that I was under investigation and anything I did to Vance and Cook would be considered harassment and retaliation and that was a felony,” Anderson says. The doctor got the message: a felony conviction would mean Anderson could not practice medicine.

Stunned, Anderson soon found out that the DA’s investigation, based on information supplied by Vance and Cook, had been going on about four months. He was not the only target: Nathan, Cox, and other administration employees were under scrutiny by the District Attorney’s public integrity section, headed by Mitchell. And their investigation soon was joined by another. On the following Tuesday, April 28, Vance wrote to the Drug Enforcement Administration alleging that large quantities of controlled substances were missing from the hospital pharmacy and that the administration was doing nothing about it. Cox says the administration was aware of the discrepancies, but that much of the problem stemmed from inventory methods and inadequate billing procedures.

Anderson eventually learned that the investigation involved another old foe: County Commissioner Jim Jackson, a Republican. Vance and Cook had gone to Jackson in late 1986 with a list of more than twenty allegations that they believed pointed to wrongdoing by top Parkland officials. Their ace in the hole was the report on Anderson from Fleming’s audit.

Why Vance and Cook went to Jackson is a mystery, though it’s well known that the conservative Jackson is critical not only of Anderson, but of Parkland itself. He has publicly complained that the gross national product could be spent on indigent health care and it still wouldn’t be enough. And he had repeatedly told Anderson and other hospital officials that people have to face the consequences of their own choices: building maternity wards for teenagers who keep getting pregnant and an AIDS clinic for those who practice high-risk, immoral behavior is tantamount to encouraging their behavior, he contends.

Jackson has no direct control over Anderson-the chief of Parkland is not hired and fired by the commissioners court, but by the DCHD board of managers. But the court oversees Parkland’s tax revenue income-more than half the hospital’s $200 million budget. As a county commissioner, Jackson had done battle with Anderson over each year’s hospital budget. Though he was not in a position to fire Anderson, Jackson was in a position to make Anderson’s life miserable. At least one insider believes that Cook could have been Jackson’s “mole” inside the hospital, reporting information that could be used to discredit Anderson.

Commissioner Jackson says he was concerned when he saw the allegations against Anderson. “I happened to note there are three Republicans on the commissioners court and all the recipients of contributions were Democrats,” says Jackson. “I just don’t understand a guy who works for the board we appointed making contributions to the other side. I didn’t think the political contributions were proper or legal.”

The two security officers related to Jackson other concerns compiled from audit reports and off-campus interviews with employees: the disappearance of $1.6 million in drugs from the hospital pharmacy; bid rigging; kickbacks; misuse of funds donated to purchase doors; and the misuse of funds placed in an account for the Texas Foundation for Health Sciences, a fundraising arm of the hospital. (Anderson says he had brought at least one of the allegations-concerning the door fund-to Vance’s attention. Now it was being turned back on him.) Jackson recommended that Vance and Cook take their allegations to the DA’s office.

Mitchell began working on the case in late February, after being promoted to chief of the public integrity section. His predecessor at the DA’s office, Marcus Bush, and Ted Steinke, head of the specialized crime division, met with Vance and Cook on February 19, 1987. According to a document obtained by D Magazine, Steinke advised the two to quickly begin collecting incriminating documents; the more quickly Anderson was indicted, the less time he would have to retaliate against them. The campaign against administration officials started by Vance and Cook now had the blessing of the District At-torney’s office.

“Vance gathered a lot of information and he turned it over to us,” Mitchell says. After notifying Anderson that he was under investigation, Mitchell called the hospital and asked that records pertaining to the political contributions be turned over. To represent Anderson, the board hired Jim Burnham, a defense attorney who had served in the DA’s office for sixteen years, part of that spent as former District Attorney Henry Wade’s second in command. Burnham knew Mitchell, and there was a feeling that he could cut through the bureaucracy and get the case handled quickly. Bumham says he turned over three large volumes of records compiled by the hospital to Mitchell three to four weeks after getting Mitchell’s request. Later, Mitchell requested and received another three-volume set of records.

The two sides disagree as to why the Anderson investigation dragged on so long. Mitchell says that he told Burnham he wanted to talk to Anderson. But Anderson says Burnham told him not to talk to anyone but him, and never told him that Mitchell had requested an interview. “I didn’t know what they [the DA’s office] were telling me,” Anderson says. For his part, Burnham says Mitchell told him that he would talk to Anderson after reviewing the reams of records they had provided. Mitchell began issuing subpoenas for even more records, including Anderson’s bank accounts.

Meanwhile, in May of 1987, the investigation made the television news for the first time, apparently leaked by Vance, Cook, or one of the auditors. Again, the motives were unclear. The investigation was still under way. Why would they go to the press with allegations until it was known whether an indictment would be returned?

Anderson says it was a difficult period. “It bothered me a lot for my little girl to see me on the news and in the paper,” he says. The board had suggested that Anderson not talk to the press until the investigation was over, so he couldn’t defend himself. Believing he had done nothing wrong, Anderson was angry and embarrassed. On top of that, he heard that a small Oklahoma town where he had a rent house and kept a bank account was awash with rumors about him. One source at the bank says a caller who identified himself as being with the DA’s office in Dallas requested Anderson’s bank records, telling the clerk that Anderson was suspected of being the head of a drug ring and laundering money through the bank. Mitchell, who denies making such a call, says the bank was defunct and that he went through the FDIC to get the records. (The bank did change hands, but it was not closed at the time the call was made.)

On June 24, the dispute between hospital administrators and the security department came to a head. Vance and Cook were fired. On a local newscast that night, the two charged that they were dismissed in order to keep a lid on the Parkland scandal. According to Vance and Cook, the administration had trumped up the charges that the two had falsified time cards.

During later grievance hearings, Vance and Cook settled with the hospital district, with the agreement that neither they nor the hospital would discuss the case. They departed with a cash settlement, Vance receiving $150,000 and Cook about $105,000. Cox, the hospital’s attorney, will not discuss the matter except to say that sometimes “economic decisions” are made to settle instead of going to court. Vance, who now is city marshal for the city of Carrollton, and Cook, who teaches at Eastfield College and works as a security consultant, declined to comment, citing the terms of their agreement.

One thing was clear early on in the investigation-Anderson had paid back most of the funds from the discretionary account. But the fact that restitution had been made did not stop the DA’s investigation. “Just because someone got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and puts the cookies back doesn’t mean that we don’t prosecute,” Mitchell says.

One June evening, Anderson says, Burn-ham called him on his car phone. His lawyer told Anderson the DA was looking at charges that he was getting kickbacks from drug companies. They discussed Anderson’s options. “He told me I could resign and they’d probably drop all the charges,” Anderson says. “I said, ’What are you talking about?’ I’d rather go to jail.’ ” Mitchell says there was no agreement to drop the investigation if Anderson resigned, but Anderson says he felt it was a tacit offer.

The payments Burnham was referring to were honorariums for lectures sometimes underwritten by drug companies; the lectures dealt with public health and Anderson’s own research. At one point, Anderson says, he was earning up to $25,000 a year giving talks. It was a condition of Anderson’s employment as director that he be allowed to continue giving such lectures. (That figure now is down to $2,000 annually, Anderson says, because he is so busy.)

The investigation had been going on six weeks and Anderson says he still didn’t know the charges against him. Trying to clear himself, he went to attorney Jack Ayres and told him he wanted to hire a private investigator to “find out if I had really done something wrong.” Anderson met several times with former CIA agent R.B. Denson, president of Southwest Security and Investigation Company. Instead of allowing Anderson to hire the investigator, the hospital board’s law firm hired Denson to do the investigation. Bass says Denson’s report was finished in three weeks and found no wrongdoing. (Denson declined to comment for this story.)

Anderson says Denson did discover that Vance and Cook were taping people over the phone without their knowledge. Denson confiscated the tapes and gave them to the FBI. (One source says that a representative from Denson’s office went to Vance and Cook and said that if they dropped their grievance against Parkland, they would not be charged with criminal wiretapping. They refused.) Fearing their offices had been bugged, Anderson had the administrative offices “swept.” No bugs were found.

Bass says that, growing impatient, he met with Charles Mitchell to find out what was taking so long. After all, the DA’s office was supposed to represent county institutions, including Parkland Hospital. He says Mitchell promised the investigation would be finished in six weeks.

After eight weeks, Bass says he and Denson met with Mitchell and Mitchell’s boss, District Attorney John Vance. Bass says Mitchell again told him he would complete the investigation in six weeks. Mitchell says his office was understaffed, he was still waiting on bank records, and he had other investigations pending as well.

In mid-August, when the case had dragged on for eight months, Bass says that he, another board member, and Denson again met with District Attorney Vance and Mitchell. “I said, ’Either indict him or forget it,’ ” Bass says. ” ’You’re holding the hospital for ransom.’” Morale was at an all-time low. Productivity was down. Mitchell said he still didn’t have all the records he needed. Bass asked what he needed and promised to bring it to Mitchell’s office the next day. Mitchell said he would get back to him.

BASS SAYS MITCHELL CALLED HIM later that day; it turned out he had all the bank records, but he wanted Anderson’s tax records, and he wanted to interview Anderson. Bass says that was the first time he heard that Mitchell wanted to interview Parkland’s head. He reported the conversation to Anderson.

By then Anderson, with Ayres’s help, had changed attorneys, and had hired criminal defense lawyer George Milner (whom Ayres had described to him as a “pit bull on a pot roast”). On August 27, Anderson, his two attorneys, Denson, Mitchell, Steinke, and one of the DA’s investigators met in Mitchell’s office. For three hours, Anderson was grilled. Several weeks later, on September 17, the DA’s office released a statement clearing Anderson.

“We concluded there was insufficient evidence of criminal intent to prosecute,” Mitchell says. The payments were made to the politicians, but the funds clearly were not tax money and were not given for some other specific purpose, Mitchell says. And Anderson did not take the contributions as tax deductions, indicating no criminal intent. While Anderson’s contributions might not have been smart, they weren’t illegal.

“It’s unfortunate that it took eight months, but until we had an opportunity to interview Dr. Anderson the investigation was not going to end,” Mitchell says. “If he had made himself available to us, there’s no question in my mind that the questions would have been answered much sooner.” Anderson says he would have been happy to talk with Mitchell earlier had he been asked.

After months of tangled would-be criminal investigations, Anderson was cleared of wrongdoing. Investigations of kickbacks from hospital vendors, conflicts of interest, and the other allegations against Parkland administrators brought by Vance and Cook turned up insufficient evidence to prosecute, Mitchell says. The inquiry into the missing drugs was handed over to the Drug Enforcement Administration, who later arrested Harry Oxman, a part-time pharmacist at Parkland who was convicted of stealing $70,000 worth of non-controlled drugs and selling them in his own pharmacy. Will Morris, supervisor of the Diversion Unit for the DEA, says its investigation of the Parkland pharmacy’s controlled substances turned up no major discrepancies.

Then came still another bombshell, dropped in televised news reports: the EPA and the Dallas Department of Health and Human Services were investigating charges that asbestos removal at Parkland was being mishandled, threatening babies in the nursery. Karen Brown, spokeswoman for the EPA, says the agency is still investigating whether the asbestos was properly removed. Anderson says the health department made thirty-three visits to Parkland and found no evidence of contamination in the nursery area, though the department did make a number of recommendations to improve the asbestos abatement.

And the IRS continues to investigate the door issue: a man named Steve Petty allegedly promised contributors a $10,000 tax deduction if they would give a $5,000 contribution and a $5,000 promissory note to purchase fireproof doors for Parkland. Though Petty collected more than $200,000, Cox says Parkland has received none of the money and only four of the doors.

Mitchell also investigated the allegations of time-card falsification against Vance and Cook but says there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. “It raised my eyebrows when they were fired,” Mitchell says. But he says it was difficult to identify an effort on the administration’s part to conspire against the two security officers. He does say that the secretary who made allegations against Vance apparently believed that she wouldn’t be fired if she implicated the security chief.

In the aftermath, Parkland’s security department has been restructured. Anderson says the current head understands that he works for the hospital district. While two-thirds of the force under John Vance and Hal Cook were peace officers, only one-third now are. The officers do investigate theft and other criminal activity in the hospital, but they cannot investigate the administration without notifying the hospital’s board of managers.

Anderson says the investigation is behind him, but its effects linger. “I think it damaged Parkland,” he says. “It wasn’t done for the good of the patients.” He says he could have used the money spent paying attorneys and settling with Vance and Cook for patient care. And the toll on Anderson and his family was high: because it was a criminal investigation, he paid $10,000 out of his pocket to defend himself. He continues to buy tickets to political events if he thinks the hospital can benefit from contacts made. Now, however, the contributions come from his own pocket.

As those storms subside, Anderson faces other struggles. County Commissioners Jackson and John Wiley Price have criticized the bid process that in June of 1988 cleared the way for McDonald’s to build a restaurant at Parkland. That issue promises to be a battle through the hospital’s budget process, which ends in September.

And in May, the Dallas Gay Alliance sued Parkland over care of AIDS patients, garnering national publicity. The suit will probably not be the last AIDS patient controversy, Anderson says. Limited financial resources for AIDS patients will continue to be a problem-as it is for other classes of patients without outspoken advocacy groups, he adds. Anderson fought off the DGA’s criticism in 1987, after it was revealed that Parkland performed secret tests on emergency room patients to determine the number with AIDS. Anderson says he would do it again to protect his doctors and nurses.

Anderson has been wooed by promises of more money and less aggravation by at least two other medical institutions. For now, he has turned them down. But one former hospital board member says that at some point, the bureaucracy and the state’s penurious approach to public health care may drive Anderson away. And that, he says, would be not only a loss for Parkland, but for the city of Dallas.

Bass and other members of the board of managers say that Anderson has their complete and enthusiastic support. Anderson says he has no plans to leave. “There are politics other places,” he says. He turned down another job because, he says, “I didn’t see the challenge. The need here is great.”

Then, cranking up that machine-gun delivery, he’s off: “Did you know that $1 spent on prenatal care saves $3.78? Prenatal care is not some wild-eyed liberal . . .”

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