Monday, November 19, 2007

Financial Scrutiny of CIRM Coming Up Next Week

The Citizens Financial Accountability Oversight Committee may be one of the more obscure entities in state government. It has only been around for three years. It has only met once. And it already has had a 66.6 per cent turnover in membership.

The group will meet again next Tuesday in San Francisco to consider the doings of the $3 billion California stem cell agency. And it will have plenty to chew on – everything from intellectual property to a 101-page analysis of CIRM by the Bureau of State Audits.

But few surprises are expected. This is a friendly group, created by Proposition 71 and chaired by state Controller John Chiang(see photo), who once brought one of his children to a meeting of the CIRM Oversight Committee in Los Angeles. However, the committee is charged with reviewing CIRM's financial practices and performance, which gives it plenty of leeway to make constructive criticism. Perhaps even recommending public disclosure of the economic interests of grant reviewers who conduct their activities behind closed doors, or at least seeking an opinion from the state attorney general on disclosure, as suggested by the state auditor.

Or the committee could recommend disclosure of the names of the universities and nonprofit research institutions that are seeking $227 million in taxpayer funds to build stem cell labs – names which CIRM has refused to reveal on the grounds that they might be embarrassed.

The group apparently has two new members, Gurbinder Sadana and Loren Lipson. Sadana is a private physician in Pomona, Ca., and serves on the board of directors of the Pomona Valley Hospital. Lipson was recently appointed, and no information was available concerning him/her on the state controller's web site.

One of the new appointees replaces John Hein, who was a lobbyist for the California Teachers Association. The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights challenged his appointment as illegal because he did not meet the legal qualifications. Also off the board is Richard Siegal, who runs his own oil exploration company and has given widely to health care issues. No reasons for their departure were available on the controller's web site.

Chiang is also new to the board. The other members of the committee are Daniel Brunner, a retired attorney from the Sacramento area who co-founded Affordable Health Care Concepts in Sacramento; Jim Lott, executive vice president of the Hospital Association of Southern California, and Myrtle Potter, a former vice president of Genentech who now is involved in commercial and residential real estate development. Potter was named as woman of the year in 2006 by the American Diabetes Association and serves on the board of directors of

One of items on the agenda is a proposal for a conflict of interest code, which was not available on the controller's web site at the time of this writing.

You can find the agenda and other information on the committee here. Sphere: Related Content

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