Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A Look Behind a 13-word Matter for CIRM Directors

A bureaucratic yawner – at least that seems to be the appearance of one of the matters before the directors of the $3 billion California stem cell agency on Thursday.

But appearances are sometimes deceptive. And in this case, the issue is freighted with baggage related to the performance of CIRM Chairman Robert Klein and President Alan Trounson. And it goes to touchy matters involving CIRM directors and their oversight of CIRM.

Agenda item No. 3 simply says “consideration of appointment of at-large members and chair and vice-chair for Evaluation Subcommittee.”

The matter comes before the board as it is about to establish – for the first time in nearly five years – a formal evaluation procedure for its chairman and president. The procedure will also include the vice chairmen of the board of directors.

One could make something of a case that formal evaluations were not necessarily called for earlier because until recently Klein had declined a salary. The former vice chairman also refused pay. Now, however, one of the co-vice chairmen and Klein both receive half-time salaries, respectively $75,000 and $150,000.

Director Ricardo Azziz, chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology, Cedars-Sinai Hopsital in Los Angeles, put it this way last spring,
“We have been remiss and we are now backtracking to make sure that we have this.”
In late April, CIRM directors created their Evaluation Subcommittee. But they did not settle upon the at-large members or the chair or vice chair of the panel.

The subject triggered a contentious debate during which some directors expressed concerns about public appearances and conflicts of interests because the CIRM vice chairmen and chairman would be serving on the Evaluation Subcommittee, even though they would recused when their performances came up.

According to the transcript, Azziz said,
“There is a potential for the perception of conflict of interest. While I think it is crucial that we obtain feedback from the chair and vice chairs regarding the other members of that group performance, I think that having them as a member of the group raises a significant risk of conflict of interest. And I'm unaware of any other evaluation team, for example, a financial oversight committee, that would include the CFO that is composed similarly.”
Director Carmen Puliafito, dean of the USC medical school, said the committee created a “perception of self-dealing and self-interest.”

Nonetheless the directors approved the structure of the committee, which was presented by Sherry Lansing, chair of the Governance Committee and a former head of a Hollywood film studio. She said Claire Pomeroy, dean of the UC Davis medical school and co-chair of the governance panel, took the lead in coming up with the structure. Lansing indicated that other possibilities were rejected because they appeared to lack support.

Director Jeff Sheehy, a communications manager with UC San Francisco, offered a motion that would have made Lansing and Pomeroy the co-chairs of the Evaluation Subcommittee in addition to their roles on the governance panel.

He said they were most familiar with the evaluation process. But his effort failed after it was opposed by Klein. Initially Klein said the Evaluation Subcommittee should decide who should be the chair, although Klein normally names the chairs of subcommittees. Later, he indicated he would be willing to have the full board select the head of the evaluation panel, setting the stage for this week's meeting.

The session is available to the public at many locations throughout the state. Specific addresses can be found on the agenda. Sphere: Related Content


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