Torres (at right) joined CIRM in March on a half-time basis, with a $75,000 salary. Today's action gives him a $150,000 boost for work on an 80 percent basis.
Michael Goldberg, a CIRM director and general partner with Mohr, Davidow Ventures, a venture capital firm in Menlo Park, Ca., said Torres has picked up the work that previously was done by a fulltime legislative relations staffer. CIRM Director Jeff Sheehy, a communications manager at UC San Francisco, described Torres' work as “extraordinary” in telling the CIRM story to lawmakers.
No one at the directors meeting at Stanford University spoke against the salary move. However, John M. Simpson, stem cell project director of Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., was monitoring the proceedings in Southern California via an Internet audiocast.
Responding to a query, he said,
"At a time when California is in a severe economic crisis, state workers' salaries are being cut and they are facing mandatory furloughs, this raise is highly inappropriate. Art Torres knew the terms of the job when he took it. He should have been happy simply not to face the cuts endured by other state employees."Torres has made a career as a public servant and politician. The former head of the state Democratic Party (1995-2009) had a 24-year career in the state legislature. He was first elected to the state Assembly in 1972, later served in the state Senate and became the first Latino nominated as a Democrat for statewide office(insurance commissioner).
Torres' talents and experience are unique within CIRM. No other director possesses the web of political connections and government experience that Torres brings to the state-financed stem cell effort. He also has maintained his political roots, campaigning last weekend in Hayward for a candidate for the Alameda county board of supervisors.
The candidate is Nadia Lockyer, wife of the state treasurer, Bill Lockyer, who is a friend and former state legislative colleague of Torres. Lockyer also presides over the sale of state bonds, which are virtually the only source of funding for the $3 billion stem cell agency.
The other vice chairman is Duane Roth, a San Diego businessman who has declined a salary.