Friday, August 06, 2010

CIRM Directors Pay Proposal Advances; Another Openness Failure on Grants Management System

The California stem cell agency is set to pay 1/3 of its 29-member board of directors as much as $15,000 a year.

The action, however, is contingent on passage of legislation (SB1064) that is now in the “suspense” file in the Assembly Appropriations committee. Legislation in “suspense” is usually on hold pending action on the state budget, which is not likely to be adopted any time soon.

According to a CIRM spokesman, the agency's directors' Governance Subcommittee on Tuesday approved the new pay policy, which is aimed at compensating the 10 patient advocate members of the board for the extra time that they must put in. The policy will go before the entire board later this month.

A large part of the burden placed on patient advocate members of the board stems from the conflicts of interests built into the board by Prop. 71,  drafted by CIRM Chairman Robert Klein and a handful of others. The ballot initiative requires a super-majority (65 percent) for a CIRM governing board quorum, which is based on the number of board members eligible to vote. Since many of the board members have conflicts of interest that prevent them voting on matters before the board, the presence of patient advocates is necessary to take action – much more so than many other members of the board.

According to Don Gibbons, CIRM's chief communications officer, the subcommittee took no action on staff reports on CIRM's ongoing efforts to build a custom system to deal with its $3 billion in grants. Directors asked for a report after expressing concerns the effort could be an expensive failure. Details on their discussions will have to wait for release of the transcript.

However, once again, CIRM failed in its responsibility to the public by not posting the reports publicly in a timely fashion. The failure effectively bars the public from being able to make informed comments and violates CIRM's promise of highest standards of openness and transparency. Two reports were prepared. One did not appear until one business day before the Governance Subcommittee meeting. The other appears to have been posted on CIRM's Web site only minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin.

We will have more on the grants management system when the transcript is posted. Sphere: Related Content

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