That's what James Harrison, outside counsel for CIRM, told the California Stem Cell Report early today. He was responding to an email query yesterday concerning the reason that Alan Bernstein, a Canadian, was scrubbed as CIRM Chairman Robert Klein's favorite candidate to succeed him in the position. Official opinions of the attorney general are widely regarded to have the force of law. The way the attorney general's Web site puts it is,
“The formal legal opinions of the Attorney General have been accorded 'great respect' and 'great weight' by the courts."Here is what Harrison had to say,
“We discovered the citizenship issue when Bernstein's name was mentioned as a candidate. Given the litigation CIRM has faced over the years, there was a need to be cautious and there was not sufficient time to obtain closure on this issue before the deadline for nominations. You should know that there is an AG opinion from 1978 declaring that the citizenship requirement is unconstitutional.”As far as we can tell the first public mention of Bernstein's name as a candidate came on Nov. 29 on the California Stem Cell Report. However, his name was being bandied about privately well before that. Late on Dec. 2, Klein released a statement that Bernstein was no longer being considered because of “a technical legal requirement regarding citizenship.”
Klein's statement followed stories in the media (see here, here and here) involving closed-door meetings and concerns about conflicts of interest in connection with his attempts to engineer selection of his successor. The ostensible citizenship condition also led to a well-read story in the Toronto Globe and Mail in which scientists in Canada deplored the requirement.
Harrison's response today about the matter came four days after we asked CIRM's official spokesman to provide the exact legal language concerning what Klein said was a citizenship problem.
We still have questions about whether the citizenship question applies to CIRM President Alan Trounson, an Australian, as well as the actual date when CIRM officials became aware there might be an issue with Bernstein.
Our assessment of the situation? Klein's statement was specious, at best. At worst, it might be called something else. It appears to be a dubious effort to paper over what is serious leadership issue involving Klein and raises significant questions about his credibility. Sphere: Related Content