Thursday, December 16, 2010

CIRM Directors Move Towards Wider Public Access in Chair Selection

Directors of the California stem cell agency this week opened the door to a broader and more open way of determining who should lead the $3 billion enterprise for the next six years.

They set in motion a process in which the directors will publicly establish criteria that they would like to see in a person who would succeed Robert Klein as chairman come next June. No details were forthcoming and undoubtedly not yet developed, but the process is scheduled to be completed by about Feb. 15.

The timeline may be unrealistic given that the board has only one scheduled meeting between now and then. Nonetheless the new effort will provide the public with a chance to offer suggestions and comments. The vehicle for determining criteria for the new chairman is the CIRM directors' Governance Subcommittee, chaired by Sherry Lansing, a highly regarded former Hollywood studio chief. The subcommittee is supposed to complete its work within 60 days and develop criteria that will go beyond the legal qualifications for the chair.

CIRM directors now have an excellent opportunity to reach out and engage both the public at large and CIRM's special constituencies. Reach out is the operative phrase. Passive posting of information a day or two ahead of a meeting someplace on the CIRM Web site will not draw in comments. An email and phone effort, with follow-up, would be far more successful in generating thoughtful suggestions from both the public and specific, important stakeholder groups. To be useful, background material should be available prominently on the CIRM Web site at least two weeks ahead of the first subcommittee meeting. Indeed, it is not too early for the public to file suggestions and thoughts with the agency this week and next.

Some questions for the public to consider: Does the chair need to be a nationally known scientist? Does the post require experience in the biotech industry? Must the person have extensive experience in hands-on administration? Should the person be skilled in conciliation and negotiation?

One starting point for those interested in the election is the official rundown on how the nominations and election are supposed to work.

The information was offered up yesterday on the agency's Web site for the CIRM board of directors meeting.

Written by CIRM's outside counsel, James Harrison of Remcho, Johansen and Purcell of San Leandro, Ca., the memo, however, is a bit outdated. It was prepared last August but not widely publicized by CIRM. It is also not clear that the process, even with a change of dates, will be followed exactly for the election of new chair by next June, Klein's retirement date.

The earliest meeting date for the Governance Subcommittee is likely to be sometime in January, given the upcoming holiday season. The CIRM board is scheduled to meet Jan. 26-27 in San Francisco. The subcommittee may want to tackle the issue before that meeting in order to present a tentative proposal to the full board for suggestions and possible revisions for final adoption in March 9-10 in Sacramento.

The board has a relatively light schedule during the first half of the year, only four meetings between now and August. Presumably the election for the chair would occur June 22-23 at the board meeting scheduled for San Diego. The only other meeting scheduled in the first half of the year is May 3-4 in Los Angeles.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:30 PM

    Excellent reporting in all regards. Consistent attention throughout the course of the entity's existence: says volumes about the California Stem Cell Report and its interest in good government! Wading through the myriad and multi-layered issues at CIRM demands an attention to (and scrutiny of) the details that is very challenging, to say the least.

    Excellent work.