Thursday, December 02, 2010

Questions Raised About Klein Campaign to Pick His Own Successor

The closed-door machinations involving the election of a new chair of the California stem cell agency raise important policy questions about the conduct of the agency, its openness and whether the structure of the board and chairman is in the best public interest.

Last year, the Little Hoover Commission, the state's good government agency, documented many of those problems in its 88-page report on the $3 billion enterprise. Among other things, the commission recommended much earlier action to smooth out the election process and to create a seamless leadership transition.

Additional insight into some of the issues can be found in an exchange of emails today involving CIRM board members.

The following messages went to all members of the CIRM board as a result of an item yesterday on the California Stem Cell Report, in which we asked whether Klein's Portola Valley meeting Sunday was legal under the state's open meetings law.

The first message is from James Harrison, outside counsel to the board. The second is from Jeff Sheehy, a member of the board, who responded to Harrison's memo. Sheehy raises points that go beyond the legality of the meeting, addressing the integrity of the entire election process for chairman of the $3 billion agency. Here is Harrison's email.

"Dear Board Members,

"Bob asked me to provide you with information regarding a dinner he arranged for last Sunday evening in response to a blog post by David Jensen.

"Bob wanted to create a forum for potential nominees for Chair and Vice-Chair [Art Torres, Jeff Sheehy and Alan Bernstein] to meet and exchange views prior to the Board meeting. Because of the Bagley-Keene limitations, however, he limited the dinner to a small number of board members, including himself, Ted Love, who served as interim CSO, and Robert Birgeneau, who was a colleague of Dr. Bernstein at the University of Toronto. Melissa King and I also attended.

"The participants engaged in an open and constructive discussion, and the meeting was in compliance with Bagley-Keene.

"If you have any questions, please contact me.


Here is Sheehy's response:

"Hi James,
"From what I can gather, this was just one of several informal meetings or phone calls involving several board members through which the determination of the next chair was meant to occur.  There were further conversations with the constitutional officers who have the duty to nominate individuals for chair and vice-chair with the intent to have them agree to collectively nominate a single individual for chair.

"What process was used to screen potential candidates for chair?  Were Californians, women, and/or people of color considered?  Under what board process, committee or sub-committee was this activity undertaken?  What board members were involved and what were their roles?  Why were other board members excluded?  Why did this not take place in public under established board practices including recently adopted procedures for selecting the next chair and vice-chair?

"Why was the chair’s role and salary reconfigured for Bernstein in direct contradiction of adopted board resolutions stating that the chair is not the chief executive of the agency, the chair is a part-time position, and the salary is $150,000?   Items were placed and then removed from yesterday’s aborted Governance sub-committee meeting that would have restructured the adopted budget for the agency to accommodate the larger salary for Bernstein?  How was this decided?

"I look forward to your response.
"Thank you,
"Jeff Sheehy"
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