And it wasn't the kind of attention that CIRM is looking for.
Reporter Jack Dolan mentioned a “possible conflict of interest” involving Alan Bernstein, a candidate backed by outgoing chairman Robert Klein, and said Bernstein could become “one of the highest paid employees in state government.” The position of CIRM chairman carries a salary with a top range of $529,000.
Dolan reported that state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, a longtime colleague and friend of another candidate for chair, Art Torres, has decided not to nominate anyone because of misgivings about Bernstein.
Dolan quoted Tom Dresslar, Lockyer's spokesman, as saying,
"He just doesn't have enough information to alleviate his concern about Mr. Bernstein's role in crafting the (recent external review) report.”Dolan's article raised the conflict question in connection with completion of the report, which Dolan described as “glowing.” Bernstein chaired the panel, which included seven other persons. Presumably the conflict would arise if some sort of quid pro quo existed for generating a favorable report.
Dolan quoted Klein, a strong supporter of Bernstein, as saying,
"It would be quite a compliment to the agency if someone who has done such a thorough review of the agency, and has talked to everyone involved, would accept the nomination to be chair."Dolan did not include in his story Klein's Portola Valley plan to install Bernstein as an executive chair.
The board is expected to take up the chairmanship election later this month, although it doesn't have to vote on any of the candidates. It has a variety of options: One would be to pass on all the candidates, choose an interim chairman, let the dust settle and make a final choice in a month or two.
The Los Angeles Times has rarely reported about activities of the California stem cell agency over the last six years. Dolan recently wrote an overview assessment of the agency that has attracted national attention. His article has ricocheted around the Internet as fodder for critics of hESC research and persons concerned about what they perceive to be unnecessary government spending.