John Chiang, who heads a Prop. 71-created committee that reviews the financial practices and performances of CIRM, said in letter to the agency's governing board,
“It is clear that the current selection process is fundamentally flawed. The taxpayers who provide the funds for CIRM must be assured that the chair and vice chair are selected in an open, transparent process – not through a backroom deal or by default because a deal has fallen apart.”CIRM directors are scheduled to meet on Wednesday to consider the choice for a chairman to replace Robert Klein, a Palo Alto real estate investment banker, whose term is expiring. The only other candidate besides Klein is Art Torres, one of two vice chairs at CIRM. However, Torres withdrew from the running last week, clearing the way for Klein to continue to serve.
Chiang's letter referred to the ruckus over Klein's attempt to hand pick his own successor. The move failed following reports of closed-door meetings and conflicts of interest. The flap attracted attention in the international stem cell community, attention that CIRM did not welcome.
Chiang, a Democrat, said he was strongly recommending that the CIRM board suspend the selection of the chair and vice chair and ask that the nominations be withdrawn. Chiang said,
“The first step in a new process should be for the (directors')Governance Subcommittee to have a full, public discussion of the necessary criteria for a new Chair. The first question the Board should examine is the role of the Chair of the ICOC and how it differs from the role of the President. While I understand that Proposition 71 provides for a unique, co-leadership model, it is critical from a good governance perspective that there is a clear delineation of duties and decision-making.The committee that Chiang heads is the only state entity that is charged legally with regularly examining the operations at CIRM.
“What makes a governing board effective is long-term transparency and accountability. The ICOC's most important role - to provide independent oversight of CIRM management - is compromised when the ICOC chairman is essentially serving as the CIRM CEO.
“It also is important to keep in mind that the Chair is but one member of the ICOC Governing Board. Good governance must rely on the actions of the whole Board, not a single member. While the current structure may have been necessary as CIRM was in start-up mode, as the Institute moves into the next phase, it is important from a good governance perspective that it be driven by a fully participating oversight board rather than a single individual, regardless of how talented that individual may be.
“The ICOC has a responsibility to the taxpayers of California to conduct its business in an open and transparent manner. The most effective way the ICOC can assure the public that the Chair and Vice Chair selection process was fair and resulted in the best candidates is to restart the process in a transparent manner.”
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