Thursday, March 10, 2011

CIRM Chair Should Back Away from Management Role, Says Top State Official

The board of the $3 billion California stem cell agency should direct its chairman to step aside from management of the organization and concentrate on oversight, it was told this morning.

In remarks prepared for delivery at the directors' meeting in Burlingame, Ruth Holton-Hodson, a representative of California's top fiscal officer, said,
"Frankly, it is difficult to uphold the appearance of accountability and objectivity when the board chair is involved in both management and oversight of CIRM's operations. Under the current model, the chair is essentially responsible for evaluating and approving much of his own work."
Holton-Hodson, deputy state controller, spoke on behalf of state Controller John Chiang. He is one of four statewide elected officials who can nominate candidates for chair of CIRM. He is also chair of the only state body charged specifically with financial oversight of the stem cell agency.

Holton-Hodson reiterated a number of points made by Chiang in his letter to the board yesterday. She said,
"It is also important to keep in mind that the chair is but one member of the ICOC Governing Board(the CIRM board of directors). Good governance must rely on the actions of the whole board, not a single member. As CIRM moves into the next phase, it is important that it be driven by a fully engaged oversight board, rather than a single individual, regardless of how talented that individual may be.

"As the Controller stated in his letter, CalPERS and CalSTRS (the state's mammoth retirement systems) both have a policy of voting in support of shareholder resolutions that separate the chair and the CEO of corporate boards because board independence is at the heart of effective governance and accountability. The public deserves no less from publicly-funded agencies and undoubtedly thought that independent oversight is what they would be getting from a body named the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee(the formal name of the CIRM governing board)."
Later today the board is expected to discuss the selection of a person to replace Robert Klein, whose term has expired as chair. Sphere: Related Content

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