Friday, July 29, 2011

$150,000 Buyout at Stem Cell Agency in Management Shuffle

Even minor reorganization of an enterprise can come at a price. At the California stem cell agency, rejiggering its financial management generated a $150,000 buyout for the vice president of operations.

The payment was made when the position was eliminated and a new financial management structure created, shifting more authority to the office of the chairman of the $3 billion agency and away from CIRM President Alan Trounson. All of which was done this spring, prior to the election of Jonathan Thomas as the new chairman of CIRM.

Earlier this month, we asked CIRM whether any severance or other payments had been made to John Robson when he left the agency after his job was done away with. Melissa King, executive director of the board, replied,
"When the board approved John's appointment in June 2008 (see June 27, 2008 transcript at (pages) 233-243), it included a separation payment of $150,000 if John were terminated without cause within 60 months of his appointment. This separation payment was intended to compensate John for forgoing pension benefits from his former employer to accept the position at CIRM, where his new pension benefits would not vest for 5 years (60 months) As you know, as part of CIRM's recent reorganization, the position of vice president for operations, which John held, was eliminated. Consistent with the terms of John's appointment, CIRM made a separation payment of $150,000 to John."
Under the new structure approved in early May, a chief financial officer/director of finance will report to both Thomas and Trounson. Previously, the vice president of operations reported directly to Trounson. The move adds to the controversial dual executive arrangement at CIRM, which State Controller John Chiang, the state's top fiscal officer, has said "severely compromises" oversight at the agency.

The reorganization plan said,
"The director of finance will be jointly appointed by the president and the chair and will support, and report jointly to, the president and the chair. The president and the chair will be jointly responsible for employment and compensation decisions relating to the director of finance."
The new structure also places 12 persons out of 53 paid staff at CIRM partly or totally in the office of the chair. The total includes both the chairman and one of the vice chairs, who are both on salary.

CIRM has not yet posted a job opening for the new position. At last report, the chairman and president have not yet been able to agree on a job description.

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