Thursday, July 07, 2011

Simpson on Salary Coverage: Basic Journalism

Here is a statement by John M. Simpson, stem cell project director for Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., concerning questions about news coverage of the $400,000 salary of the chairman of the California stem cell agency. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog, Simpson had a long career as a newspaper editor. His statement came in response to an anonymous comment on the "salary outrage" item on the California Stem Cell Report. The comment can be found at the end of that item. What follows here is Simpson's statement.
"It's not a cheap shot to report what salaries taxpayers are paying their public servants. It's simply basic watchdog journalism. If this sort of reporting had happened in the mainstream media before the vote, perhaps the outcome would have been far different.

"The comparison to medical school deans' salaries is inappropriate.  CIRM is a 50-person state agency dedicated to funding research. It does what NIH does, except on a much smaller scale. Being the dean of a medical school is far more complex and demanding than being the Chair of CIRM, a part-time job, that should be an oversight function.

"Perhaps the deans on the board weren't troubled by the eye-popping salary because they make so much themselves. They need to think like the average person when evaluating salaries. It's clear that a well-qualified candidate was available at a fraction of the cost.

"So what if the NIH director took a cut in salary when he assumed that position? That's what the idea of public service is all about.  The salary should be reasonable, but one ought not to be able to feather the nest on the taxpayer's dime.  No mater how you spin it, $400,000 for a four-day-a-week job is too much money.

"There are questions that need to be answered.  When does Jonathan Thomas vest in the state's pension fund? What will his benefit be?"
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