Saturday, September 16, 2006

CIRM's Financial Watchdogs Vote for Disclosure

Financial overseers of the California stem cell agency have decided not to seek an exemption from a state law that requires them to disclose their investments.

In a 4-1 vote, the Citizens Financial Accountability Oversight Committee decided to go along with the state's economic disclosure act that applies to most high level public officials, according to Garin Casaleggio, a spokesman for the state controller's office.

The only negative vote came from Myrtle Potter, a former executive in the biotech industry.

Prior to the meeting, the committee appeared to meet the qualifications for becoming the fourth state agency to be exempted from the disclosure law. The exemption provision was enacted only this year, which allowed the Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, the Medication Errors Panel and the Alliance to Combat Trafficking and Slavery Task Force to be excused from normal financial disclosure.

The financial oversight committee held its first meeting ever last Thursday in San Francisco and reviewed the audit of CIRM by its contracted auditor as well as the controller's review of the audit. According to Casaleggio, the panel endorsed the recommendations in those audits, which CIRM has already basically implemented.

Democratic state Controller Steve Westly, chair of the panel, requested that CIRM "explore a streamlined grant process that would spur collaboration and innovation by requiring scientists to share research results," according to a press release. The release also said:
"Westly recommended the Institute’s Intellectual Property Committee review and report on the policies of research organizations that earmark a portion of research funding for grants that require annual disclosure of results."
Casaleggio told the California Stem Cell Report that the financial committee will receive a report from the controller's staff on CIRM's IP policy at its next meeting.

The committee indicated that it would meet again as soon as the second financial audit is available, perhaps in December. By that time, the state's auditor general may have completed its performance audit of the agency as well.

Casaleggio said about 40 persons attended the meeting, presumably including staff from both the controller's office and CIRM as well as a news crew from San Francisco TV station KGO, which was the only other news outlet beside this website to publish a report on the session.

For more on the disclosure exemption question, see "no time to weaken." See the item below for more on the ongoing dispute on one member's qualifications as well as the Political Muscle blog by Robert Salladay on the Los Angeles Times website.

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