Tuesday, December 09, 2008

$1.3 Million Price Tag on CIRM Chair and Vice Chair Compensation

IRVINE, Ca. -- An executive salary deal involving CIRM Chairman Robert Klein and a paid vice chairman, quite likely the man now heading the state Democratic Party, could cost the California stem cell agency something on the order of $1.3 million a year.

That includes $840,750 in salary and 50 percent of that figure to cover fringe benefits for both men. The $1.3 million total also assumes that both Klein and the vice chairman receive the top end of the salary range for those positions: $508,750 for Klein and $332,000 for the vice chairman.

Art Torres, head of the state Democratic Party, veteran politico and former state lawmaker from the Los Angeles area, has been nominated by state Treasurer Bill Lockyer to fill the vice chairman slot. Torres apparently has the support of two other state constitutional officers, who are the individuals who nominate vice chair candidates. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has expressed "deep concern" about the executive salary proposals, has not yet announced his nominee.

John M. Simpson, stem cell project director for Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., said he has heard that Torres will expect a salary. Torres' term as chairman of the Democratic Party expires in April. According to what Simpson has been told, Torres would work for free until that date.

We have queried Torres concerning the matter and will carry his comments when we receive them.

The CIRM board votes on a vice chairman from among the nominees put forward by the state constitutional officers. A contested election, involving a candidate who would not accept a salary vs. one who would, could put Klein in an awkward position. His salary is likely to be approved by CIRM directors meeting here this afternoon and Wednesday, and it would be unseemly to have the multimillionaire chairman taking pay while the vice chairman does not.

The actual vote on the vice chairmanship is not expected any sooner than late January or possibly later.

Based on the last figures we saw for the CIRM budget, it does not appear to include funds for compensation for the chairman and vice chairman.

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