Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pay Proposal for Patient Advocates on CIRM Board

The California stem cell agency is proposing to pay the 10 patient advocate members on its 29-member board of directors up to $15,000 a year for work performed in connection with their responsibilities for CIRM.

The move would implement some provisions of legislation that also removes the 50 person cap on the size of the CIRM staff. That legislation (SB1064) seems likely to be enacted this year. It is up for consideration in Sacamento next Wednesday by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Both the cap and the problem being addressed by the patient advocate proposal stem from Prop. 71, the ballot initiative that created CIRM and also wrote variety of minutia into law. The proposition requires a super-majority (65 percent) for a CIRM governing board quorum, which is based on the number of board members eligible to vote. Since many of the board members have conflicts of interest that prevent them voting on matters before the board, the presence of patient advocates is necessary to take action – much more so than many other members of the board.

A memo by James Harrison, outside counsel to the CIRM board, said,
"As a result of the requirements in Proposition 71, the Patient Advocate members of CIRM’s Governing Board are required to devote a substantial amount of time to the review of applications for research and facilities funding and the development of the standards pursuant to which research must be conducted. The time devoted to service on the Working Groups is above and beyond the time devoted to Board, subcommittee and task force meetings. In the aggregate, this service can seriously affect members’ ability to serve while simultaneously carrying out their other responsibilities, including their current occupations.

“Under the proposed bylaw, the Board would have the authority to set a daily consulting rate to compensate Patient Advocate members of the Grants Working Group and the Vice Chairs of the Facilities and Standards Working Groups for their service on the Working Groups. The Patient Advocates would continue to be limited to a per diem of approximately $116 per day for their service on the Board, Board subcommittees, and task forces. The proposed bylaw also addresses concerns that SB 1064 imposes no cap on the daily consulting rate the Board could set for Patient Advocate members of the Working Groups. Thus, it would impose a $15,000 annual cap and it would limit the daily rate to no more than 75% of the rate paid to scientific members of the Grants Working Group. In addition, the bylaw would require the Board to find that service on the Working Groups requires an extraordinary commitment of time.”
The CIRM directors' Governance Subcommittee will take up the pay plan at its meeting next Tuesday. Also on tap for the session are changes in outside contracting procedures. The agency is heavily reliant on contractors because of the 50 person staff limit.

The panel is additionally slated to discuss CIRM's grants management system, which has been a critical issue for the agency since 2007. A number of directors expressed concern at their June meeting about the staff decision to build a custom system, declaring that such efforts often have unfortunate outcomes. The staff report on the matter is not yet available to the public.

The public can take part in the subcommittee meeting at a number of teleconference locations throughout the state. The specific addresses can be found on the agenda.

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