Monday, December 14, 2015

The Klein Legacy: Vestiges of California's Stem Cell Past to be Scrubbed This Week

No doubt exists that Bob Klein left his mark on the $3 billion California stem cell agency. Sometimes he is described as the father of the agency. He was its first chairman and led the drive to win voter approval of the research effort in 2004.

Bob Klein, Elie Dolgin photo
The agency has been under new leadership since 2011. And this Thursday some of the marks left by Klein are going to be erased.

Minor stuff now, but they recall some of the issues that rumbled through the agency in earlier days.

For example, the agency’s rules currently restrict to 12 the number of employees in the chairman’s office out of an agency total now of 55-56. The restriction is almost certainly to be removed on Thursday by the agency’s governing board. A memo by agency general counsel James Harrison said mildly that “disagreements” existed during the Klein regime about staff resources, leading to the limitation.

Those disagreements were actually sufficiently harsh that the stem cell board at one point in 2007 felt compelled to strip six employees from Klein’s office of chair, limiting him to four.

During Klein’s tenure, he also scheduled board meetings with jam-packed agendas that often took two days. The lengthy sessions tested the patience of board members, some of whom fled for the doors in an effort to catch their flights home as the hours wore on. The result was that the supermajority, legally required quorums required to do business were lost.. (See here and here for
more on quorum problems at the agency.)

To help avoid those unseemly situations, rules allowing telephonic attendance by key members of the board were enacted. Nowadays, the meetings proceed with dispatch, often ending early, much to the satisfaction of board.

So the board on Thursday plans to expand the use of telephonic meetings, which could well be a plus and a minus. The move will increase the number of offsite locations where members of the public and researchers can weigh in remotely with comments during meetings, a feature that has been lightly used. On the other hand, there will be less face-to-face contact between members of the board, something that is an important aid in finding solutions to touchy problems.

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