Delay of Inaugural Meeting of Stem Cell Research Panel Sought
Two attorneys have asked Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) to delay the first meeting of the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, the panel created by Proposition 71 to oversee administration of stem cell research funds, claiming that notice of the session was not adequately publicized, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/16).
Proposition 71, a measure approved on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot, calls for California to issue bonds to raise an average of $295 million annually over a decade to promote stem cell research and provide funds for a new stem cell research center, as well as grants and loans for lab projects. State analysts say the measure will cost a total of $6 billion, including interest (California Healthline, 12/15).
Charles Halpern, an independent public interest lawyer in Berkeley who attempted to get appointed to the oversight committee, filed a protest alleging that the official agenda and public notice for the meeting -- which is scheduled to take place Friday in San Francisco -- did not comply with the state Bagley-Keene Act, which addresses public access to meetings of state agencies.
Halpern also said the meeting planners did not provide adequate notice, gave only minimal descriptions of items on the agenda, provided no backup materials for the principal issues to be discussed and scheduled comments at the end of the meeting, "presumably after the key decisions have been made," according to the Chronicle.
In addition, Terry Francke, general counsel of Sacramento public advocacy group Californians Aware, in a letter to Lockyer gave a "strong endorsement" of Halpern's protest, according to the Chronicle.
Francke said the oversight panel "is having its inaugural meeting under circumstances that to me treat the open meeting principles with minimum respect."
In an interview with the Chronicle, Halpern said, "I think the meeting is pretty clearly unlawful, and I hope the attorney general agrees," adding, "This is not about technicalities. This goes to the whole issue of democratic participation in this important enterprise."
An unnamed Lockyer spokesperson said attorneys were reviewing Halpern's and Francke's allegations. The spokesperson added that Lockyer had not "signed off" on how the public was informed of the oversight panel's "broad agenda."
An unnamed spokesperson for Treasurer Phil Angelides (D) said that the meeting planners adhered to all state requirements for public disclosure. "Counsel for the state treasurer, state controller and attorney general all oversaw the process for the meeting notice, and the law was followed," the spokesperson said (Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/16).
Two newspapers on Thursday published editorials about the unanimous nomination by state officials of Robert Klein, a Portola Valley real estate developer who chaired the campaign for Proposition 71, to chair the oversight committee. Summaries appear below.
Sacramento Bee: Although it is "not very surprising" that Klein was nominated to chair the oversight panel, he "has consolidated too much power for our taste," a Bee editorial states. Klein has an "inside track" because he helped fund the initiative's campaign, cowrote the chair's job description and donated to the campaigns of three of the four state officials who nominated him, and the "bigger question" is whether "Klein will also anoint" Edward Penhoet, founder of Chiron and chair of Metabolex, as the vice chair of the oversight committee, according to the editorial (Sacramento Bee, 12/16).
- San Diego Union-Tribune: Klein "may very well be the best person in California" to serve as chair of ICOC, but "we wish there had been some competition for the chairman's position," a Union-Tribune editorial states, adding that with Klein and all nominees for vice chair residing from Northern California, "there is no chance for much-needed geographic diversity in the committee's leadership," which is of "vital importance to San Diego." Klein's nomination raises concerns that "anyone with enough money in California will be able to get an initiative passed and set himself or herself up as kingmaker in an area of public policy," the editorial states (San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/16).