Group Alleges Conflict of Interest at Stem Cell Agency
The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is accusing the president of the Burnham Institute for Medical Research of violating California's conflict-of-interest law in an incident involving his dual role as board member of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine's oversight committee, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
In August, John Reed, the Burnham's president, sent a letter to the stem cell agency contesting its decision to withhold a grant from the Burnham that already had won approval from the board and an independent panel of scientists.
Due to his position, Reed did not participate in the review of the Burnham's grant request. However, he asked Robert Klein, the agency's chair, how to voice his concerns after the grant was denied. Klein recommended that Reed send a letter to the agency's scientific staff.
In his letter, Reed said he addressed himself as the leader of Burnham, not as a board member of the stem cell agency.
As a result of the letter, John Simpson of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights filed a formal complaint last week with the state's Fair Political Practices Commission. If the commission finds wrongdoing, it could levy a fine of up to $5,000 against Reed or Klein (Somers, San Diego Union-Tribune, 11/22).
"Some institute watchdogs and at least one board member are urging Reed to resign, and he should - to demonstrate that the institute's rules have meaning," a Sacramento Bee editorial states. "But the bigger problem is Klein, who created an excessively large oversight board ... that is a governance nightmare."
"Klein, as we've said for some time, needs to step down," the editorial states. "Beyond that, the Legislature needs to reorganize the oversight board, making it smaller and less rife with conflicts," the editorial states (Sacramento Bee, 11/25).