The Niche

CIRM board member gets ethics warning letter, but not fine, over conflict of interest

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPCC) decided that Burnham Institute President violated conflict-of-interest rules by writing a letter to the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine appealing a decision that an affiliate of his institute was ineligible for funding.

CIRM did not change its decision, but John Reed was a member of CIRM’s governing board at the time, and the FPCC concluded that Reed violated rules by attempting to use his official position to influence a “prior-made government decision that could not be appealed.”

This ends an investigation that was launched over a year ago at the request of CIRM watchdog, John Simpson. “I hope Dr. Reed and all members of the board have learned from this,” Simpson said in a statement. Though Simpson had previously called on Reed to resign, he says it would now be acceptable for Reed to rejoin the Institute’s 29-member board. Simpson’s organization, Consumer Watchdog has posted a copy of the FPCC letter.

Based on its analysis of the situation, the FPCC concluded that “although the matter raises ethical concerns, we are closing the matter with a warning letter.” It also stated that failure to comply with the rules in future could result in fines of $5,000 per violation.

A statement from Robert Klein, head of CIRM’s governing board, said that the FPCC’s decision supported his belief that the violation of rules was inadvertent.

After the complaint became public, both Reed and Klein said that sending the letter was a mistake. At a public hearing in November 2007, Klein attributed the mistake to growing pains of a new agency, and Simpson called on both Klein and Reed to resign, saying they had shown poor judgment.

As usual, Teri Somers has a clear account in the San Diego Tribune.


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