The California stem agency board barely mustered a quorum at its meeting in San Diego Thursday partly because one member had just resigned from the board, thus lowering the threshold necessary to conduct business.
Under California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) rules, a super majority of 65 percent is required for a quorum. With a full complement of 29 members a quorum is 19. With 28 members it's also 19.
For the last few meetings the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee (ICOC) has had one vacant seat. Just before this meeting Tina Nova, president and CEO of Genoptix, stepped down because of the demands on her time by her company which has recently gone public.
Sixty-five percent of 27 members is 17.55. Since you can't have part of a person, that makes a quorum 18 instead of 19.
And that was the number present -- though only until 3 p.m. The board did manage to act on all agenda items requiring a vote.
The meeting had another distinction. Under the rules members representing universities, research institutions and companies are allowed to send a designee in their place. Five were present:
* Stephen Vamvakas for Ricardo Azziz
* Jacob Levin for Susan Bryant
* Kim Witmer for Marsha Chandler
* Ann Bonham for Claire Pomeroy
* Jeannie Fontana for John Reed
There have been as many as five alternates at previous meetings, but there were more total members present. This was said to be the largest percentage of alternates rounding out quorum.
The Governance Subommittee is working on procedures that would allow a limited number of ICOC members to attend meetings by video conference or telephone.
Chairman Bob Klein is so worried about the possibility of no quorum at the December meeting when the board is slated to award a substantial number of grants, that he announced he will schedule a special ICOC meeting in about 30 days to adopt the procedures to allow telephone participation in December.
All of this trouble comes from what I believe is a paranoid fear that stem cell research opponents could somehow gain control of the board and wreak havoc with a mere simple majority quorum requirement.
And so Proposition 71 passed with a supermajority rule that Bob Klein wrote into it. And now he is often hoisted by is own petard.