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After only nine months on the job as vice chair of California's stem cell agency, former State Democratic Chairman Art Torres has had his salary tripled.

The unanimous decision of the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee (ICOC) shows a board wildly out of touch with the realities of a state mired in financial crisis with record unemployment rates. Most of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) salaries have always been over inflated. Raising Torres' salary so much at a time when other state workers are facing pay cuts and mandatory furloughs sends a horrible message.

Torres had been making $75,000 in what was defined by the board as a half-time job. Today's action redefines the position as requiring 80 percent effort and paying $225,000. That means he's officially expected to show up at the office only four days a week. Adding insult to injury the board made the raise retroactive Oct. 1.

Nice work if you can get it.

ICOC Chairman Bob Klein attempted to portray the whopping pay raise as a savings because, he says, Torres is handling the duties of a director of government affairs, a position which has been vacant. Ironically when Torres became vice chair  his political connections and savvy were touted as one of the reasons he should be elected to the post.

Word from CIRM is that Torres is widely respected by the staff and is working full-time.  No doubt about his political abilities. I guess the biggest testament to those skills is that he managed in nine months to wrangle a whooping $150,000 raise out of the board and with a unanimous vote at that. Torres knew the terms of the deal when he signed on for $75K last spring.

I might buy the argument that if he in fact is working full time, a modest raise would be proper.  This amount, however,  is simply over the top -- but then CIRM's salaries usually are.

It also raises the possibility of another interesting dilemma for the board.  Chairman Klein, a millionaire, initially declined to take a salary. After four years financial reality caught up with him and a year ago the board agreed to pay him $150,000 for what it also defined as a half-time job.

How long do you think it will before he tells the board he's working four days a week and asks for a raise to $240,00?