Last Friday, the newly-appointed CPRIT governing board indicated publicly that they would only accept internal applications for the permanent executive role for the institution, and that current interim President Wayne Roberts will be their pick for the job.
As per the new SB149 CPRIT reform bill, the new governing board is tasked with appointing a permanent president by December 1st. With Friday’s announcement, CPRIT appears ready to make the appointment well ahead of the December 1st deadline. As per state hiring laws, the job must be posted for ten days before Roberts and the CPRIT governing board can confirm the appointment. However, at this point, the ten-day wait is merely a technicality.
Roberts, however, remained self-effacing in the wake of the news, stating only that he would apply for the job provided he meets the qualifications.
Roberts is a safe, reasonable pick for the permanent role, considering that he took over the interim executive position last December after the CPRIT scandal broke. Since then, he has been at the center of the reform effort, working as an intermediary between CPRIT and the Texas legislature to craft the reforms that led to the re-opening of the $3 billion dollar cancer fighting agency. Prior to his role at CPRIT, Roberts has worked largely behind the scenes in Texas, playing a low-profile role as Governor Rick Perry’s budget director.
UT Southwestern Medical Center researcher Dr. Kevin Gardner, himself a recipient of CPRIT awards in the past for his own cancer research, recently testified, according to The State, ” . . .that he was grateful for Roberts and lawmakers rebuilding the agency but lamented the freezing of funds during the moratorium.”
“This is the single most frustrating aspect I’ve had professionally in my career,” Gardner said. “It goes without saying that cancer doesn’t take the last 10 months off, but many of us trying to find it had to.”
The CPRIT governing board, however, tried to characterize their choice of Roberts as a more expeditious, utilitarian choice, based on the need to quickly find a permanent president:
“So much of the discussion focused on the last 12, 14 months and how important continuity is under these circumstances,” said Pete Geren, a former Democratic congressman who now sits on the new CPRIT board. “We don’t have time to reach outside and get somebody else up to speed.”