By Michael P. Norton
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE — The Baker administration is keeping a lockdown on information pertaining to its selection of a high-ranking official to continue carrying out the $1 billion, 10-year life sciences law approved by Gov. Deval Patrick in 2008.
Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash, who co-chairs the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center Board, was authorized by the board in late June to name a three-person subcommittee charged with delivering a candidate in July for the prominent post.
Susan Windham-Bannister, the center’s founding president and CEO, participated in her last board meeting in May, more than a year after she announced that she planned to resign. While Patrick was still governor, the center paid the search firm Russell Reynolds $105,000 to $110,000, but that search ended without a candidate being nominated.
After Baker took office in January and swore Ash into his Cabinet, Ash said in May that center officials would restart the search for a successor to Windham-Bannister, who was paid $285,000 annually to oversee center grants and loans that leverage private investment. Ash deputy Michael Kennealy is holding down the post on an interim basis.
During a late June meeting, the center’s board authorized the creation of a three-member subcommittee with the goal of producing a nominee for the post for the board’s consideration at its July meeting.
Asked by the News Service about the date of the board’s next meeting, Ash spokesman Paul McMorrow told the News Service this week that board members planned to hold a retreat this week. Subsequently, center spokesman Angus McQuilken told the News Service in an email that the retreat “has been postponed until the CEO search is concluded.”
Ash won’t talk about any aspects of the search. “The Secretary is not commenting on the search while it is underway,” said McMorrow.
McMorrow declined to name the three individuals Ash may have named to the search subcommittee that the center authorized him to create. He also declined to say whether the board still planned to meet in July, saying the date of the next meeting is unclear.
Windham-Bannister announced in May 2014 her desire to wrap up her six-year tenure. Ash’s predecessor, Greg Bialecki, said they hoped to find a new CEO by the end of 2014. Like Bialecki, Ash aides have declined to say how many candidates are in the mix.
A spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, an industry group that represents life sciences companies, had no comment on the search process.