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Open Letter from Dr. Grobstein to Dr. Jones re CFSAC

justinreilly

Senior Member
Messages
2,498
Location
NYC (& RI)
Dr. Grobstein posted an open letter to Wanda Jones re some shady practices at the May CFSAC meeting:

http://cfspatientadvocate.blogspot.com/2011/05/open-letter-to-wanda-jones.html


I wrote an email to wanda.jones@hhs.gov, nancy.lee@nih.gov and howard.koh@hhs.gov:

Drs. Jones, Lee and Koh:

I write in support of the open letter from Dr. Grobstein to Dr. Wanda Jones, HHS, attached below.

I appreciate that the small, short protest outside was allowed and also the speed with which the video of the meeting was posted. However, the problems of access, speech, respect and accomodation voiced by Dr. Grobstein really bother me. This can't be allowed to happen again. I was not at the meeting, but I believe Dr. Grobstein to be an entirely credible source.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the right to free speech is the "one fixed star of our constitutional constellation" around which the rest of our constitution and government revolves. The Court has been equally clear that the very heart of the right to free speech is the right to communicate about and criticize the government. The Court also has held that the right to hear is central to the right to speech, for the right to free speech is meaningless if citizens' right to hear this speech is encumbered. Both of these rights were trampled upon and must not be again.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Justin Reilly, esq.
 

justinreilly

Senior Member
Messages
2,498
Location
NYC (& RI)
Dr. Jones' response to Dr. Grobstein:

First of all, Dr. Grobstein, I assure you these circumstances were NOT at my direction. Indeed, registration is not required for a public meeting, but we are limited by capacities set by fire codes. We have little history of having more than 50 people in attendance at a CFSAC session, and we had no reason to think we would have more demand than we could accommodate this time.

As soon as I heard that people were being turned away, I went to the lobby to find out what was going on. There was a miscount of people signed in, and staff thought we were at the fire limits for the room that second morning. Only people who had already signed in and were returning were able to enter; we straightened out the counts, and in fact added 8 more chairs. To my knowledge folks who came after things were clarified were allowed entry, at numbers up to the room capacity. We had very few, if any, empty seats the morning of day 2. We also looked for several people who had not returned for day 2, so that further enabled attendance by others. I am not aware of the guards turning people away, but we will ensure that the procedures for managing building entry are clear for future meetings.

Rules governing Federal Advisory Committees require that all materials provided to the Committee as part of the proceedings must be distributed through the Designated Federal Officer or designated staff. Individual leafleting or leaving materials (including testimony) on a table in the back of the room is not permittedthe goal being that ALL materials provided are part of the public record. (We have discontinued providing copies of everything because of the cost; when we analyzed what was left over, we found ourselves recycling over 80% of the copies, not a good use of taxpayer funds. All the material provided as part of the meeting is posted on the CFSAC website, and is in a notebook at the back of the room for viewing during the meeting.) We did distribute copies of Megans testimony to the members, and it will be posted on the website, as is all material submitted. Materials at the back of the room are to be placed there solely by the DFO and staff, not by audience members. We monitor the tables for new additions and remove those items as we find them. This is how CFSAC has been managed since its first meeting in 2003, and this policy is consistent with the regulations governing Advisory Committees.

I was not aware that everyone was removed from the meeting room during lunch. That has never been our policy, as we recognize that some people bring their own food and others simply need the quiet, as you have expressed. That room is engaged by us for the whole day, and again, going forward, we will ensure that a staff member remains in the room. We have been admonished ourselves by HHS Security, for failing to observe the requirement that we accompany visitors whenever they leave the meeting space. Im sorry this seems obtrusive, but as you know the configuration of the meeting area and the nearby restroom is only minimally acceptable for a large meeting. Youre right that no one should be shouted atand so, well address these issues with the folks who are providing onsite support for future meetings.

Finally, your suggestion of recapping the recommendations at the end of the meeting is a good one. This meeting, unlike others, generated recommendations as it progressed, rather than in the flurry of the last hour or so of the scheduled time. It would have been good to restate all the recommendations at one time. Three recommendations endorsed by the Committee will be submitted to the Secretary by the end of May. She has 30 days to review them before we post them. Again, this is a standard procedure for advisory committees run by HHS.

Thank you for taking time to point out some of the logistical and other concerns with the May 10-11 CFSAC meeting. As the responsibilities for managing the Committee had already begun their transition, resulting in many new people assisting with various aspects of the meeting, there were bound to be some miscommunications and problems. We are committed to providing a fully accessible meeting, and your feedback is helpful in attending to the onsite issues.

Wanda K. Jones, Dr.P.H.