Image Copyright Sever Oprisan, 2013. Used under license from

Image Copyright Sever Oprisan, 2013.
Used under license from

The Department of Public Health illegally paid volunteers on a peer review committee tasked with examining applications for state stem cell funding, according to auditors.

The department paid $25,863 to volunteers members of the Stem Cell Research Peer Review Committee, auditors said in their report, and the payments violated state law.

Department officials acknowledged they could not pay the volunteers under the stem cell research law, according to auditors, but attempted to justify payments using another law.

However, DPH failed to get the payments approved properly, making them illegal.

Connecticut’s Stem Cell Research Grant Project was established in 2005 to fund research on embryonic and adult human stem cells, to the tune of $100 million in state funds over a decade.

The first $20 million was set aside by the General Assembly, while the remaining 80 percent of the money came from the Connecticut Tobacco Settlement Fund.

Gov. Dannel Malloy recently diverted the tobacco windfall into the general fund and issued bonds to fund stem cell research.