Friday, January 30, 2009
LGLA Asks State Bar to Renegotiate Contract for Annual Meeting
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
The Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association of Los Angeles has officially joined the opposition to the location selected for this year’s State Bar and Conference of Delegates meetings.
In a letter addressed to State Bar President Holly Fujie sent yesterday, LGLA Co-Presidents Ronald Lachman and R.J. Molligan requested that the State Bar ask the Global Hyatt Corporation to ameliorate the nearly $700,000 in liquidated damages Fujie claimed the organization would have to pay if it breached its contract to hold its events at the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego.
While Lachman told the MetNews yesterday that “breaching and losing over a half a million dollars doesn’t seem like a very good solution,” he suggested that “maybe it isn’t quite black and white” and “there might be a little wiggle room for everybody involved.”
Noting the Hyatt Corporation’s history of supporting the lesbian and gay community, a prior statement by the Manchester Grand Hyatt’s marketing director to the MetNews that the hotel is “working with groups on an individual basis,” and that other organizations—including the American Association of Law Schools—have been able to relocate their events from the hotel, Lachman proposed the State Bar’s contract with the hotel might be negotiable.
“I mean, we are lawyers,” he quipped.
The letter to Fujie reiterated Lachman’s proposal, stating “we would think that a company in the hospitality business might find some ways to assist the State Bar with this problem; and that it would despair at having tremendously unhappy guests forced against their strong moral principles to attend events at its hotel.”
Fujie said yesterday that even if the State Bar were to take the LGLA’s suggestion, “it would still be a political act to breach that contract, or to even try to get out of that contract,” which is not something a pubic entity such as the State Bar can do under its state charter.
“The thing is, first, we have our limitations legally on what it is we can do, and number two, we are pretty big, and that’s why we have this big liquidated damages clause,” Fujie explained. “We need a lot of meeting rooms, but not that many hotel rooms, and there are not a lot of places who want us to have our Annual Meeting there.”
Although the LGLA noted that the State Bar had previously chosen not to support a hotel while a labor union dispute was in progress and insisted “it is just as important for the State Bar to actively support the constitutional right to marriage equality and choose not to patronize the Manchester Grand Hyatt,” Fujie said her understanding of the contract with the Hyatt was that “if there’s a labor dispute then there’s an exception or there’s a different rule under which you can get out of that contract.”
However, she emphasized, “that’s only for labor disputes.”
The dispute over the location for this year’s events is based on a $125,000 donation to the Yes on 8 campaign overturning the rights of same-sex couples to marry by Manchester Financial Group chairman Doug Manchester. The Manchester Financial Group owns the Manchester Grand Hyatt, which is operated under lease by the Global Hyatt Corporation.
For lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, couples and families, the LGLA wrote, “the issue is not just one of abstract politics or profits,” but rather “intensely personal,” and the group expressed its desire to avoid associating with the Manchester Financial Group and Manchester Grand Hyatt.
“When someone spends large amounts persuading voters to oppose our constitutional rights, we are correspondingly justified in withholding our dollars in an attempt to influence that person to support equality,” the LGLA stated. “We do vote with our dollars and out associations.”
The group further cautioned that using “business prudence” as the basis for deciding the venue of the State Bar events could force the organization and other local bar associations into the “uncomfortable position of asking their members, as well as all gay and lesbian attorneys, Bar Associations, and all attorneys who oppose inequality, to turn the choice of the Manchester Grand Hyatt into an imprudent business decision—by financially boycotting the entire State Bar Convention.”
It threatened that such a boycott “most certainly will be the result of basing a decision solely upon business prudence.”
The hotel has been the target of a boycott organized by Californians Against Hate, a non-profit organization devoted to drawing attention to the major donors to the Yes on 8 campaign, and UNITE HERE, San Diego’s hotel workers’ union, since July.
Fujie said she “certainly hope[d]” that a boycott of the State Bar events by attorneys and bar associations would not occur.
“This is a difficult situation and we would hope that in light of the fact that the State Bar did not schedule this after this issue arose…and as we cannot take action politically, that hopefully this will not end up being a situation where we have a substantial economic boycott.”
The Los Angeles County Bar Association’s delegation to the Conference of Delegates and the Beverly Hills Bar Association have also sent letters to Fujie objecting to the location of this year’s convention, but the State Bar Board of Governors declined to take any action towards changing the venue during an emergency meeting Friday.
LACBA had requested that Fujie consider allowing the Conference of Delegates to meet at the San Diego Convention Center or another alternative site.
Fujie said she will be meeting with representatives from the Conference of Delegates on Saturday and predicted there may be some discussion of the matter then.
The Manchester Grand Hyatt could not be reached for comment.
The State Bar and Conference of Delegates meetings are scheduled to take place Sept. 10-13.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company