Monday, December 21, 2015
LACBA Is Nearly Breaking Even, Kiesel Says
Information Is Given With Insistence That It Be Kept Secret
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles County Bar Association President Paul Kiesel met late Thursday afternoon in a closed-door session with leaders of LACBA sections, in what was termed a “study hall,” to brief them on the association’s finances, with the bottom line being that with income from continuing legal education (“CLE”) packages and other sources, LACBA is nearly breaking even.
This was in contrast to Kiesel’s remark at a Board of Trustees’ meeting on Nov. 18 that LACBA is “losing a million dollars a year.” He backed down under questioning by a trustee, saying he did not have an exact figure.
Those attending Thursday’s meeting were told not to repeat what they heard. One of them reported:
“We were told that we could not take down any details and they would not give us slides.”
The person said that the message was that “if you take event revenue and the direct costs associated with events and subtract the cost of the Section administration and support, there is about a 550,000 deficit but if you add in revenue from CLE plus, Section dues and some of CLE in a box, you get closer to break even.”
Pro Bono Spending
The financial statement for the Counsel for Justice—the pro bono/charitable arm of LACBA—shows, for the period ending Dec. 31, 2014, a forgiveness of a debt to LACBA of $546,375, with a remaining debt of $23 million.
However, an attendee at the “study hall” said:
“The pro bono projects the Bar supports now have enough grants and donations that they are break even on a direct cost basis.”
The meeting was called in response to what two former LACBA presidents—John Carson and Charles Michaels—referred to, at the Nov. 18 meeting, as “angst” among section members. A “Council of Sections” (no longer described as “interim”) was formed in light of common concerns over LACBA policies, and five sections have discussed the possibility of withdrawing from LACBA.
Proposed Bylaw Change
The event immediately precipitating formation of the counsel, chaired by Carson, was a proposed bylaw change that would formally remove from the sections any control over their own finances—reflecting a policy, already in place, that contravenes the existing bylaw. The change was approved in early November by the Executive Committee, comprised of the officers, and was included with materials supplied to trustees with the agenda the evening prior to their Nov. 18 meeting.
LACBA Senior Vice President and Treasurer Michael Lindsey has said that approval at that meeting was expected.
However, members of sections learned of the proposal on the afternoon of the meeting, and several showed up, with eight of them, including Carson and Michaels, speaking. They asked that action be deferred for two months.
Prior to their remarks, Assistant Vice President Duncan W. Crabtree-Ireland moved that the bylaw change be approved. After the section leaders spoke, with prompting by Kiesel, Crabtree-Ireland amended his motion to defer action on it until January.
Also of concern within sections are proposed CLE rules that would forbid free courses, and require charging prices ranging from $55 a hour to section members to $120 an hour for non-members of LACBA.
The attendee at the Thursday meeting said, in an email:
“Under a formula blessed by the outside auditors there is about $1 million of general Bar overhead that is allocated to the Sections. I think it is finding a way to cover some of this overhead that is driving some of the proposed CLE guidelines.”
Another attendee remarked:
“The session was useless and pretty boring.”
Copyright 2015, Metropolitan News Company