Tuesday, April 19, 2016
LACBA Leaders Engage in Election Misdeeds
Those in the leadership of the Los Angeles County Bar Association apparently have the mentality of Cook County, Ill. politicians. They play by unfair rules they concoct, and apply them retroactively.
The Council of Sections has been gathering signatures on petitions to qualify persons to run for trustee and officer positions—in opposition to those chosen by LACBA’s Nominating Committee. Art. VII, Sec. 3 of the bylaws provides for “a written nomination signed by at least one hundred (100) members of the Association.” That means that any candidate presenting 100 signatures of LACBA members (impliedly signatures that are legible or where the identity of the signer is made clear by the name also being printed) is entitled to be on the ballot.
With nothing in the bylaws as to the format for petition, and no announced rules, the Council made up nominating forms with spaces for signatures and the printing of names. Now, after more than half of the required signatures have been collected for some candidates, rules are announced that retroactively invalidate those signatures.
This is because the rules, drafted by the Elections Committee—President-Elect Margaret Stevens, President Paul Kiesel, and Past-President Linda Curtis—require that the signature of each nominator be on a separate sheet.
N FRIDAY NIGHT, CLARK BROWN, LACBA’s general counsel and chief administrative officer, sent an email to some of the Council candidates saying:
“As you have expressed interest in the process for Trustee elections, I am sending this link to the Election Rules for 2016, and related required documents. http://www.lacba.org/election-rules
“We are also posting them on the LACBA website (a link from the homepage), and featuring a notice (with link) in the daily eBriefs and LACBA>This Week. Please feel free to let anyone interested know of these Rules and documents.”
From the Election Rules Page, four PDFs can be downloaded. Just how long that page has been posted on the LACBA website is unknown. However, the link to that page from LACBA’s homepage is something new. The WaybackMachine (showing archived pages from websites) demonstrates that as of Friday morning—at 7:04 a.m. (and 13 seconds after)—the link wasn’t there.
Without a link to the page, it was hidden.
Thus, LACBA is retroactively applying rules that, as of Friday morning, were secret.
N FACT, IT IS NOT KNOWN for certain that the rules were even in existence before late Friday. The rules are dated March, 2016. That does not mean that they necessarily were formulated in March.
If they actually were concocted last month, they should have been announced last month, before efforts were launched to gather signatures. The need to comply with undisclosed rules could hardly have been anticipated.
Indeed, the requirement of a separate sheet for each signature is contrary to the common concept of a petition. Reference in the bylaws to “a written nomination signed by at least one hundred (100) members of the Association” connotes, to us, a single instrument, though possibly comprised of multiple pages.
The prescribed form (one of the four PDFs on the Election Rules Page) has a place for the candidate’s signature, as well as that of the nominator, implying the nettlesome requirement of the candidate signing each petition.
Rendering it all the more time consuming to become a nominator, blanks must be filled in with the nominator’s address, phone number, fax number, email address and State Bar number.
HOWING JUST HOW PICAYUNE and crafty Stevens, Kiesel, and Curtis are, they have, unilaterally, shortened the time for collecting signatures by one day.
A bylaw says a nominating petition is due “on or before April 30 of each year.” Each year would include this year, although April 30 falls on a Saturday. Stevens, Kiesel, and Curtis have proclaimed in a rule: “Written nominations must be filed with LACBA’s Chief Executive Officer by 5:00 p.m. on April 29, 2016.”
Under a bylaw, the Elections Committee “shall have the power to formulate and adopt…rules and regulations for…the conduct of the annual election not inconsistent with the provisions of this Article….”
It is in that same article that April 30 is set as the last day for getting in petitions “each year.”
The conspiratorial trio lacked the power to change the time limit—at least, legitimately.
Moreover, there is no need for advancing the shut-off date to Friday. If LACBA’s office in the building at Seventh and Bixel is closed that day, it hardly matters. Ballots may be submitted electronically, under the rules; LACBA sends out e-mails on Saturdays, so it follows that it has the capacity to receive electronic correspondence that day. Too, it is unimaginable that it could not arrange to have petitions accepted on a Saturday at the building’s security desk, or stuck under the door to LACBA’s 27th floor office. Or, CEO Sally Suchil could come to work on the 30th to accept petitions.
While the bylaw is explicit that it applies to “each year,” and does not permit shortening or lengthening the time, even if the triumvirate thought they had that prerogative, why did they not follow the familiar example of Code of Civil Procedure §12a (applicable to acts required by law) and extend the time to Monday? The reason is clear.
The subtraction of a single day within which to gather signatures is but a minimal impediment, but a major display of arrogance on the part of the propagators of the rule.
Even with the scrapping of all signatures gained to date, it appears unlikely that the Council will not be able to amass the required number of signatures by April 29. Unless, of course, LACBA announces on April 28 that, under a rule supposedly promulgated in February, all signatures must be in green ink.
Under a bylaw, the “Elections Committee shall have the sole power to resolve any election-related disputes arising under these Bylaws or the rules and regulations governing elections.” That’s troubling, in light of the composition of that committee.
HE LEADERSHIP OF LACBA over the past few years has been acting contrary to the interests of the organization’s membership. That’s what has given rise to the formation of the Council of Sections, and that’s what has created the need to bring in officers and trustees of a different ilk.
The Council has made excellent selections. Here’s its slate:
President-Elect: Michael Meyer
Senior Vice President: Philip Lam
Vice President: Tamila C. Jensen
At-Large: Anthony De Los Reyes, Ronald F. Brot, Bradley S. Pauley
Affiliated Bars: Richard Lewis (San Fernando Valley Bar Association), Kelly Ryan (Pasadena Bar Association), Edward Summers (Italian American Bar Association)
Sections: William L. Winslow (Trusts & Estates), John F. Hartigan (Business & Corporations Law), Marc Sallus (Probate, Trust & Estate Planning)
All of the nominees for officer positions have served at least two full years on LACBA’s Board of Trustees.
Meyer, who heads the Los Angeles office of DLA Piper, has served two terms as assistant vice president of LACBA, and has served on the Board of Trustees of the Los Angeles County Bar Foundation.
Lam is a former president of the Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association and a former co-president of the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association.
Jensen is a former president of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association.
The nominees for the Board of Trustees are solid people, active in various bar activities.
Hartigan and Sallus were nominated by LACBA’s Nominating Committee, and the Council of Sections is supporting them.
We endorse the Council of Section’s nominees and urge that those members of LACBA who are fed up with the status quo—marked by fiscal irresponsibility, secrecy, and gall—cast their ballots for them.
Copyright 2016, Metropolitan News Company