Friday, April 8, 2016
LACBA Nominating Committee Displays Short-Sightedness
Sally Suchil, Who Had Been Coming to Work Around 4 p.m., Is Showing Up Earlier
By ROGER M. GRACE
Guess who wasn’t included among persons chosen by the Los Angeles County Bar Association Nominating Committee for election to the Board of Trustees.
Answer: Three vocal representatives on the Council of Sections—a group comprised of delegates from 18 LACBA sections that are concerned about fiscal recklessness on the part of the association’s leadership and propensity for attempting to bully the sections—who were proposed for nomination by their sections.
There are nine trustee positions up for election: three earmarked for persons who are members of at least one section, three for members who belong to an affiliated bar association, and three for at-large members.
Although the Nominating Committee acts in secrecy, some of the officers of the Senior Lawyers Section were able to find out who had been recommended by the sections for the Nominating Committee’s nod. I don’t know who the source was; I do know who it wasn’t: my wife, Jo-Ann, who was on the Nominating Committee (and took a pledge of confidentiality).
Of those proposed by sections for nomination were section chairs Ronald F. Brot, Family Law; Bradley S. Pauley, Appellate Courts; and William L. Winslow, Estate and Trusts, all of whom spoke before the Board of Trustees at its Nov. 18 meeting, conveying their sections’ frustrations and concerns over LACBA’s performance, and a proposed bylaw change stripping sections of any degree of autonomy.
Not nominating even one of these highly articulate individuals, committed to preservation of the County Bar at a time when sections are talking of seceeding, is a spit-in-the-eye to the Council of Sections. The times call for unity, not freezing out those urging reforms.
(John F. Hartigan, who was proposed by the Business and Corporations Section and was nominated by the committee, is, I understand, a delegate to the Council of Sections, though he has not stood out—as Brot, Pauley and Winslow have—as a leading member. An additional Council of Sections member who was rejected by the Nominating Committee is Maria Sountas-Argiropoulos, chair of the Commercial Law and Bankruptcy Section.)
Ramrodding took place last year at the Nominating Committee meeting. I’m reliably informed that Paul Kiesel, then the incoming president (now president), came in with his slate and declared: “You’re either for me or you’re against me.”
His slate was rubber-stamped.
No one ran against the Nominating Committee’s (that is, Kiesel’s) candidates. This year, it looks like it will be different.
Among those who apparently will be nominated for trustee positions through petitions (only 100 signatures are needed) will be Richard A. Lewis, a former president of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association, and Anthony De Los Reyes, who previously served on the Board of Trustees. Pauley and Winslow say they are considering running.
Nominating Committee candidates for the three officer positions are also likely to be challenged, I’ve learned.
LACBA’s top administrator, Chief Executive Officer Sally Suchil, is seen by many as a big part of the problem. She was mentioned prominently at the March 16 meeting of the Council of Sections, unfavorably.
Coming to light is that Suchil is a “night person.” Well, so am I, and so is about 30 percent of the population, according to studies. But few have the luxury of coming to work, as Suchil did until quite recently, at about four in the afternoon.
Her arrival time “just got later and later over the years,” a person in-the-know informs me.
So, when Suchil did show up, there would be more than one staff member, desiring to have a face-to-face discussion, waiting to see her.
That did put a crimp in operations.
“Most of the line staff barely know her, since she’s not there,” my source says. “I don’t think she knows the names of most of the line staff.”
Those in higher staff positions find her “controlling and micromanaging” and wish she would “allow them to do their work with more trust and respect,” according to my source.
The person continues:
“She needs everything approved by her—even the language in meeting notices.”
At the aforementioned meeting of the Council of Sections, complaints were voiced about the long delay in getting approvals of proposed programs, with some events having to be cancelled because the required assent did not come in time. One of the axed meetings, it was related, involved three persons who had been lined up to speak who were to be flown in from Washington, D.C.
My informant attributes the “red tape, bureaucracy” that causes these delays to Suchil’s insistence on every action requiring her personal go-ahead.
Morale is “very low” among LACBA staff members, the person says.
Suchil, I’m informed, is a “member of every single listserv in the bar,” monitoring messages, and paying particularly close attention to those circulated within “problem” sections.
The Senior Lawyers Section, I would wager, is viewed by Suchil as being in that category. Our chair, John Carson, a former LACBA president, is also chair of the Council of Sections. Two officers of the section, LACBA past president Charles E. Michaels and Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association Co-Founder Nowland C. Hong, are key players in the council.
Michaels revealed at the March Council of Sections meeting that Suchil’s annual compensation has soared from $197,851 in 2010 to $347,261 in 2013. The latter figure includes a $20,000 bonus.
In 2014, I’m advised, the amount of her bonus was $40,000.
And this comes at a time when LACBA is jacking up prices for events—to unreasonable levels—because it’s in the red.
The association’s 2013 federal tax return (Form 990), provided by Michaels, shows LACBA Associate Executive Director Bruce Berra receiving total compensation in the amount of $200,998, Associate Executive Director/General Counsel Clark Brown collecting more than Berra—$219,823—and Indigent Criminal Defense Appointments Directing Attorney Ezekiel Perlo being paid $182,656.
Jason Ysais, LACBA’s media relations director, has not responded to an inquiry made on Wednesday concerning that bonus, or any bonus last year, and did not confirm or deny the information as to the hours Suchil has kept.
Copyright 2016, Metropolitan News Company