Monday, June 5, 2017
LACBA’s CEO to Draw Lower Pay Than Suchil
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Rick Cohen, who is serving as the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s interim chief executive officer, has clarified the anticipated length of his employment and revealed that his salary is expected to be set at $195,000 per year.
LACBA announced his appointment on May 19 and said that he would start work on May 22 and “serve through 2018.” Cohen told members of the Senior Lawyers Section Executive Committee Thursday night that he will actually be at the post for 12 months.
Incoming Los Angeles County Bar Association Interim Chief Executive Officer Rick Cohen addresses the Senior Lawyers Section Executive Committee.
With respect his remuneration, he said:
“My contract has not yet been signed, therefore I don’t know that my salary is finalized. However, I’m happy to tell you what I’ve agreed to accept is $195,000 a year.”
He told the committee:
“In accepting this position, money was not the object.”
Cohen said he had been able to go into retirement—following 10 years as president and CEO of the Buchalter firm and a stint as interim CEO of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System—“because I’m not in the position of having to earn great sums of money anymore.”
“I’m comfortable with that salary and I hope the organization is comfortable with it, too. I don’t think that I should not be paid because I think it is important that people be compensated for their professional efforts.”
He said he won’t be paid for the period from July 15 to Aug. 15 when he and his wife will be in New York, pursuant to plans they had previously made, to celebrate his 65th birthday.
“I will work, but I will not be paid” during that period, he disclosed, adding:
“I will come back on my own dime, once or twice…to see staff.”
That would render his pay for the 11 months to be $178,750.
Cohen noted that he will be drawing a “significantly smaller sum” than his predecessor. However, considerable controversy surrounded the amount of Sally Suchil’s pay which burgeoned from $197,851 in 2010 to $374,261 in 2013.
She left office Jan. 13, receiving $350,289 in severance pay. Her salary at the time of her departure has not been disclosed.
LACBA on May 23 declined to state what Cohen’s salary would be. A spokesperson told the MetNews:
“We respectfully decline to provide his salary because divulging his personnel information would be against LACBA’s interests in the very near future when it attempts to search for and negotiate with candidates for a longer-term CEO. Pursuant to statutory reporting requirements, LACBA will disclose the 2017 compensation of its key management on the IRS Tax Form 990 in November 2018. If LACBA determines that it will not jeopardize its interests to disclose Rick Cohen’s salary prior to this date, it will do so.”
Cohen said at the meeting Thursday that he would “suspect” the reluctance to state his salary was because his “contract has not been finalized.”
LACBA did not note in its May 19 announcement of the appointment that it was subject not only to contractual details being worked out, but also to approval by the Board of Trustees. That ratification has not yet occurred.
Section Email Lists
Cohen was questioned by Nowland Hong, outgoing Senior Lawyers chair, as to how he views LACBA’s refusal to provide sections leaders with the email addresses of the section members. The temporary CEO said that if he were the “omnipotent overlord” of LACBA, he would say: “The email lists will be there tomorrow.”
However, it is necessary for him to consult with others as to the reasons the lists have been withheld, he advised.
He added, however:
“I believe transparency is very, very important.”
Past President Harry L. Hathaway made note that LACBA has been losing about $1 million a year, partly because of gifts to the Counsel for Justice, the charitable arm of the association.
Cohen said it didn’t take him long “to realize we have financial issues” and said he is “aware that CFJ enjoys LACBA subsidies.” He remarked that there might be a better way for LACBA to discharge its goal of serving the public, stated in its articles of incorporation as one of its purposes, than through CFJ.
The new bar executive pledged:
“A year from now, when you look at LACBA’s business model, it will be no less than break-even.”
He said he hopes the group will be making a profit, adding that he is “fairly certain you will not have to worry about the demise of this organization on my watch” or because of anything he would do.
Cohen admitted he has not been a member of LACBA since 1997, explaining that he was then “working around the clock” and “didn’t have the time to do LACBA.” He said that he comes to the organization as “as close to a tabula raza [blank slate] as you can get.”
In the short time he has been at LACBA, he said, he has grasped that there is an acute problem of dwindling membership, and that recruiting new members will be his first priority.
He told those at the meeting that he is not “the best guy you could have hired,” but assured them:
“I’m a pretty good find.”
At the Beach
Cohen said he been spending a good deal of time at the beach. If he were to go there now and people were to ask what he does for a living, he said he would anticipate a ho-hum reaction to his saying he is the CEO of the county bar.
He declared that after he leaves his year-long post at LACBA and goes “back to the beach,” he would hope for a different response. Cohen remarked:
“[When] they say, ‘What did you do?’ and I say, ‘I was CEO for a year of the Los Angeles County Bar Association,’ I want them to say, ‘Oh! You must be really something!’ ”
Cohen said that drawing that sort of reaction is his “personal mission.”
Participating in the meeting were four former LACBA presidents, who are members of the executive committee. They are, in addition to Hathaway, who is a former chair and co-founder of the section: incoming chair Charles Michaels, immediate past chair John Carson, and (by telephone) past chair and section co-founder Patricia Phillips.
Copyright 2017, Metropolitan News Company