Metropolitan News-Enterprise

 

Monday, July 24, 2017

 

Page 1

 

Rick Cohen Resigns as LACBA’s Interim CEO

 

By a MetNews Staff Writer

 

RICK COHEN

Former LACBA CEO

Rick Cohen resigned Friday as interim chief executive officer of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, one day short of two months since he assumed the post, departing amidst disgruntlement over his forceful manner and his attempt to steer LACBA into the status of a public benefit corporation.

LACBA President Michael E. Meyer said in an announcement that Cohen had resigned “and I accepted his resignation.” He added:

“I’d like to thank Rick for the contributions he made to LACBA during his time with our organization.  We wish him well and success in his future endeavors.

 “LACBA will begin a search for a permanent CEO immediately.”

LACBA was incorporated Jan. 14, 1953 as a mutual benefit corporation, which is the form most bar associations in California take. However, Cohen, who is former president/chief executive at Buchalter, told trustees at their monthly meeting on July 12 that LACBA may not lawfully be a mutual benefit corporation because its “charter” declares that its assets, upon dissolution, would go to charities.

Five trustees signed a hand-printed proposal that LACBA change its form by amending the bylaws. Under Art. XII, §1 of the bylaws, if five trustees recommend a change in the bylaws, it can be considered at a meeting “thereafter.”

Cohen did not explain that the change in the corporation’s form would not be necessary if the articles of incorporation were amended to eliminate reference to charitable purposes.

Support Withdrawn

Three of the members who signed the proposal to change the charter have withdrawn their support, the MetNews has learned. They are Kevin Vick, Kristin Adrian, and Matthew W. McMurtrey.

William Winslow said he has “not formally” withdrawn support “yet,” but added that “others have so it’s not advancing at present.”

The fifth trustee who signed—Diana K. Rogers—did not respond to an inquiry as to her intentions.

In exchanges of email correspondence among LACBA members, speculation has been expressed that Cohen—whose selection for the one-year post was recommended by last year’s president, Margaret Stevens—was seeking to legitimate the siphoning of LACBA funds to subsidize charitable activities of the group’s Counsel for Justice.

LACBA has been losing about $1 million each year. As of the end of 2015, CFJ owed the association $3.3 million.

Senior Lawyers Section

Cohen was briefly in retirement before accepting the new post, going to work for LACBA on May 22. He told members of the Executive Committee of the Senior Lawyers Section on June 1 that he expected to be paid $195,000 a year, though his contract had not yet been finalized.

His predecessor, Sally Suchil, was making $374,261 in 2013, the last figure that has been made available. When she left office Jan. 13, as discontentment with her performance mounted, she received $350,289 in severance pay.

Cohen told the senior lawyers that he been spending much time at the beach, and if he were to go there now and mention what he was doing for a living, it would not be impressive. He said it was his “personal mission” to elevate LACBA so greatly that if he went to the beach when his year’s stint was finished and said, “I was CEO for a year of the Los Angeles County Bar Association” the reaction would be:

“Oh! You must be really something!”

 

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