Monday, October 30, 2017
LACBA Close to Selecting New Executive Director—Meyer
Trustees Adopt Policy Proposed by Kabateck Allowing Press to Electronically Record Board of Trustees Meetings; President Agrees to Post Warning Sign
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Los Angeles County Bar Association is nearing the selection of a new executive director, the group’s president, Michael E. Meyer, told members of the Board of Trustees at its monthly meeting Thursday night, saying he hopes a choice will be made Nov. 7, pending a check of references.
He invited all trustees to attend a vetting session that night at which the three finalists—whose names were not disclosed—will make presentations and be interviewed. A list of eight promising applicants was narrowed to three by a committee, Meyer explained.
It is anticipated that candidates will be questioned closely on what they view the role of an executive officer to be. By the time Sally Suchil—who was selected in 2009 after a nationwide search—left office last Jan. 13, with the title of “chief executive officer,” many saw her as an autocrat, whose salary and powers had swelled, and who was largely to blame for many of the association’s deficiencies which were resulting in diminishing membership.
Rick Cohen on May 22 began serving what was expected to be a one-year stint as interim chief executive officer but resigned on July 21 amidst displeasure over his domineering manner and proclamation that LACBA had to change from a mutual benefit corporation to a public benefit corporation.
The meeting on Nov. 7 will be closed to the press, Meyer, who is chairman of the Los Angeles offices of DLA Piper, announced.
However, a policy adopted in 1990 states that all monthly meetings of the board are open to the press, except when the board goes into executive session—which Meyer pledged will be a rare occurrence—and updated it by specifying:
“All press representatives may bring the equipment they normally use to report on stories, including electronic recording devices.”
President-Elect Brian Kabateck, of Kabateck Brown Kellner LLP, moved for acceptance of the policy, discussed in principal at the Aug. 23 meeting and formulated after input was received from numerous LACBA members.
Forsheit Speaks Out
Trustee Tanya Forsheit expressed concerns, as she did at the August meeting, that privacy rights of board members would be impinged upon if their words were electronically recorded without their consent.
At that earlier meeting, trustee Sheri Bluebond, chief bankruptcy judge of the Central District of California, proposed an outright ban on reporters being present. She was absent from Thursday’s meeting.
Forsheit, of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz PC, insisted that “press who are present must provide notice” if they are using recording devices.
Kabateck declined to accept an amendment to his motion to incorporate that requirement. He said of the proposed policy:
“I think it’s perfectly fine the way it’s stated.”
Warning on Agendas
Meyer remarked that trustees should simply “assume” the meeting is “being recorded.” He suggested that it could be set forth in agendas that “the press is invited to come” and reporters might use electronic recording devices.
Forsheit backed down from her stance that express notice be required of reporters but declared that “a sign, at a minimum, has to be created” to alert trustees, at the meetings, that they might be electronically recorded. Meyer saw no problem with the posting of such a sign, and Kabateck assented to an amendment to his motion to add the words:
“Persons attending the meeting shall presume they are being recorded.”
Trustee Diana K. Rodgers, participating by telephone, expressed some uncertainty as to what was going on. Forsheit advised that there will be “signs everywhere” saying that the meeting is “being recorded.”
To that point, no mention had been made of multiple signs.
Rodgers, of Nemecek & Cole, reiterated opposition she previously expressed to the prospect of trustees being recorded “if they don’t want to be recorded.” Although she did not attend the August meeting, she sent an email to Meyer and Kabateck in advance of that meeting saying:
“[C]ould you please advise the Board that I request that the Press policy state that if a LACBA member objects to being recorded by the Press, then the Press shall not record any statements made by that LACBA member, by any means (electronic, audio recording, video recording, or other means.)”
When Kabateck’s motion, as amended, came to a vote Thursday, Rodgers was the only trustee to vote against it.
At the August meeting, Meyer declared: “These meetings are open to anybody.” Forsheit advised on Thursday that she was sending out tweets urging members of the general public to attend.
Meyer, Kabateck, the other elected officers, and nearly all of the trustees hold their posts through efforts of a reform movement, spearheaded by the Council of Sections, formed in late 2015 to oppose policies and practices of then-President Paul Kiesel and Suchil, with a major plank in their platform being an end to secrecy in the organization. In 2016, in the first contested election in 25 years, Meyer was elected overwhelmingly as president-elect, and automatically took office as president July 1 of this year.
All of the council’s candidates for trustee positions, which have a two-year duration, won office. It had a candidate in seven of the nine races.
In that election, Sheri Bluebond, who had declared an allegiance to the causes of the Council of Sections was backed by the council for a trustee spot. After the deadline for candidacy declarations passed, Bluebond proclaimed that judicial ethics precluded her from being in a contested race, and the seat she was expected to seek went, by default, to Rodgers, who was backed by Kiesel and then-President-Elect Margaret Stevens.
Stevens, who became president on July 1, 2016, appointed Bluebond as an assistant vice president, and, in a June deathbed appointment this year, chose her to fill a vacancy on the board as a trustee, created the previous October by a resignation. The term ends June 30, 2018.
Confirmation came unanimously—at Meyer’s request—at last June’s meeting, after a motion to delay filling the seat lost on a vote of 9-7.
In this year’s election, Forsheit, who was not endorsed by the Council of Sections and was not favored by Meyer—but supported by Stevens—was chosen by the Nominating Committee, as an accommodation to Stevens. The committee’s slate was eventually elected after a delay, marked by litigation.
Although Meyer has called for an end to factions on the board, Bluebond, Forsheit and Rodgers appear to have formed a faction.
Stevens, who holds the office of “immediate past president” and is automatically a member of the board, has not attended a meeting since July, which she left before it was over as changes from policies in effect during her administration were being discussed.
Copyright 2017, Metropolitan News Company