Friday, January 26, 2018
LACBA Agrees to Act on Proposals Put Forth by Council of Sections
Trustees Vote Unanimously to Take Up Suggested Bylaw Changes of the Once-Dissident Group;
Will Consider Requiring That All Amendments Be Circulated Among Membership
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Former Los Angeles County Bar Association President John Carson, who chairs the Council of Sections, addresses LACBA’s Board of Trustees Wednesday night to discuss the council’s proposals for bylaw changes. His welcomed appearance was in contrast to that in November 2015, under different leadership, when the then-president sought to bar him, another past president, and others from speaking in opposition to a proposed measure.
The Los Angeles County Bar Association Board of Trustees voted unanimously at its meeting Wednesday night to act next month on bylaw changes proposed by the Council of Sections, the key amendment being one to apprise the membership whenever bylaw changes are contemplated.
A bylaw change would, under the proposal, require a two-thirds vote of the trustees—now set at a majority.
The suggestions were presented to the board by former LACBA President John Carson, who chairs the Council of Sections. LACBA President Michael E. Meyer warmly welcomed Carson to the microphone; the last time Carson appeared before the board was Nov. 18, 2015, when he was chair of the Senior Lawyers Section, and then-President Paul Kiesel did not want him or any of six other section leaders, including former LACBA President Charles Michaels, to be allowed to speak.
Kiesel yielded to board sentiment to hear from them, and they voiced their protests to a proposed bylaw change that would have stripped sections of any say over their finances. Action on the proposed change was postponed; it languished; it is now dead, with Meyer announcing at the meeting Wednesday that, in contrast to tight control on section programs and financing in recent years, sections are being allowed “to control their own destinies” so long as they do not lose money.
The procedures that were followed in attempting to enact the 2015 bylaw change are the target of the Council of Sections’s current proposal. Back then, LACBA’s Executive Committee, comprised of the officers, made the major decisions, which were generally rubber-stamped by trustees.
The 2015 Executive Committee approved the change dealing with the sections, and the proposal was emailed to trustees, along with other agenda materials, the night before their Oct. 28 monthly meeting. Kiesel later said he expected it to be approved as a routine matter.
There was, however, a flurry of emails among section leaders the afternoon before the meeting, with attendance at it, to protest the measure, being organized. Then-President Elect Margaret Stevens (now immediate past president) declared late that afternoon that the agenda item would be put over to the Nov. 18 meeting.
Formation of Group
Seven days before that meeting, the Interim Council of Sections was formed, with the group, headed by Carson, soon dropping the word “Interim.” It ran a slate of reform candidates in 2016 headed by Meyer, who became president-elect that year, and took office as president last July 1.
All elected officers and the majority of trustees gained their posts with Council of Sections’s support, and no trustee had opposition from the council.
Under Meyer’s administration, the Executive Committee has made no decisions. It hasn’t met.
However, under the relevant existing bylaw, Art. XII. §1, if a bylaw change is recommended by five trustees or 25 general members, it can be voted on at the next trustees’ meeting, with no notice to the membership required and no minimum notice to the trustees.
It was determined at Wednesday night’s meeting that five particular trustees recommending adoption of the Council of Sections’ proposed changes need not be pinpointed in light of the unanimous vote to place those proposals on the Feb. 27 agenda.
What the Council of Sections has urged with respect to the procedures for changing bylaws is to provide in Art. XII. §1 that trustees may only adopt a change after “30 days written notice to the Association members accompanied by the proposed amendment.”
Although that provision is not yet in effect, it was agreed that notice of the current proposed bylaw changes will be circulated to members prior to the board’s next meeting, Feb. 27.
Other bylaw changes the council has called for are undoing the elevation of the status of the top staff person and allowing the board to forgive excessive absences of a trustee.
In late 2009, Sally Suchil was hired as “executive director”; her title when she resigned, under fire as of January of last year, was “chief executive officer.” Among criticisms of her was that she had accumulated excessive power and was running the organization autocratically.
Carson remarked that according such a title to a staff person in a volunteer organization “is not the norm.” In most such organizations, he said, “the president is the CEO” and the “executive director is ‘executive director’ ” and is “in charge of the staff.”
Under the proposed change, Art. VI, §1 would specify that the president is “the Chief Executive Officer” and other references to the chief staff person as holding that position would be changed.
At present, there is automatic expulsion of a trustee for missing two-thirds of the meetings or three in a row, unless sick leave has been granted. Carson called that “onerous,” explaining the change to Art. IV, §8 which the council advocates.
Carson also pointed to the Council of Sections’s ideas for policy changes: no adoption of a budget with a deficit; Board of Trustee meeting agendas coming out at least a week before the meetings with the agendas being available to all members; and that bylaw changes not being adopted sooner than two meetings after the proposal has been presented.
Meyer noted that a committee of the board is presently mulling policy changes and would be considering ones put forth by the council.
“Hopefully, that’s not the death knell,” Carson joked, following up his remark by saying he was certain it would not be.
Meyer nonetheless assured him that the council’s recommendations would not die in committee and would come up for discussion at the next board meeting.
Carson was accompanied at the meeting by Michaels, current chair of the Senior Lawyers Section, and by Nowland Hong, immediate past chair of that section, who, with Carson, have been the prime movers in the reform movement and the Council of Sections.
LACBA’s new executive director, Stanley S. Bissey, was present. He told of the prospect of members being able to pay dues through monthly debits from a bank account or credit card and a possible trip to Cuba, combining “CLE with cultural tourism.”
Chief Financial Officer Bruce Becerra revealed that LACBA was the top-rated responder to the county’s request for proposals on providing free legal services at courthouses which, he said, “allows us to go into contract negotiations.”
“We’re still talking,” he said.
Copyright 2018, Metropolitan News Company