A Lack of Commitment to Fairness Marks Ann I. Park’s Tactics
By Roger M. Grace
“Fair’s fair,” it’s said. Well, um, yes. That makes sense; all tautologies do.
So, it follows that “unfair is unfair.”
Unfairness is today’s topic. It is the characteristic, I submit, that marks the campaign of Ann I. Park as a candidate for president-elect of the Los Angeles County Bar Association.
Now, I do have a bias—an exceedingly strong one—in favor of the other candidate for the post: Jo-Ann W. Grace. I’ve been married to her for slightly less than 55 years. A testament by me to her sterling attributes, which are legion, would be apt to be discounted as exaggerations by a loving spouse, and won’t be provided now.
I’m going to discuss Ann.
(Ordinarily, I would not refer to an adult by his or her first name, and criticism has leveled in this column at appellate court justices for effrontery in doing so in their opinions. However, it would be ludicrous for me to refer to my own wife by her surname and, given that I do happen to be on a first-name basis with Ann Park and others mentioned below, a departure from journalistic protocol is, I believe, warranted.)
I’ve had dealings with Ann over the past five years, in connection with the Council of Sections and otherwise. Even before she successfully challenged Jo-Ann last year for the Nominating Committee’s nod for the post of senior vice president—when Jo-Ann was vice president and that office was the next rung on the leadership ladder—I regarded Ann as a person who is driven obsessively by ambition, who is pushy and disingenuous, and is lacking in substance.
Notwithstanding these disclosures of bias, I ask that you look at the hard facts set forth below, ones that can’t be refuted. I hope that you will find cogent the reasons I present as to why the facts relating to Ann’s campaign demonstrate a lack of commitment to basic fairness and militate in favor of rejecting her bid for election.
I’ll start with the latest ploy. In an email that was broadcast to the 100-plus subscribers to the LACBA election listserv, Ann quoted from a column by another Ann—Coulter—which appeared in the METNEWS. It derided the glee expressed by many over the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of arrestee George Floyd, saying, for example:
“There wasn’t this much triumphalism when Ted Bundy was convicted! He murdered 30 women, escaped from jail twice, and killed again before finally being brought to trial….
“Wild celebrations are in order only for the railroading of a cop.”
Twice, Ann—Park, that is—referred to the views that were set forth as having been expressed in an “editorial” published by the METNEWS.
“If you don’t have a problem with these views, Jo-Ann Grace is your candidate. But if you believe these views are wrong and unacceptable, and should not be tolerated by—let alone published and disseminated by—a President Elect of the Association, I respectfully submit that the choice is clear.”
This epitomizes unfairness.
As Jo-Ann pointed out in a response via the listserv:
“An ‘editorial’ is an expression by a newspaper of its own views. Ann Coulter does not express views of the MetNews. She expresses the views of Ann Coulter. She is not an employee of the MetNews. She writes a nationally syndicated column which we happen to carry. Coulter is a conservative; we also carry columns by liberals.”
Jo-Ann is president and general counsel of the Metropolitan News Company, a subsidiary of Grace Communications, Inc., which we own. It publishes six California newspapers. Jo-Ann is the co-publisher of this newspaper, with me. Publishers of newspapers, big and small, concern themselves with business matters. They do not proof-read columns.
Ann had no reasonable basis for supposing that Jo-Ann saw the particular column to which she takes exception before it was published. In point of fact, she didn’t.
I’m the newspaper’s editor. I didn’t happen to see it, either, by the way. Syndicated columns come carefully edited. Dan Walters’s column is emailed to us. Others are plucked by our wire editor, Hector Reyes—a member of the ACLU—from databases, and plunked onto pages on the screens of our paginators.
The fallacy in attributing to Jo-Ann a view, any view, contained in a syndicated column carried by the METNEWS is obvious. We carry several columns. There are inevitably conflicting expressions of viewpoints. She can’t be embracing both views.
(Indeed, we’ve carried opinion pieces disagreeing with views set forth in our own editorials.)
To ascribe a view to Jo-Ann simply because it appears in a syndicated column published by the METNEWS is no more reasonable than saddling her with views expressed in the appellate court opinions we include in the Slip Opinion Supplement.
I do agree with Ann, however, in saying that “the choice is clear” between Jo-Ann and her. Jo-Ann would never engage in such a cheap and irrational “below the belt” tactic as Ann did in attempting to portray Jo-Ann as being insensitive to racial discrimination based on opinions expressed by someone else.
That wasn’t the first shoddy tactic Ann has used against Jo-Ann.
We’ve recently learned that it was prior to the meeting of the Nominating Committee last year that Ann’s whisper campaign began. Word was spread that Jo-Ann is opposed to diversity in the legal profession. That rumor might have had something to do with the Nominating Committee choosing Ann last year to run for senior vice president although Jo-Ann, then vice president, was in line for the post; it certainly played a role this year in the committee backing Ann for president-elect.
The allegation is nonsense, but such efforts do succeed. Did you know that Lady Godiva did not ride naked through the streets of Coventry? One theory is that it was a tale based on rumors whispered in taverns.
What had been whispered about Jo-Ann turned into an outright allegation at the May 3 debate between the candidates staged by LACBA. Ann declared that a reason she ran against Jo-Ann last year was because Jo-Ann, in a conversation with her in 2017, mentioned views that were contained in a book about diversity, views Ann rejected. Jo-Ann responded that the book was one she was referred to by a former president of the John M. Langston Bar Association.
(Be careful what you say to Ann in a private conversation. She might turn it against you. If you were to allude to something Karl Marx said, she might accuse you of being a Communist.)
The truth of the matter is that Jo-Ann is not racist, is not xenophobic.
Our office looks like the United Nations. Most all our employees are members of minority groups. Some have been with us for 30 years or more.
We’ve hired deaf persons. Also, ex-convicts—including a second-degree murderer, a man convicted three times of safe-cracking, and a man who had passed the bar exam but flunked the moral fitness review based on a conviction in connection with showing gay-oriented photos to boys in the school bus he drove.
We tried to help the ex-bus driver get admitted. Jo-Ann was on the State Bar Board of Governors at a time when John Van de Kamp (now deceased) was State Bar president. (By the way, it had been Jo-Ann, as chair of the Breakfast Club, who convinced him to run for the Board of Governors, a prerequisite to becoming the bar chief.) We told John about the employee, who had experienced no further legal difficulties, and he brought the situation to the attention of the head of bar admissions.
Jo-Ann and I, for years, have attended dinners of ethnic bar associations. Jo-Ann has, in the past, been a member of the Mexican American Bar Association, the Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association, the John M. Langston Bar Association and the Armenian Bar Association (as well as her “home” bar group, of which she’s a past president, the Italian American Lawyers Association).
When she ran for the State Bar Board of Governors in 2004, Jo-Ann was endorsed by the Asian Pacific American Bar Assn., Black Women Lawyers, Italian American Lawyers Assn., Korean American Bar Assn., Lesbian and Gay Bar Assn., Mexican American Bar Assn., and Women Lawyers of Los Angeles.
Just look at Jo-Ann’s list of endorsers this year. They’re at:
Someone who opposes diversity would not have such a diverse group of supporters.
Has Ann displayed unfairness in her portrayal of Jo-Ann? I’d say her devotion to fairness is on a par with that of Joseph McCarthy.
And then there’s the charge that Jo-Ann has a “conflict of interest” in running for a LACBA office.
Ann said at the May 3 debate:
“[T]here’s a very serious conflict of interest right now in that Jo-Ann is now our landlord.”
Jo-Ann and I own the building at Second and Spring streets in the Los Angeles Civic Center. LACBA has moved its offices to the corner space of that building (two doors from the METNEWS offices).
Ann protested that Jo-Ann is not only seeking a LACBA officer position “but she’s also the landlord of the association, and she’s collecting $500,000 in rent from us in the next two years,” adding:
“And in my view, that, you know, is a troublesome relationship and we should try to avoid conflicts of interest.”
Just how does this create conflict of interest? Ann doesn’t specify. She simply puts forth the broad, attention-grabbing accusation.
Jo-Ann and I don’t see a conflict. Neither did the Board of Trustees which approved the lease, without opposition. Neither did the real estate attorney who advised the board.
If Jo-Ann would have a conflict of interest if placed in an officer position as president-elect, she had a conflict of interest when the lease was signed on Jan. 22 because she was then, as now, an officer, that is, an assistant vice president.
(Jo-Ann had held that position prior to graduating to the office of vice president for 2019-20. After Ann gained the Nominating Committee’s nomination last year for 2020-21 senior vice president and Jo-Ann decided not to mount an independent campaign in opposition—by obtaining 100 signatures on a petition—she did not retreat to a corner and sulk; she asked the 2020-21 president, Tamie Jensen, to appoint her as assistant vice president so she could continue on the board, and Tamie obliged.)
Ann’s charge of a conflict of interest is, inferentially, an attack on the integrity and judgment of the Board of Trustees, which approved the lease, knowing that Jo-Ann is an officer.
It is, in particular, an implied assault on Tamie, President-Elect Brad Pauley, and Executive Officer Stan Bissey—all honorable persons.
LACBA was, as Jo-Ann put it in the May 3 debate, “trapped in a lease” for two floors in an office building at Seventh and Bixel. Even before the pandemic which caused LACBA employees to work from home, the association had not needed that much space.
It couldn’t afford the rent of about $100,000 a month, was unable to sublet a floor, owed about $1 million in back rent, had hired an attorney to institute bankruptcy proceedings, and was readying to move out.
Jo-Ann offered free unoccupied space in our building if LACBA needed to store furniture, files, equipment, whatever, in connection with the departure.
Tamie, Brad, and Stan viewed our premises in connection with the offer of free space. Instead of accepting, LACBA sent a letter of intent to lease.
LACBA now pays a sliver of what it did before and its office is within easy walking distance of the Los Angeles Superior Court’s Mosk Courthouse, the Law Library, the Reagan Building where the Court of Appeal holds sessions, and other government offices.
The necessary implication of the campaign charge that Jo-Ann is enmeshed in a conflict of interest is that the entire Board of Trustees—and Tamie, Brad, and Stan in particular—have complicity in it. Balderdash.
As Jo-Ann said of the charge in the debate:
“That’s a bunch of nonsense. There is no conflict.”
But Ann is not inclined to confine her rhetoric to what is true and fair.
Ambition, tempered with a commitment to fair play, is not a flaw, but an attribute. It connotes determination and gumption.
However, ambition, coupled with a willingness to trammel those in the way, bonded with an “ends justifies the means” approach, marks a person whose lust for power must—whether in a race for a governmental office or merely a bar association post—be opposed.
Park is ambitious—oh, is she ambitious—and unbridled by principle or a sense of fairness.
Her campaign for the LACBA post she seeks is rooted in unfairness, if not skullduggery.
“Politics have no relation to morals,” Machiavelli said. The campaign of Ann I. Park is a testament to that.
Much as I believe that the election of Jo-Ann is warranted, based on merit, which I do not here address, I submit that the defeat of Ann I. Park is necessary to preserve the best interests of LACBA.
I hope that those who vote in the election will recognize that.
POSTSCRIPT: Ann Coulter’s columns are crisply written and thought-provoking. Yet, her views are controversial, and, yes, sometimes extremist.
Should they be banned by responsible newspapers? I submit that, subject to space limitations and quality standards, only where writings expressing views are arguably libelous, are laden with smut or are otherwise in questionable taste, unfairly malign persons, call for unlawful action, or contain objectively determinable false recitations of facts should they be barred from consideration for publication.
I can’t deny that the particular column Ann targets blithely ignores salient facts in asserting that using a taser gun on Floyd to subdue him would have been riskier than what took place. What took place was a conscious killing.
Had I seen the column in advance of publication, a column setting forth argumentation by Coulter, a lawyer, that Chauvin was wrongfully convicted, how would I have reacted? Disagreed with it? Yes! Bounced it off Jo-Ann? Probably not. Censored it? No.
Ann Park is less attuned than Jo-Ann and I are to the need for a free exchange of ideas. There was a proposal by LACBA’s Elections Committee to restrict advertising by candidates in the present election within LACBA publications. Ann took this position in an April 16 email to members of the Board of Trustees: “I object to the acceptance of advertising for campaign purposes.” (She said she would express that view at the April meeting of the Board of Trustees but didn’t; the discussion got side-tracked.)
Limiting an electorate’s access to information—whether the voting is for president of the United States, the board of directors of a homeowners’ association, or a LACBA office—is an affront to the concept of democracy and means stifling speech of the proponent of ideas.
But Ann is not much of a proponent of democracy. In an April 2 email to 116 persons, she expressed the view that “we should not have a general election.” By “general election,” I assume she means the general membership deciding who wins where there is a contest for an office. But if insiders, those in power, decide contests, there is no prospect of reform candidates taking over the reins, which happened in a 2016 election, in which Jo-Ann played a key role, with Ann being a minor player.
And reform was, indeed, needed.
LACBA is now headed toward revitalization because an election did take place in 2016, the general membership did express its will, the “old guard” that was willing to give away the assets of the association to causes, depleting LACBA’s reserves, was repudiated, and transparency and fiscal responsibility have been restored. Leaders of the reform movement support Jo-Ann; Ann touts support from some of those who caused the problems.
Ann makes much noise, has done little, and unconscionably denigrates those—such as Jo-Ann—who have done much. In 1996, Jo-Ann was president of the IALA; in 1996-97, Ann was president of the Korean-American Bar Association. Jo-Ann has been a leader in several other lawyer groups, aside from being on the Executive Committee of LACBA; Ann hasn’t.
Jo-Ann is dedicated to advancing the interests of LACBA. Ann is dedicated to advancing the interests of Ann I. Park.
The interests of Ann I. Park are inimical to those of LACBA.
Copyright 2021, Metropolitan News Company