Separation of the Sections from the State Bar
By Betty J. Williams
As this edition was about to go to print, I asked the Editor in Chief for additional space to share an important update concerning the inevitable separation of the sections from the State Bar. I have been involved with the Council of Sections (comprised of the Chair and sometimes past-Chair of each of the 16 practice group Sections of the State Bar) and have participated in countless conference calls and in-person meetings concerning the future of the Sections. These meetings have included members of the State Bar’s executive staff, Sections’ support staff, the Board of Trustees, and the press.
The Taxation Section voted early on to join the vote of the Business Law Section to separate from the bar. It became clear to the Taxation Section Executive Committee that the State Bar’s Executive Director, Elizabeth Parker, and Chief Operating Officer, Leah Wilson, were taking actions consistent with their intent to separate the Sections from the State Bar without our input. In addition to the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act compliance minutia and headache affecting our leadership of the various volunteer projects offered by the Taxation Section, we were suddenly prohibited from completing our contracts entered into with various vendors for our 2016 Annual Meeting of the California Tax Bar and California Tax Policy Conference, due to the "optics" of using our funds for networking events that included entertainment such as Las Vegas style gaming, and a photo fun booth. Understand that our bylaws allow the Executive Committee to approve such expenditures if certain criteria are met, including that we have paid any liabilities to the State Bar for its administrative services. Also know that the funds used for these activities did not come from our member’s dues, but rather from outside sponsors who agreed to pay for the events so that all conference attendees could enjoy the networking time together.
We went to the Board of Trustees, to whom Parker and Wilson must answer, for assistance with what we felt were well-reasoned and logical requests, citing both contracts law and our bylaws. Remarkably, the Board of Trustees was not willing to direct Parker to proceed as we requested. One Board Member stated he had concerns about how it "would look" if the Board of Trustees directed Parker on her actions. As a result, we received no assistance and had to achieve our goal through other channels at the cost to our Section members and threatening future sponsorship relationships.