Saturday, February 09, 2008

Movement Toward a New Missouri Plan?

Revolution may be afoot in the Missouri Bar regarding the matter I raised on this page back a couple months ago. The Board of Governors is back from their plush vacation at Atlantis, a luxurious resort in the Bahamas. They have been surprised that many of their colleagues are upset about the fact that the Board of Governors paid for their expensive travels out of the dues that they impose on other lawyers.

The Small Firm Internet Group (SFIG) listserve is a feisty collection of "regular guy and gal" type lawyers who share their opinions freely, and it became a hotbed of criticism of the Board's imperial behavior. The lavish sojourn has them particularly upset as it comes on the heels of a healthy dues increase passed by the same Board of Governors.

The outcry has caused Keith Birkes, the executive director of the Missouri Bar, to pen a post to the SFIG (an unprecedented step, to my knowledge) defending the dues increase. Regarding the travel expenses, Mr. Birkes explains:
There are five meetings of the Board of Governors each year - four of them inside Missouri and one traditionally outside Missouri at the site of The Missouri Bar�s Midyear Seminar. Reasonable and necessary travel expenses are reimbursed to Board members for the in-state meetings, and an adequate per diem is set for the one out-of-state meeting of the Board of Governors to cover travel, meals and two nights� lodging. At the most recent Midyear Seminar, $1,100 was authorized each Board member who attended the meeting. Members of the Board of Governors annually give up a minimum of ten working days in order to attend to their responsibilities as an elected member of the Board of Governors and many of them devote 20 or more working days to attend to those responsibilities.
The use of the passive voice in describing the reimbursement amount is kind of amusing. The $1,100 trip "was authorized each Board member" by none other than the Board of Governors itself. For several years, the Board has had a Conflict of Interest policy providing that "It is the obligation of members of The Missouri Bar, its Board of Governors, Committees and Staff to fully disclose any conflicts of interest that they may have while acting on behalf of, or participating in, the decision-making process of The Missouri Bar", but no such disclosures appear in any minutes of the Board concerning reimbursement policies or budget discussions.

Now, to be crystal clear, the Board of Governors is an outstanding collection of individuals, and Keith Birkes, is the single most competent, ethical and wise executive director I have ever worked with in more than two decades of nonprofit experience. My discussion is not meant to be a personal attack on anyone. But the Board of Governors is making a terrible mistake in blowing Missouri money and their own political capital on lavish trips to exotic locales. That money could be far better spent on meetings supporting Missouri workers, and the money blown on airfare to the Bahamas could be better spent on educating our public on how the Missouri Plan for selection and retention of judges is a crucial element of "the administration of justice and the law on behalf of the public." That would be money well-spent.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan -

From one attorney to another: There are bigger fish to fry than this.

The Atlantis trip was not a good idea. I trust the Board has learned from its mistake. Let's move on.

2/09/2008 6:04 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Those guys need their hands slapped.

Anon at 6:04, nice try to minimize the whole thing under "bigger fish to fry" tactic.

People can "move on to bigger issues", when the Board publicly adopts binding language to end the boondoogles at the expense of membership.

Then they can move on. After they do that.

If Board members think they need to be "rewarded" because being on the Board is a little bit of a pain in the ass, and it's hard work and they feel they need to be compensated, they shouldn't agree to serve.

Anon at 6:04, so you think we're stupid?

2/09/2008 7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stupid? No. I just think you are bored. There is a presidential election that we could be talking about. News update: Obama sweeps Washington, Nebraska, Louisiana and the Virgin Islands by huge margins.

After Tuesday's Potomac primaries (D.C., Maryland, and Virginia), which Obama should win handily, I suspect some Dem. big whigs will begin to call on Hillary to concede.

The polls consistently show Obama is the one who can beat McCain outside the margin of error. Obama will have the most delegates and the most money and will have won the most states. And a protracted primary election isn't good for the party. Considering all of this, shouldn't Hillary concede?

Moot question, of course, because Hillary will not concede. Which begs the question: Why is she running -- for the good of the country, the Dem. party, or herself? I strongly suspect the latter. Thoughts?

2/09/2008 9:35 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Anonymous -

Bigger fish to fry? Aren't there always bigger fish to fry? And aren't there more chefs to fry those fish?

If I write about Board of Governor's Travel, wouldn't the Missouri Plan be a bigger fish? If I write about the Missouri Plan, wouldn't legislative races be a bigger fish? If legislative, why not the Governor's race? If the Governor's race, why not national politics? If national politics, why not international? If international, why not the existence of God, and man's relationship to Him or Her?

Meanwhile, the Missouri Bar Board of Governors will be taking bar dues from struggling lawyers serving the poor, and spending it on month-long sabbaticals in Monaco, and nobody will try to change what they really can change.

2/10/2008 8:54 AM  
Blogger sophia said...

and nobody will try to change what they really can change.

This is a good point. One of the great things about the internet is that it makes it easier to get information and commentary on these "smaller" issues that wouldn't appeal to larger media outlets but are actually within the sphere of influence of readers like me. So, thank you for the post.

2/10/2008 11:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Add Maine to the list of Obama wins this weekend. The people are speaking, and Obama is the choice. The only way Clinton can win is via backroom promises to superdelegates. For the sake of our party, I hope that does not occur.

2/10/2008 6:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a moe-ron!

Not only is your analysis bullshit (Obama would need the superdelegates, too - Maine means nothing), the thread isn't about the presidential election anyhow.

2/10/2008 6:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama gets Edwards endorsement!

2/10/2008 10:24 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Methinks anonymous got too much sun in the Bahamas.

2/11/2008 5:38 AM  

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