The Oregon State Bar Board of Governors governs the Bar and is the policy making body for over 13,000 Oregon lawyers. The decisions they make or don't make determines the shape of legal services for over 3 million Oregon citizens. The Board approves the Bar's $15 million dollar plus budget. This article takes an unvarnished look at how the Oregon State Bar Board of Governors actually functions.
The Oregon State Bar (OSB) is a public corporation and one could expect that the Board of Governors ()BOG) would operate much like a Board of Directors at a conventional corporation. There are glaring differences. For example, the OSB does not have a Treasurer nor a Secretary on their Board. Instead there are two BOG Vice Presidents without portfolio. They are without portfolio because they are the disappointed contenders for the President-Elect position each year and do not have any defined duties in the Board Bylaws or otherwise.
No BOG Secretary -- The problem with BOG not having a board Secretary is that no one looks over the BOG minutes from a fiduciary standpoint to determine if they are accurate. They aren't. All one has to do to determine the censorship is to look at the difference between the Official BOG minutes on the Affirmative Action Program protest to the BOG at their meeting of September 28, 2007 and the Affirmative Action Committee minutes of their meeting of September 14, 2007 with Karen Garst in attendance at both meetings, but having control over only one set of minutes. BOG is docile in its acceptance of inaccurate, incomplete and misleading BOG minutes. Without accurate and candid minutes there is no accountability nor meanful follow-up.
No BOG Treasurer -- The Oregon State Bar does not have a Treasurer nor a BOG fiduciary who is in charge of the financial reports, the administration of the $15 million dollar plus budget, nor cost saving measures. Moreover, the State of Oregon no longer provides periodic audits of the Bar's financials. With no state audit, no treasurer and no fiduciary, there is no accountability for the millions of dollars of membership money. These chickens are going to come home to roost with the $20 million new Bar buildings (note, I said buildings). Don't forget about what the Bar obligation is on this second building and don't forget that Bar President Albert Menasche promised that there would be no additional Bar dues because of these two white albatrosses. Opus, the developer, saw naive lawyers coming and now they have arrived.
How does the Portland contingent of the Board of Governors get a corner on the market for Bar Presidents? -- Easy. Bar Executive Director Karen Garst begins grooming the newly elected Region Five (Portland) Board members into the important committees and assignments immediately upon their election to BOG. Some BOG committees have high visibility politically (such as the BOG Public Affairs-[legislative] Committee) and some create banishment to the woodpile (such as the BOG Appointments Committee). The Portland BOG members are thrust forward by Karen, in the four-year process, with noticeable aggressiveness. This manipulation by Ms. Garst between those BOG members who are assigned to oblivion or stardom is hardly subtle.
Yes, yes, but doesn't the Oregon State Bar Board of Governors deal with important matters near and far? No! It is the most ludicrous process imaginable. The Board of Governors meets six (6) times per year at luxurious watering holes around Oregon. The agenda is 'made up' by Karen Garst. You couldn't get your agenda item before BOG if you tried, unless you are from Portland or a judge or a minority protest (and even then your agenda item is hidden on the agenda). The result? BOG deals with virtually no issues of merit. Mostly, BOG rubber stamps what the Executive Director wants done. Their votes are a comic opera and all are singing in tune at that. There is no follow-up. There is no spirited dissent. After all look what happens to those who express dissent. You should take notice that the changes leading to Stella Manabe's resignation and the changes of the Affirmative Action Program were done by Karen Garst without any consultation of the BOG at all. That is because the BOG reports to her for all practical purposes!
So how does she do it? -- She packs the Board of Governors and other Bar committees with her sycophants. Consider the Board of Governor's make-up over the last ten years. Ms. Garst has been at the Bar over ten years. She has arranged for three of the sixteen BOG members to serve for eight years; Jon Hill, Bette Worcester and Gerry Gaydos. Further, the purported 'public' members of the BOG are actually public employees like her. That wasn't the idea. The 'public' members were supposed to be regular citizens, not just public employees like her. Then she keeps recycling former Bar presidents through various committees. For example, Dennis Karnopp hired her. He is a former Bar President. He chaired the Disciplinary Task Force. And he is on the Affirmative Action Committee and spoke in favor of Karen Garst at the September 28, 2007 minority BOG protest meeting. That's no accident. Ed Harnden's shiny face was at the September 28, 2007 Affirmative Action BOG meeting. He is a past Bar president from Portland. Ed has served on every Bar leadership position known to the kingdom, yet there he was on that certain Friday. That is no accident. One always sees past Portland Bar presidents Mark Johnson and Charlie Williamson lurking around these Bar meetings along with William Carter, the ultimate Karen Garst affinity member. These are 'plants' to do Ms. Garst's bidding.
Conclusion -- Before each BOG meeting, the Bar spews out three inches of colored paper with writing on them for each BOG member to read and be prepared to discuss at the every-other-month meeting. Accordingly, I plowed though each tome, studied each issue, analyzed the possibilities for the good of the order and took copious notes of each proceeding. Then, then, and only then, with the perspective of distance from each meeting, I reorganized all this good colored paper, with writing on them, into subject notebooks. But, what had been accomplished with all this reading, organizing, analyzing and notes? Nothing! As a BOG member I wasn't called on to make a major or even minor decision on ANYTHING. It is like the old joke. Husband: "I make all the important decisions and my wife makes all the other decisions." Wife: "Yes, dear, only there hasn't been an important decision to be made in our forty seven years of marriage!"
Meanwhile, Karen Garst has a firm grip on the BOG's skinny neck and she must laugh at the naked impotence of all these BOG chickens.