Crime & Justice

Audit questions executive salaries at California state bar

Stock photo by Tim Evanson via Flickr Creative Commons

The California state bar pays its executives more than the governor and has failed to present a clear picture of its finances to the Legislature, according to a state audit released Thursday.

The audit is the latest blow to the nation's largest state bar, which has also been accused of failing to protect the public from bad lawyers and experienced years of infighting.

According to the audit, the bar's financial reports have contained errors and lacked transparency in recent years, making it difficult for the Legislature to set appropriate attorney dues.

To practice law, attorneys must be members of the bar, a public corporation created by the Legislature. The bar collects yearly dues from attorneys that largely fund its operations.

The salary ranges for the state bar's 13 top executives exceed the salary of the governor, according to the audit. Gov. Jerry Brown makes a little under $183,000 a year.

The bar could save as much as $428,000 annually if it capped its executive staff salaries below the level of chief operations officer at the highest level allowed for similar state positions, according to the audit.

The audit also says the bar is millions of dollars short in funds needed to pay victims of attorney fraud, so it now takes about 36 months for victims to get paid, up from 18 months.

State Bar Executive Director Elizabeth Parker said the bar's new leadership team has made significant progress in addressing the audit'sconcerns. She cited a plan to include state government executive branch salaries in a study and noted an effort to recover money owed by disciplined attorneys.

"As an agency committed to transparency, accountability, excellence and financial responsibility, we thank the state auditor for its recommendations," she said in a statement.

State bar trustees selected Parker, former general counsel for the CIA, for the position last year after the bar fired its previous executive director, Joseph Dunn.

Dunn sued the bar in 2014, accusing it of deliberately removing disciplinary files to make its case backlog appear smaller.

Meanwhile, a state audit last year found the state bar reduced the severity of discipline imposed against attorneys, as it tried to settle more than 5,100 backlogged complaints in 2010 and 2011.

Thursday's audit notes the bar's management team has undergone significant turnover in the past year and expresses optimism that the bar's "financial decisions may reflect better judgment."

The California state bar pays its executives more than the governor and has failed to present a clear picture of its finances to the Legislature, according to a state audit released Thursday.

The audit is the latest blow to the nation's largest state bar, which has also been accused of failing to protect the public from bad lawyers and experienced years of infighting.

According to the audit, the bar's financial reports have contained errors and lacked transparency in recent years, making it difficult for the Legislature to set appropriate attorney dues.

To practice law, attorneys must be members of the bar, a public corporation created by the Legislature. The bar collects yearly dues from attorneys that largely fund its operations.

The salary ranges for the state bar's 13 top executives exceed the salary of the governor, according to the audit. Gov. Jerry Brown makes a little under $183,000 a year. See the table of salaries from the audit below.

The bar could save as much as $428,000 annually if it capped its executive staff salaries below the level of chief operations officer at the highest level allowed for similar state positions, according to the audit.

The audit also says the bar is millions of dollars short in funds needed to pay victims of attorney fraud, so it now takes about 36 months for victims to get paid, up from 18 months.

State Bar Executive Director Elizabeth Parker said the bar's new leadership team has made significant progress in addressing the audit'sconcerns. She cited a plan to include state government executive branch salaries in a study and noted an effort to recover money owed by disciplined attorneys.

"As an agency committed to transparency, accountability, excellence and financial responsibility, we thank the state auditor for its recommendations," she said in a statement.

State bar trustees selected Parker, former general counsel for the CIA, for the position last year after the bar fired its previous executive director, Joseph Dunn.

Dunn sued the bar in 2014, accusing it of deliberately removing disciplinary files to make its case backlog appear smaller.

Meanwhile, a state audit last year found the state bar reduced the severity of discipline imposed against attorneys, as it tried to settle more than 5,100 backlogged complaints in 2010 and 2011.

Thursday's audit notes the bar's management team has undergone significant turnover in the past year and expresses optimism that thebar's "financial decisions may reflect better judgment."

Title Agency Salary
Executive Director/CEO State Bar $267,500
Agency Secretary California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation 243,360
Chief Operating Officer State Bar 239,500
Director California Department of Public Health 239,064
Chief Trial Counsel State Bar 229,079
Director California Department of Social Services 219,264
Chief Legal Officer State Bar 216,869
Deputy General Counsel State Bar 208,255
Senior Director, Admissions State Bar 208,255
Senior Director, State Bar Court State Bar 202,257
Senior Director, Information Technology State Bar 195,445
Executive Director State Board of Equalization 188,448
Deputy Chief Trial Counsel State Bar 188,223
Chief Assistant General Counsel State Bar 188,223
Senior Director, Education State Bar 187,927
Senior Director, Administration of Justice State Bar 187,927
Director, General Services State Bar 187,676
Governor State of California 182,784
Director California Department of Water Resources 177,683
Director California Department of Transportation 177,683
Top Allowable Career Executive Assignment (CEA) salary for positions requiring licensure as an attorney, engineer, or physician. CEA 172,908
Assistant Chief Trial Counsel State Bar 171,983
Assistant Chief Trial Counsel State Bar 171,983
Chief Assistant Court Counsel State Bar 171,983
Director, Client Security Fund State Bar 171,983
Director, Professional Competence State Bar 171,983
Director California Department of General Services 171,545
Director California Department of Human Resources 171,168
Chief Counsel California High Speed Rail Authority 168,216
Assistant Chief Trial Counsel State Bar 166,650
Director Department of Consumer Affairs 161,650
Director California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery 161,650
Director Employment Development Department 161,640
Assistant Chief Trial Counsel State Bar 161,600
Director, Finance/Controller State Bar 159,363
Director Department of Motor Vehicles 156,936
Court Administrator State Bar 154,125
Director, HR and Labor Relations State Bar 154,125
Court Administrator State Bar 154,125
Director, Information Systems and Business Solutions State Bar 154,125
Director of Applications State Bar 154,125
Director, Central Administration, Chief Trial Counsel State Bar 152,712
Chief Assistant Court Counsel State Bar 151,500
Director, Operations and Management State Bar 151,281
Director, Examinations State Bar 151,281
Director, Legal Specialization State Bar 151,281
Director, Technology Systems State Bar 149,841
Director, Educational Standards State Bar 149,841
Director of Administration State Bar 145,440
Director, Moral Character Determinations State Bar 141,400
Director, Procurement and Risk Management State Bar 140,788
Deputy Director, Operations and Management State Bar 140,172
Managing Director, Bar Relation State Bar 140,172
Managing Director, Diversity Outreach State Bar 140,172
Managing Director, Legal Services Trust Fund State Bar 140,172
Director, Communications State Bar 138,127
Top Allowable CEA Level C CEA 135,948
Director, Section Education and Meeting Services State Bar 131,578
Managing Director, Planning Admin State Bar 129,126
Top Allowable CEA Level B CEA 128,436
Director, Lawyers Assistance Program State Bar 126,250
Director, Fee Arbitration State Bar 123,699
Managing Director, Member Records, and Compliance State Bar 123,048
Finance Manager State Bar 118,789
Deputy Director, General Services State Bar 111,862
Top Allowable CEA Level A CEA 111,324