Austin Johnnie B. Rogers, an Austin attorney, serves in dual capacities as legal counsel for the Texas State Board of Morticians and as registered lobbyist for the Texas Funeral Directors Association. Could this be a conflict of interest? “I don’t think so,” said James W. McCammon, executive secretary of the morticians board. “What is good for the Texas Funeral Directors is good for the State Board of Morticians, and what is good for the State Board of Morticians is good for the Texas Funeral Directors, hopefully.” “If you consider the historical functions of the board and association, there’s no conflict whatsoever,” said attorney Rogers. He was referring to the fact that the board was set up to help the industry, regulate itself. Rogers continued, “There has never been a set of circumstances that I considered a conflict, and, if there was, I would withdraw.” As Rogers hastened to explain, the morticians board doesn’t have “the strongest regulatory act that could be.” The six licensed funeral directors and embalmers on the board administer tests and issue licenses to funeral homes, funeral directors, and embalmers. The board is not concerned with consumer complaints. McCammon said those are directed to the attorney general’s office. Nor does it regulate “pre-need contracts,” which are under the jurisdiction of the State Banking Board. The morticians board may revoke an individual’s license for any number of reasonsfor conviction of a felony or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude; for “using profane, indecent, or obscene language within the immediate hearing of the family or relative of a decedent, in proximity to a deceased person whose body has not yet been interred or otherwise disposed of, or the indecent exposure of a dead human body”; for willfully making any false statement on a certificate of death; for improperly soliciting busihess; and so on. The license of a funeral home may be revoked for inadequate facilities, for not having a hearse, for violating health standards, for using misleading advertising that repre 8 The Texas Observer sents unlicensed people to be licensed, etc. McCammon said he had no idea how many morticians and funeral homes have had their licenses revoked in the last year. He said it is the policy of the board to try to remedy inadequacies without resorting to the drastic measure of putting a person out of business. Rogers, who is paid $600-a-month retainer by the board, said he has “no authority to make decisions. They just ask my advice as to what the law is.” Is it not true, the Observer asked, that in the past McCammon has been known to refer questions about regulation of the industry to Rogers? “You’ve just got to know Mr. McCammon,” Rogers told the Observer. “He’s kinda reluctant to take a position on anything.” The minutes of the March 8-11 morticians board meeting report: “Counselor Rogers stated at this time that he felt he has interfered too much with the policy-making of the board and that he would refrain from being involved in policy-making from this date forward but that he would answer any questions directed to him by the board as to legal advice.” The Texas Legislature has made it clear that it does not want lobbyists on the state payroll. There is a rider in the current appropriations bill that states, “None of the funds appropriated in this act shall be expended in payment of the full or partial salary of any state employee who is also the paid lobbyist of any individual, firm, association, or corporation.” In addition to lobbying for the Funeral Directors, Rogers has represented TransAmerican Financial Corp., American Finance Management Corp., Northwest Pipeline Corp., the Texas Society of Architects, the Texas Service Station Association, Holiday Inn, Texas Motor Express Association, Texas Oil Marketers Association, Texas Car and Truck Rental Leasing Association, Consolidated Lloyd’s Insurance Group, and Jackson, Walker, Winstead, Cartwell, & Miller. Rogers currently represents all but five of these concerns, but the appropriations rider does not apply to him because the State Board of Morticians is not in the appropriations bill. The board is funded entirely with licensing feeds paid by funeral homes, funeral direc tors, and emblamers. Besides, said Jim Oliver of the Legislative Budget Board, the rider probably doesn’t apply to people on retainer. \(The appropriations rider apparently has not affected the status of Sam V. Stone, who serves as an attorney for the State Board of Medical Examiners as well as registered lobbyist for the Texas Medical Association. Stone still holds both jobs despite the fact that the medical board receives Two members of the morticians board contacted by the Observer said they could see no problem in Rogers representing both the regulator and the regulatee. Marcia! Y. Mitchell of Burnet said, “He does a real good job for both of us. He’s in a real unique position because he sees both sides of what’s happening. He known the feelingthrough the associationas to what the members expect and the way they would like to see the laws enforced.” John Artero of Victoria said Rogers’ holding dual roles “hasn’t created any problems up to now.” These members of the funeral industry feel that it is natural for the Funeral Directors Association to work hand in glove with the morticians board. The industry and the board have more in common than Johnnie B. Rogers: they share the same building at 1513 South Interregional in Austin. The new, two-story, landscaped structure is owned by the non-profit Texas Funeral Directors Building Foundation. Both the association and the board lease space from the foundation. The morticians board leases approximately 2,800 square feet for $500 a month. That averages out to 17.9 cents per square foot, which is one-half to one-third the going rate for similar state office space in Austin. The State Board of Dental Examiners is paying 55 cents a square foot, and the Land Office recently found some office space for 31 cents a square foot. Bob Waddell of the Land Office says 31 cents is a real bargain. “Most bids on new office space were 50 cents or more.” The Funeral Directors and the state board share a common reception room on the second floor of the building. It is a very cozy arrangement. The information concerning the board’s housing arrangement was in a state audit report released in April. The auditors also discovered that Bessie Louise McCammon, the wife of the executive secretary, received $1,451.45 in pay from the state board during fiscal 1975. Mrs. McCammon was grading licensing examination papers. The state auditor sent the board a “management letter” which, among other things, pointed out that Mrs. McCammon’s employment was nepotism, which is against the law. Letters from the state auditor are often masterpieces of circumlocution, but in this case Audit Supervisor Karl D. Johnson, Jr., decided not to mince words. “This practice should definitely not be repeated,” he said. K.N. What’s good for the funeral directors .. imPrari.
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