Bar maverick Joe Longley Bar president Gibson Gayle Pho tos by De bbe Sharp e *Also since 1973, Bar general fund revenues had more than doubled, to $2.4 million; and in fiscal 1976, the general fund wound up with a $38,514 surplus. The Bar’s 1976 audit, published in the same Bar Journal issue as Longley’s argument, showed that the $38,514 was added to a $104,555 surplus from past years. In addition to the general fund revenues, the audit listed about $1 million in contributions for the headquarters building, about $1.2 million in federal grants, and some other revenues, for a total of about $4.8 million. In a well-read appendix to his article, Longley pointed out that the Bar paid its executive director, H. C. Pittman, $54,000 a year, provided him with a. 1976 Lincoln Continental, paid for his memberships in the Tarryhouse, Citadel, and Headliners Clubs of Austin, and gave him a $3,000 bonus last summer. Pittman’s four aides were given latemodel automobiles for personal use and enjoyed other expensive benefits. The size of Pittman’s salary raised eyebrows around the Capitol, where the governor is just about the only state employee making more. Pittman earns more than the Bar’s titular bosses, the justices of the Texas Supreme Court. Fringe benefits In his defense, other Bar directors said that Pittman took a pay cut when they hired him away from his lobbyist job with the Texas Automobile Dealers Association, that the dealers gave him a snazzy new car every year, and that supreme court justices are underpaid. Pittman’s salary, they said, was comparable to that of directors of other large bar associations. The club memberships were not for Pittman’s benefit, they said, but for the recreation of lawyers visiting Austin on Bar business. Capitol reporters kept at Hilgers and Gayle until they were told that the Bar had paid club bills totaling more than $20,000 in fiscal ’76, including more than $10,000 to the Headliners Club, where Pittman is chairman of the board. The way Longley first learned of Pittman’s salary is instructive. He asked for the figure just as fellow board members were about to approve the $3,000 bonus. Nobody knew. Finally, someone rustled up Pittman and asked him. Pittman knew. Then there was the matter of the new Bar headquarters, the glass-and-granite box officially known as the Texas Law Center, but dubbed “Pitt’s Palace” by some irreverent attorneys \(see architecBar directors had assured members back in 1973 that none of their dues money would be used to finance the new 4 The Texas Observer “If it weren’t for the fact that it’s a closed shop,” said one lawyer, I would tell them to go straight to hell and never pay another nickle of dues.” building. Contributions and the rental income expected from Law Center tenants would do the job. But in the Bar Journal, Longley cast doubt on the 1973 promise by citing the minutes of a board meeting in which directors talked as if dues money might indeed have to be tapped. As it turned out, contributions did not come in fast enough to bankroll construction, and the Bar had to take out a $4 million mortgage loan from American Bank of Austin for interim financing. Longley went to the Capitol press with the news that the Texas constitution prohibits state agencies from mortgaging their property and that there are a number of attorney general opinions holding that the Bar is a state agency. Furthermore, Longley noted, the directors should have known all this since Atty. Gen. Hill, in a 1974 opinion requested by the Bar, had cleared a construction loan but noted pointedly that the Bar had not proposed a mortgage. Hill told the Observer that he also had informally warned bar directors they’d be on shaky ground if they took out a mortgage. Longley also said the Bar’s own rules would seem to prohibit the sort of financial arrangement which finally emerged. And he noted in passing that H. C. Pittman is a director of the American Bank of Austin. Meanwhile, other Bar directors were plugging for the dues increase as a life or death matter. Board chairman Hilgers, who confesses he gets “very emotional” about the Bar’s current distress, wrote a pro-dues-increase pitch in which he said the legal profession was on trial. The piece ran opposite Longley’s in the Bar Journal. Lawyers, he said, could be entering “a world of hostility and hate, bent on our extermination as a profession.” He added, “We must not perilize ourselves at this moment of greatest challenge.” The Bar’s administrative staff had grown, Hilgers said, because the demand for central services had grown. Two-to-one against dues increase When the dues vote came in, it seemed a lot of lawyers weren’t worried about perilizing themselves. They trounced the dues increase two-to-one. Some were willing to give Longley all the credit, or blame, for the defeat. President Gayle allowed that the maverick director had waged an effective campaign but said the proposal was probably doomed from the start because many lawyers feel “alienated” from the lead ers of their profession. The ones who took the trouble to write to Longley did indeed sound alienated. “If it weren’t for the fact that it’s a closed shop, ordered so by the Legislature, I would tell them to go straight to hell and never pay another nickel of dues,” one wrote. A law professor thanked Longley for bringing to light “a festering situation which needs correction.” A wag out in Hereford said the local bar group there was trying to raise money for a barbecue and he had suggested mortgaging the courthouse to pay for the bash. “Do you have an opinion as to the legality of this transaction?” he asked. A lot of letter writers just said things like “Me, too!” or “Give ’em hell!” One lawyer in Denton had a warning: “I hope your financial situation is such that you can withstand the economic pressures that will be applied. I understand how the system works.”
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