[Board of Governors] 

Sparks fly over editorial proposal

Staff Writer

Following a heated discussion centering around proper procedure and internal board politics, the bar's Board of Governors postponed until its May 31 meeting a decision to reconstitute the California Bar Journal editorial board as a committee of three.

Pauline Weaver, chair of the Member & Consumer Relations (MCR) Committee, said the nine-member MCR Committee, which currently is the editorial advisory board, does not function in that role and that a smaller, three-member group would be less unwieldy.

However, several board members called the move an attempt to remove public member Peter Kaye, who is not a current member of the MCR Committee, from any position of influence with the Bar Journal.

During a meeting of the committee, lawyer member John Collins called for the censure of Kaye. Collins said he is angry with Kaye over a Point/Counterpoint piece Kaye wrote for the March issue of the Bar Journal, in which Kaye chastised bar leaders over a $900,000, two-year private lobbying contract. Collins called Kaye's column a "despicable . . . cowardly act."

But public member Wendy Borcherdt called the move against Kaye censorship. She noted that four years ago she voted against creating the Bar Journal because she feared it would be "one-sided" by printing only favorable coverage of the bar. Borcherdt said she has been pleased with the paper's unbiased approach and hopes the board doesn't invoke censorship now, proving her fears to have been well-grounded.

Kaye, currently editorial director of San Diego television station KNSD, was instrumental in launching the Bar Journal in January 1994 and has since assisted in editing the paper's opinion pages. Formerly associate editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune, he is a public member of the board, appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson.

Weaver broke a 3-3 tie to bring the proposal for the three-member editorial committee before the entire board the following day. 

However, the next morning, the item was removed from the full board agenda. When questions were raised, President Tom Stolpman said that as the chair, he was ruling that the committee's vote to approve the resolution would take effect without a vote by the board.

"This is the first time something has been pulled unilaterally," charged member Jo Ellen Allen, who voted against the resolution in committee. 

Several other board members also said they were angry with the move, with public member John Morris calling it "outrageous." As Stolpman tried to move ahead on the agenda, first-year member James Seff said it was "very clear this is an issue of emotional importance to this board" and called for reconsideration.

The board eventually voted 13-6 to overrule Stolpman's decision, and then voted later in the meeting to take the matter up again in May.