Towery says auditor validates purchase of new building

The state auditor said it is appropriate for the State Bar to maintain offices in both northern and southern California and found that its existing building fund and a $10 annual assessment on lawyers is "more than sufficient" to buy a new building in San Francisco.

The bar has come under fire for buying the $22.5 million building at 180 Howard St. at a time the organization's future is unresolved.

The audit "validated the sound business judgment behind the acquisition of the building," said bar President Jim Towery. He added that the purchase will save the bar between $10 million and $14 million over 10 years. Offices now located in three buildings will be consolidated in the new facility next year.

Ten dollars of the current membership dues are now set aside for a building fund, which will be used to finance part of the purchase. Towery said when the mortgage is paid off, it will be up to the Board of Governors at that time to determine whether the assessment will be continued.

Auditors also examined the issue of maintaining bar offices in northern and southern California and concluded it is appropriate to maintain both.

"According to the State Bar, the primary reason is to operate its discipline program effectively," auditors wrote. "By maintaining offices in these two cities, the bar believes that complainants and attorneys being disciplined have better access to the discipline process."