Editor’s note: State Bar of Texas President Tom Vick sent the following message to members Friday. 

I hope the new year finds you well. Please read below for updates from Friday’s quarterly meeting of the State Bar Board of Directors in San Antonio.

2018 President-elect Race

The State Bar board unanimously approved the nominations of Lisa Blue of Dallas and Randy Sorrels of Houston in the race for the next president-elect. Click here to read the news release and to learn more about these candidates, and pick up the April issue of the Texas Bar Journal for a Q&A. Voting is April 2 to May 1, and results will be announced May 1. The winner will serve as State Bar president from June 2019 until June 2020.

Election Policy Changes  

The board approved changes to State Bar policy and rules to update our election procedures for president-elect and district director to ensure that the process is fair and all candidates have the same opportunities to campaign. The board voted to add a 180-day expiration date on petition signatures—a provision that matches the law governing petitions in other state elections. The board also decided to approve board-nominated candidates in September in future years, instead of January. Taken together, these changes will ensure that the campaign periods are roughly equal for president-elect candidates, regardless of whether they are nominated by our board or certified through petition.

As part of the same process, the board approved sweeping changes to the board policy manual that relaxed or removed many campaign restrictions to ensure that director and president-elect candidates are all able to freely present their views of and visions for the bar.

Update on Embezzlement Issue 

A member of President-elect Joe K. Longley’ s financial task force reported that the procedural changes State Bar staff made immediately following a 2012 embezzlement case would likely prevent the incident from happening today. As we have reported in the past, the State Bar staff discovered in 2012 that an employee embezzled funds from an account outside the State Bar’s audit authority. As soon as the theft was discovered, that employee was fired, charges were filed, a conviction obtained, and processes were changed to ensure that it could not happen again.

As part of the task force’s work, Dallas attorney William D. Brown, who has more than 40 years of forensic accounting and/investigative experience, was tasked with analyzing the internal control system at the State Bar before and after the embezzlement. He determined that current written controls “adequately address the issues raised” by the theft. At the meeting Friday, he also thanked the State Bar staff for their cooperation and transparency in aiding his extensive analysis. I encourage you to read the whole report here. 

Internal Records Policy 

Some members have contacted us with questions about a proposed internal records policy pending before the board of directors. This article from the Texas Bar Blog offers a good overview of the proposal. Currently, the State Bar lacks a policy on how to handle requests from officers and directors for records not subject to the Texas Public Information Act when the executive director has concerns about a particular request. The proposed policy was designed to provide more transparency, not less, by giving the final authority to release such records to the board of directors—your elected representatives—instead of the executive director. At the board meeting Friday, the policy manual subcommittee informed the board it was delaying action on this proposal to allow for more study.

Open Enrollment & Teledoc Benefit 

Despite an open enrollment period half as long as in years past (45 vs. 90 days), enrollments in the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange have far exceeded expectations. We saw an astonishing 18 percent increase in individual major medical enrollments and a healthy 16 percent increase in employer and employee major medical enrollments in 2018—surpassing last year’s projections.

These numbers are particularly impressive given that nationwide, health care enrollments for 2018 are either the same as or slightly lower than for 2017. These numbers are good news for the State Bar’s efforts to provide health insurance opportunities for hardworking Texas attorneys, their families, and their employees.

In addition, enrollments in Teladoc, which allows lawyers and their families to receive extremely low-cost medical evaluations and even (in certain cases) prescriptions via web, phone, and mobile app—without ever setting foot in a doctor’s office—are up 88 percent when compared to last year. Any member who has purchased a product from the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange is eligible to receive Teladoc at no cost. In many cases, Teladoc allows Texas attorneys and their families to avoid crowded (and potentially infectious) medical waiting rooms while obtaining quality care for their medical needs.

It’s an honor to serve as your State Bar president. If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know.