Legal

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 – 10:00 a.m.

The Salvos continue to fly, while the stakes escalate, in a legal dispute between the Peace Officer’s Research Association of California (PORAC), it’s Legal Defense Fund (LDF), and the Upland-based law firm of Lackie, Dammeier, McGill and Ethir.

PORAC is the largest peace officer oranganization in California. LDF, a PORAC affiliate, is the largest provider of job-related legal defense services to peace officers across the Western United States. Lackie, Dammeier was one of the groups largest, and most popular, legal defense panel members.

Last week, PORAC and LDF launched an all-out assualt on the Upland law firm, accusing some of its attorneys of serious malfeasance. Alleged malfeasnace rising to the level of disbarrment offenses.

However, several missteps by PORAC-LDF has complicated the situation.

After terminating the law firm’s contract to represent multiple Southern California unions, PORAC-LDF made the stupid misstake of allowing its accusations, against the targeted lawyers, to get out into the mainstream.

In lock-step with PORAC-LDF, the law firm’s largest client, the San Bernardino County Safety Employees’ Benefit Association (SEBA), fired the law firm, under the pretense that union by-laws required it to use a LDF Panel law firm. Even though there’ no such provision. Page 35-36 of the union’s constitution and bylaws state “The Association has the responsibilty to provide and administer the legal defense delivery system as directed by the Association Board of Directors.”

Only the premium rate is based upon PORAC-LDF, nothing more.

A flurry of emails, depicting an all-out battle for clients, have now leaked out. Lackie, Dammeier has, with some success, started pulling its clients away from PORAC-LDF, offering an alternative plan. The move has forced PORAC-LDF to engage in efforts to re-market itself to its members.

It’s no secret most law enforcement unions belong to PORAC, solely for the LDF coverage. A former law firm, with what appears to be a loyal client base, aggressively going after members, is definitely causing some serious consternation and infighting.

The situation has devolved into PORAC member associations leaking out distributed correspondence, along side demands that evidence against the attorneys be released, and then there’s those dueling audits.

Here’s a recap of the email war:

PORAC_BigLogo
September 10, 2013
ATTN: PORAC Legal Defense Fund Participants,
The Legal Defense Fund Trustees (LDF) have requested PORAC distribute this letter to all plan participants.
 LDF Logo
September 10, 2013
Dear PORAC Legal Defense Fund Participants:
Recently the Legal Defense Board of Trustees (“LDF”) found that the former panel law firm of Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir (“LDME”) has committed serious acts of misconduct regarding their billing practices. As a result, LDME has been removed from the LDF panel of approved providers.
Consistent with their duty of providing members with accurate and appropriate information, the Board of Trustees desires to disclose certain facts which were revealed during the course of this recent investigation. The below information is just a few of the instances of misconduct, and are included to provide an example of the repeated and systematic actions by this former panel firm:
1)    On numerous occasions Saku Ethir (the managing partner) submitted invoices to LDF claiming to have billed more than 24 hours in one day.
2)    Saku Ethir submitted invoices to LDF in 2012 claiming to have billed 4,275 hours within that year. To put this in perspective, the next highest non-LDME panel attorney billed LDF 2,590 hours during that same year. The difference between these two is 1685 hours. The average annual billable hours for a full time LDF panel attorney is between 1,800 – 2,000 hours. Therefore, Saku Ethir’s excess billing is almost equal to the average LDF attorney’s entire yearly work product.
3)    Saku Ethir admitted to engaging in not only impermissible double billing, but also engaging in acts of “triple billing.” This means that she claims to have been working on three separate client’s cases simultaneously, billing LDF three times for the same period of time spent.
4)    Over the last year and a half, Peter Horton submitted scores of invoices to LDF, claiming to have traveled hundreds of miles which were not actually travelled.   On some of these phantom trips, he also claimed to have encountered “traffic” resulting in an increase of the expected travel time. LDF was billed both time and mileage for these non-existent trips.
5)    Kasey Sirody traveled to a single location, and attended three separate interviews with three separate clients with the same association. Although she admitted to having only made one single trip, she submitted invoices to LDF for three separate trips. Again, LDF was billed both time and mileage for the two non-existent trips.
6)    During a three-day period in 2013, during which Saku Ethir was ineligible to practice law (her license was temporarily suspended by the California State Bar), she nevertheless continued to bill LDF during this period of suspension.
The above examples are just a sample of the discovered misconduct. The Certified Fraud Examiner found that “The cumulative nature (month after month, year after year) of billable hours and time entries that do not appear to reflect reality are suggestive of indicia of fraud.” Given the extended period of time over which these widespread acts over billing have occurred, numerous experts have estimated the potential damages to be quite substantial. A continued analysis and investigation to more precisely quantify the losses to LDF will be undertaken.
The Board of Trustees takes its responsibility to recover these funds very seriously, and hold those people responsible fully accountable for their actions. At its upcoming meeting, scheduled for this weekend, the Board of Trustees will evaluate their legal options
Sincerely,
The Board of Trustees
PORAC Legal Defense Fund
P.O. Box 693130 * Stockton, CA * 95269 * (209) 774-5600 * (888) 556-5631
If you have any questions, please contact LDF at (888) 556-5631 (ldf@poracldf.org) or contact your LDF trustee.
Fraternally,
Ron_Signature
Ron Cottingham
PORAC President
4010 Truxel Road
Sacramento, CA 95834
(800) 937-6722 Toll Free

.

September 12, 2013

Dear PORAC Legal Defense Fund Participants:

The PORAC Legal Defense Fund has received a few communications, requesting a public disclosure of the entire Certified Fraud Examiner’s report (“CFE Report”) regarding Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir’s (“LDME”) billing practices.  Over these last several days, LDF has also received a number of requests for LDF to pursue civil, criminal and State Bar prosecutions.

The Legal Defense Fund Board of Trustees are now faced with their obligation to exercise their fiduciary duty and pursue their legal options to hold LDME, its principals and partners, responsible for their actions which have caused financial harm to the Legal Defense Fund and its members. 

Since LDF made the announcement to its members earlier this week regarding removal of LDME from the LDF attorney panel, additional information about LDME’s billing practices has been brought to LDF’s attention.  Accordingly, this investigation is still very much an open matter.  The LDF Trustees must exercise extreme care and caution to ensure they do not compromise future legal proceedings, while at the same time, balance the need to keep the members informed of important information.

Given the anticipated potential for numerous future legal proceedings, in a wide range of forums, the LDF Board of Trustees decided to follow the guidance of their Trust Counsel and wait to release the CFE Report until they can be assured the public dissemination of this report will not compromise this continuing investigation and eventual prosecution of appropriate claims.

Please be assured the LDF Board of Trustees had access to the full CFE Report, and spent many hours with the Certified Fraud Examiner prior to reaching their unanimous decision that serious wrongdoing was committed by LDME.  Additionally, on September 9, 2013, the Certified Fraud Examiner met with the Executive Committee of PORAC and presented the same evidence to them during executive session.  At the conclusion of that presentation, the Executive Committee likewise unanimously found that LDME engaged in serious wrongdoing, and each member indicated his support of LDF’s decision to remove LDME from the panel of approved attorney providers.

 

Sincerely,

 

The Board of Trustees

PORAC Legal Defense Fund