LEGAL PAD: The head of the National Association of Bar Executives says Whetstone’s empty desk is a plum position.

“I think we’re going to be overwhelmed with applicants,” Haratani said.

Even if they’re right, it may be tricky to find the right fit.

“It’s really not just a membership trade organization,” said Therese Stewart, a former BASF president who recently served on the board of BASF’s foundation. “We’ve got to find somebody who really gets that” and can also be a good fiscal manager, people manager and fundraiser. “Having all those skills come together is a monumental thing.”

Keker & Van Nest partner Jon Streeter was on the board when Barnes resigned in 2003. He blamed that departure on the staff’s response when Barnes had to both cut about 20 percent of the full-time workforce and focus on fiscal discipline, which occurred during the economic climate that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“Eventually, she ended up concluding that because of the staff dissension around decisions she had been making that she could no longer be effective,” he said.

In addition to hiring someone with the right qualifications, Streeter said, the board must “communicate to the organization that the person is in charge and has the confidence of the board.”

What specifically prompted Whetstone’s resignation last month remains an open question. Neither Whetstone nor Bar leaders will discuss the circumstances.

But two sources who worked for the Bar during Whetstone’s tenure offered differing descriptions of the dynamics at BASF under her leadership.

One individual said Whetstone rightly raised the Bar’s profile and professionalized its fundraising. Yet some employees seemed to do everything they could to contact members of the board with unfair complaints about her performance, the source said.

“Martha was doing the right things. And anybody who comes in is going to have to do the same things,” the source predicted.

But the other BASF source claimed dissatisfaction was widespread among the staff, saying Whetstone “micromanaged to the hilt.”

“The net effect is very dehumanizing,” this source said, and the board was “well aware of the dissatisfaction of the employees.”

“The Bar should look for the next executive director to � step into the position by watching and seeing and appreciating first, and then acting second,” this person added.

Both employees, however, also said they believe the organization remains a strong one.

Whetstone, reached on her cell phone Wednesday, said she had made a decision not to discuss her resignation in the press.

“I don’t have any angst. I’m happy about my decision,” she said. “I think I did a good job while I was there,” she added, but “literally, I’m just sort of wanting to say goodbye to that and onto the next thing.”

If any employees had complaints, one venting opportunity may have been a recent review of Whetstone’s job performance. James Finberg, the president of BASF at the time, confirmed he appointed a human resources committee of four board members late last year to, among other things, do a 360-degree review of the executive director. It was not prompted by complaints, he said. Because he was not on the committee himself, Finberg said he was not sure when the review was completed.

In its search for a new executive director, BASF has put together a 16-person search committee that includes a current staff member and some current and former board members. Ramey will consult from the East Coast.

“The scope of the search is going to be think locally, search nationally, if not globally,” Clarence said. And since Daniel Burkhardt, who was already deputy director, is now acting executive director, she said, “We’re going to do this very deliberately and thoroughly.”