A survey emailed July 18 to State Bar of Texas members asks them to weigh in on the bar’s transparency efforts after a task force appointed last year to study the issue was allowed to expire in June.

On June 20, the State Bar board voted unanimously to hire Weaver, a Texas-based independent advisory firm, to examine the bar’s transparency and make recommendations.

Joe Longley, who became the State Bar’s president in June, said he opposed allowing the task force to expire, although he joined the bar board in voting to hire Weaver. He said he was against spending the money to hire an outside company to do a survey when the task force could have provided information on transparency for free.

“I said it’s not needed,” Longley said.

Lowell Brown, the State Bar’s communications director, said the bar board approved an expenditure “not to exceed $32,695” when it hired Weaver.

The Transparency Task Force had drawn criticism from one of its own during the April meeting of the bar board.

Dallas attorney Scott Stolley, who was appointed to the task force but resigned, told the board, “I believe this task force is a flawed vehicle for achieving the legitimate purposes of openness and transparency.”

Stolley, an immediate past director of the bar, said at the board meeting that one of his concerns was the fact that statements John Sirman, the bar’s legal counsel, had made to the task force at a March meeting were taken from their original context and repeated in litigation against the bar, Pardo v. State Bar of Texas, et al.

“They were repeated,” Longley said of Sirman’s statements.  “They were a public record.”

Pardo is a Texas Public Information Act case, according to Austin attorney Chuck Herring, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiff.

Stolley requested that Longley disband the Transparency Task Force, but Longley declined to do so. However, the board decided to let the task force expire in June at the end of Longley’s term as president-elect.

The survey emailed to State Bar members asks participants to answer 13 questions, beginning with the question: “How often do you seek or receive information from the State Bar of Texas?”

Participants are asked to rate the quality and accessibility of information that the bar provides on various topics. Also included in the survey are questions about a participant’s age, gender and ethnicity.