The Texas Trial Lawyers Association has called an urgent meeting for Wednesday to address complaints about its spending practices and other criticism leveled by a breakaway faction of attorneys who say they want more for their money.
The meeting, to be held at the Four Seasons in Austin, came in reaction to a Texas Tribune article about the creation of the new Texas Association of Consumer Lawyers, officials said. Steve Mostyn, the state’s top Democratic donor and former president of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, told the Tribune that he started the new group because he felt like the TTLA's dues were being wasted on lavish salaries and benefits instead of getting allies elected to important state elected offices.
After Mostyn's criticism was aired publicly, TTLA members expressed concern, prompting the association to call a special meeting to discuss the controversy.
“This meeting has been called with some urgency to discuss issues about TTLA raised in a recent news article,” the TTLA said in an email to members. “This is an in-person meeting only, and you are urged to attend this important meeting so that these issues may be fully and candidly discussed.”
TTLA President Brad Parker said the group wanted to be "as transparent as possible" with its members and answer any questions that have arisen.
"I think it's fair to say that people had some questions and it would best if we had an open forum," Parker said. "We wanted to be sure to have a meeting with our members not only about the issues that were raised in [the Tribune] article but any and all issues that may surround that."
Mostyn and other critics have highlighted in particular the large compensation package of the TTLA’s longtime executive director, Tommy Townsend.
According to Guidestar, which tracks the spending of nonprofit organizations, Townsend was paid $1,061,880 in 2011. The report showed compensation for key employees accounted for nearly a third of the group’s more than $6 million in receipts that year.
The TTLA’s longtime director of political affairs, Russ Tidwell, cited excessive compensation as the reason he quit in protest, according to a copy of the resignation letter, obtained by the Tribune.
“I cannot continue to work for an organization that engages in needless excessive executive compensation, and even rewards extraordinary greed and deception after it has been discovered,” Tidwell wrote in the Sept. 30 letter.
Tidwell confirmed the authenticity of the letter but said he had “no comment at this time” about the turmoil at TTLA.
Parker called Tidwell's resignation an "internal personnel matter" and declined to discuss the specifics of his letter.