The Synod’s Board of Directors at its Feb. 24-25 meeting in St. Louis appointed Thompson Coburn LLP to serve as the Synod’s legal counsel for the current triennium.
However, that choice hinges on the outcome of talks between Thompson Coburn and Board representatives “to work out details regarding transition and fees,” said Dr. Thomas Kuchta, the Board’s interim chief administrative officer and the Synod’s vice president-finance/treasurer. A meeting for holding these talks was scheduled for March 31, the day this Reporter went to press.
The resolution appointing Thompson Coburn calls for the Board’s legal committee and President Gerald Kieschnick to work out those details with the firm.
Thompson Coburn LLP and the Stolar Partnership — which has served as the Synod’s legal counsel for a number of years — were among four firms whose representatives met with the legal committee in February.
At its November meeting, the Board assigned the legal committee to “proceed with obtaining information/proposals to represent the Synod from qualified law firms, including the Stolar Partnership law firm, [and] report back to the Board as soon as possible.”
“Until such time as details about transition and fees can be worked out with Thompson Coburn, the Stolar Partnership continues as the Synod’s legal counsel,” Kuchta said.
The LCMS Council of Presidents adopted a resolution in February “to express clearly the fact that members of the [COP] are pleased with the performance of Synod`s present legal counsel and would respectfully ask the Board of directors to keep this in mind as it considers various bids for legal counsel. … “
The COP resolution says the council “recogniz[es] that the Board of Directors alone is entrusted with the responsibility ‘to exercise supervision over the property and business affairs of the Synod’ (2001 Handbook, p. 11).”
Noting that the Board “routinely considers the matter of its need for legal counsel,” Synod Secretary Raymond Hartwig said “the Board indeed took into consideration the input of the Council of Presidents and others in making its decision.”
Initially at its February meeting, the Board defeated a resolution “to appoint the Thompson Coburn law firm to serve as legal counsel for the Synod, with further negotiations regarding the details of transition to be handled by the Chief Administrative Officer, with fee negotiations to be conducted by the [CAO] and with all communications regarding this decision to be handled by the Secretary.”
The next morning, a motion to reappoint the Stolar law firm was introduced, a substitute motion was declined consideration, and an amendment to the motion was defeated before the Board passed its resolution 8-7 to appoint Thompson Coburn, with “the Legal Committee and the President [to] meet with the firm to work out details regarding transition and fees.”
In other major business, the Board approved the sale of 25 acres of undeveloped land at Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Mich.
From the proceeds of that sale, the university will be able to reduce its debt by $2.275 million and make campus improvements, including a new health and fitness center.
Two weeks earlier, the Synod’s Board for University Education approved the land sale and gave the university the green light to begin the process of calling a new president, contingent on the Board of Directors approving the sale of the 25 acres.
The Board of Directors’ action about Ann Arbor came after a presentation by the university’s interim president, Dr. Thomas Ahlersmeyer, and Executive Vice President Charles Winterstein.
In that presentation, they noted that enrollment and donor support have increased dramatically in the last several years.
For example, Winterstein said that two years ago Concordia, Ann Arbor, registered 77 freshmen, with that number up to 126 for the current academic year.
He also said that donor support has gone from about $1 million in 2000 to $2.8 million to date.
Dr. Alan Borcherding, director of university education with the Synod’s Board for University Education, told Reporter that Concordia, Ann Arbor, reduced its long-term debt from $10.9 million to $8.9 million between the end of fiscal years 2002 and 2004.
“I think they’re doing a magnificent job,” Kuchta said of the university later in the Board meeting.
In a separate action, the Board of Directors approved interim bond financing of up to $2.5 million for Concordia University, Irvine, Calif., to build and furnish a new education, business, and technology building.
During his report to the Board, Kuchta said that end-of-year receipts from LCMS districts to the national Synod totaled $20.2 million, compared with pledges of $21.4 million and a budget figure of $20.7 million. He said this would likely result in a $200,000 shortfall.
Kuchta also indicated that pledges from LCMS districts for the coming fiscal year total $21.05 million, compared with $21.27 million for the current year and noted that 11 districts increased their pledges while 14 decreased theirs.
The Board will set the national budget for fiscal year 2005-06 at its next meeting, May 23-24 in New Orleans.
In preparation for that budget, the Board approved an increase in the overall labor budget for national-Synod employees of 4 percent.
The financial situation of the Synod’s KFUO radio stations in St. Louis has “improved significantly,” Synod Secretary Hartwig, who is the Board of Directors’ liaison member on the KFUO Radio Committee, told the Board. He said that the AM station is operating in the black “to a small extent,” and the FM station is “in the black to a much larger extent.”
Kuchta said that for the six-month period ending Dec. 31, KFUO recorded a $101,224 increase in unrestricted net assets, compared with a $254,092 decrease in the previous year.
The Board approved creation of a separate corporation known as “Concordia Plans Administration” to administer the Synod’s Worker Benefit Plans.
A rationale statement for the action proposed by the Plans’ Board of Managers says that creation of the new corporation would “solve … functional and operational confusion and simplify the [Plans] administration.”
The Board appointed Dr. Gerhard Freche of Naples, Fla., and Lake Toxaway, N.C., to fill a vacancy on the Synod’s Board for Pastoral Education.
Several unanimous votes occurred during the meeting. Among those actions, the Board:
- voted down a request from the Board for Communication Services (BCS) that the Electronic Media and Church Information Center be transferred from the Department of General Services to