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MS Group Trustees Were Informed of Plan for Mrs. Meese but Didn’t Vote

April 16, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Trustees for the Multiple Sclerosis Society were told in advance of plans to hire Attorney General Edwin Meese’s wife, Ursula, with money from the foundation of a wealthy Washington real-estate family, the society attorney says.

Attorney James Bierbower said Friday he had found minutes in society records that showed the board of trustees was advised of the plan at a Dec. 12, 1985, meeting. Mrs. Meese started work in January 1986.

Bierbower said the trustees didn’t vote on the plan for Mrs. Meese, who was hired at $40,000 a year with funds from The Bender Foundation.

Independent counsel James McKay is investigating Mrs. Meese’s hiring as part of his inquiry into whether the attorney general violated federal law through any conflict of interest between his family’s financial affairs and his government duties.

A partnership headed by Howard M. Bender, the foundation’s vice president, later won a $50 million lease to provide offices for the Justice Department in a building the government once planned to move out of.

Some MS trustees had complained that they only read of Mrs. Meese’s hiring in newspaper accounts in the last two weeks. Not all board members attend each quarterly meeting.

Bierbower said the minutes revealed trustees were told a grant from the Bender Foundation would enable the chapter to ″hire a development consultant to work full-time in seeking non-government funding for the job placement program.″

The minutes continued: ″Ursula Meese will be joining the staff in this capacity and also will continue to serve on the board of trustees.″

Bierbower said he thought the board was informed of the grant by Jeanne Bradley, the society’s executive director.

He said the minutes do not reflect that any vote was taken. ″I would imagine it was just a no-objection″ notification, he said.

Mrs. Meese, 56, had been a volunteer at the agency since 1981 and was herself a trustee. She was hired to expand Operation Job Match, which finds work for MS victims.