|September 26, 2010|
|Legal Bills Mount at PR Society|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|Legal expenses at the PR Society were a record $110,452 in 2008, more than double the average legal bills of seven previous years.|
Not known are legal costs for 2009 when extensive legal work was done on the bylaws revision.
The Society’s 2009 report is not available on either GuideStar or Foundation Center 990 Finder, the two internet sources where its 2008 report is posted.
Chair Gary McCormick told the Lexington, Ky., chapter Aug. 10 that he thought the 990 would be filed by the end of August.
VP-PR Art Yann does not respond to questions about the 990. He has been sent a fax asking for it but the law is that the Society has 30 days to comply with such a request. PRSA is not required to file until Nov. 15.
Assembly delegates last year did not get to see the 990 which for the first time provided the pay/benefits of the top six staffers. Previously, only the highest paid staffer was reported. Also reported were more than 35 stock trades.
COO Bill Murray got a $50,064 raise (19%) to $312,779. He also received $30,500 in retirement pay and non-taxable expense benefits of $16,587.
The Society uses two law firms, Venable, 660-member firm in Washington, D.C., and Sifton & Salimi, three-lawyer firm in Brooklyn where Ann Thomas, formerly with Venable, handles the account.
Legal bills were $65,325 in 2007; $66,761 in 2006; $42,571 in 2005; $20,498 in 2003; $51,011 in 2001; $34,628 in 1998 and $55,461 in 1995 (average of $48,036).
Trohan Is Back as Parliamentarian
Again working for PRSA as parliamentarian is Colette Trohan. She gave extensive advice on the bylaws re-write last year but it is not known what her fees were.
Houston delegate Sally Evans asked on a teleconference that the crucial 2009 Assembly be audiocast but Trohan and 2009 chair Mike Cherenson argued against it.
Cherenson said it was “near impossible—technologically challenging.” When Evans said sessions of Congress are telecast daily, Trohan said that Congress has “unlimited funding.”
Cherenson asked Trohan for her opinion and she said she “strongly recommends against getting involved in the Judge Ito (O.J. Simpson judge) effect where all of a sudden instead of having your meeting and dealing with what you have to deal with people are very aware that there are cameras, whatever, some kind of audio feed.”
She advised the Society to “put out a synopsis of the actions that would not take as much time as minutes to put together and pretty much say here’s what happened.”
Audiocasting Cheap and Easy
The above is total nonsense because audiocasting is both cheap and easy and was used in last year’s conference just after the Assembly.
As for PR pros being disturbed by “cameras” and an “audio feed,” that is also preposterous. If they can’t stand the limelight, they don’t belong in PR.
We hear this all the time—Assembly delegates are “disturbed” by our presence and we must stay in the back of the room. This is some kind of spin—PR people are upset by the mere sight of a reporter.
Trohan appears to be an advocate for what Society leaders want rather than someone who quotes Robert’s Rules. She did not protest when only some of the bylaws rather than all of them were discussed as required by Robert’s.
Delegates need to elect their own chair and need to have their own lawyer and parliamentarian. Otherwise, the Assembly will again be a meeting of chickens run by foxes.
July 16 Board Minutes Unavailable
Still unavailable are the minutes to the July 16 board meeting where Richard Edelman and Bill Doescher of the Committee for a Democratic PRSA asked the board to support non-APRs being in national leadership. The board refused to do so.
Late board minutes are a habit with the Society. The minutes of the July 24, 2009 meeting were not posted until Oct. 24 and the October 2008 minutes were not posted until five months later. New York State government bodies must post their minutes two weeks after a meeting.
Information-withholding continues on a massive scale at PRSA and includes the list of delegates that rank-and-file members cannot see. Delegates don’t even have to list their names if they don’t feel like it.
Proxy votes will be used again at the Assembly although this breaks a basic rule in Robert’s Rules. There is no report on who holds such proxies or how they are voted.
Legal Threats to Members Are Grotesque
The dominance of a legal culture at Society h.q. has now reached grotesque proportions with the Society threatening legal action against delegates who forward e-group postings to anyone.
Supposedly such delegates would be breaking the “intellectual property laws of the U.S.” and would be subject to the “personal jurisdiction of the courts of the state of New York” for any violation of the e-group agreement.
Participants own their own postings and can send they anywhere they wish.
Secondly, all of the nearly 100 postings should be in the public area of the PRSA website so rank-and-file members can see the debate and put pressure on their delegates.
APRs Are a Nasty Crowd
The non-APRs would see the APRs in their true colors—lying about the APR issue as having been brought up “repeatedly” when it was only brought up once before; lying to prospective members by not telling them they will be second class members until they pony up another $385 for the APR process; hurling insults at those who want APR decoupled from office-holding (calling them “whining, negative, destructive, accusatory”); questioning the ethics of the decouplers (calling them “those who slime the ethics of our profession”), and endlessly praising the APR exam which is based on 21 college textbook PR chapters (falsely calling it “a mark of professional excellence and credibility”).
The APRs repeatedly contradict themselves by describing the APR process as something arduous that takes a lot of time and commitment while at the same time saying the process is “a piece of cake” and that “the entire process takes a few hours and people should be whizzing through it.”
If there is anything that would topple the APRs and lead to a revolt of the non-APRs in the chapters, it would be viewing this debate. It’s no wonder h.q. does not want members to see it.
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