|July 25, 2011|
|PRSA Stonewall Battered by Facts|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|The PR Society’s stance that anything in O’Dwyer media is unworthy of notice and no questions by us are to be answered, crumbled last week in the face of two developing stories.|
One was our criticism of the PRS audit by PKF that ignored the FASB rule that dues must be booked over a year’s time and definitely not immediately as PRS does.
The “balance sheet” of the Society is thus “out-of-balance.”
The other topic is the hacking scandal of the Murdoch empire.
Society VP-PR Art Yann and allies, coat-tailing on this issue, accused this writer of “hacking” into teleconferences five times between May 22, 2007 and May 12, 2009.
Hacking as used in the Murdoch media scandals means listening into private telephone conversations.
There’s a difference between that and reporting on teleconferences of leaders and members of PRS discussing matters that all PR pros should be aware of. The Society’s motto is “Advancing the Profession and Professionals” (i.e., everyone in PR).
Upwards of 500 members are invited to the PRS teleconferences.
Yann, in a posting on Ragan’s PR Daily, says anyone who doubts we reported on PRS teleconferences can come to his office for proof.
We will spare them the trip. Links to five teleconferences covered by this website are in this blog. Anyone who reads these five reports will come away with a bellyful of PRS.
Participation Is Scant
A hallmark of the conferences is the low rate of participation and the near absence of questions. When questions are asked, they are not apt to be answered.
“Leaders” and staff monopolize the mike just like they do at the annual Assembly.
Only two questions were asked at the end of an hour-long call May 22, 2007 (link, sub req'd).
A member from “the Southwest” asked about the severance pay of Catherine Bolton, who ended her tour as COO on Dec. 31, 2006.
CFO John Colletti said details would be in IRS Form 990 to be filed in “mid-June.”
That was an evasion because details of Bolton’s severance were already in the audit that had been published. She got $300,000 plus about $28,000 yearly in retirement benefits.
Colletti’s promise of a “mid-June” filing was two months off the mark since the actual filing was not made until Aug. 13.
PRS, like many trade groups, is a chronic late filer of Form 990—8/28/2008 for the 2007 return; 9/15/09 for ’08, and 9/16/10 for ’09.
Assembly delegates in 2009-10 did not get to see the 990. It wasn’t available on GuideStar until early the next year since processing takes months.
What Is Cost of Rally?
Another questioner wanted to know the cost of the “Leadership Rally” to which the 110 chapter presidents-elect are invited each year [these will be the very people representing their chapters either in the year of the “Rally” or the next year].
Colletti said it’s between $80,000 and $115,000 depending on how many attend.
Costs have escalated since then because, in addition to the presidents-elect, the chairs of the 17 sections and ten districts have been added for a total of 137. The stipend from national has been boosted to $550 from $500.
Attendees also get five free meals (worth about $200) including dinner at a Class A New York restaurant on Friday night. So 137 X $750 = $102,750 for starters. There are no doubt lots of other costs including staff time so we bet the total bill is upwards of $150K.
Chapter officers have compromised their integrity by accepting this largesse from national. (Coverage of the 2009 “Rally” is here)
Candidate Shortage Told at 4/9/2008 Conf.
The severe shortage of candidates was the topic at the April 8, 2008 teleconference.
A committee of 50 headed by Blake Lewis of Dallas (2011 candidate for treasurer) created a task force to work at attracting candidates. It also got the 2007 Assembly to pass a resolution demanding “transparency, complete openness” by the PRS board and the h.q. staff.
Although PRS had a record 11 vacancies to fill on the board, only two potential candidates showed up for two teleconferences that day.
Only about 5% of members are eligible for national office since candidates must not only be APR, but have headed a chapter, district, section or national committee or have voted in the Assembly.
Eight Candidates on 5/13/2008 Call
Eight candidates showed up at the conference call on May 12, 2008, posing nine questions.
Officers/staff took up about 40 minutes of the call with their own presentations.
Tom Eppes, currently Ethics Board chair, and a member of the 2008 board, asked if he could use the same letters supporters had given him when he ran for the 2006 board in seeking an officer’s post on the 2009 board.
Nomcom Cheryl Procter-Rogers urged him to come up with “fresh letters.”
Officers Plead for Bylaw Suggestions
Probably the most bizarre teleconference was that of Aug. 24, 2009, when Dave Rickey (currently running for chair-elect) pleaded for Assembly delegates and all members to send in ideas for the new bylaws as soon as possible.
This was odd because, under Robert’s Rules, a group doing a bylaws revision is supposed to appoint a “large” committee representing all parts of the organization and meetings on the bylaws are supposed to be conducted apart from the annual meeting.
Ten of his 11 committee members were APR when only about 20% of the members are. They were all volunteers. Cindy Sharpe quit because there was no opportunity for members to question the committee face-to-face.
Disobeyed was the RR rule that all articles of a revision must be placed one-by-one before an Assembly. Only a few were.
Proxies were allowed and made part of the bylaws in defiance not only of RR but New York State law that says proxies are forbidden if there is a specific bylaw against them.
There was such a provision in the PRS bylaws since it adopted RR as its “parliamentary authority.” RR says such adoption satisfies any state demand for a specific bylaw rule.
The May 12, 2009 teleconference on “leadership opportunities” resulted in only one question from a member.
Another interesting call is that of Aug. 18, 2010, when Sandra Fathi, president-elect of PRS/New York, pleaded unsuccessfully with chair Gary McCormick for use of the 21,000 e-mail membership list by those seeking a bylaw allowing non-APRs to run for the board.
She said the drive to obtain signatures had stalled because use of the list was blocked.
The committee’s initiative also failed to gain coverage in either printed Tactics or its online version.
Fathi presented from 11:22 to 11:38 a.m. when McCormick cut her off, saying time was short and other topics needed to be covered.
The call scheduled for one hour, ended at 11:46 when no further topics were raised.
Since PRS’s PR dept. sent out far and wide the charges that we had “hacked” into its teleconferences, Society loyalists took this as a golden opportunity to denounce us in the strongest terms.
PRS members have been told over the years that the O’Dwyer Co. has a “grudge” and is out to “destroy” it.
Our “grudge” is that we and other authors would like to be paid for the hundreds of thousands of copies of our articles that PRS sold without our permission.
As for “destroying” PRS, the board/staff are doing a good job of that by trampling on virtually all of the principles in the PRS Code of Ethics.
None of the critics will meet with us or talk to us on the phone or even trade e-mails about the topics we write about such as the Society’s vapid, overly-technical financial reports that mask the “meat and bones” of what goes on at h.q.
E-mails to Advertising Age, Ragan’s PR Daily, and individual blog sites said we were “unethical,” “a pig,” “have a lifelong compulsion to tear down the Society,” “is positively unhinged where the Society is concerned,” “a publisher of false and defamatory statements,” “a scoundrel,” exhibits “reprehensible behavior,” “reports twisted versions of the news without truth entering the equation,” “makes up some of the things he reports,” a “noisemaker and not a journalist,” and “constantly acts upon warped, false and misleading information.”
I thought PR was the profession of politeness, conciliation and mediation!
The best coverage and most letters on the subject (11) were on Ragan’s PR Daily which is presided over by Michael Sebastian.
Postings by Yann, Society supporters and critics and three by this writer are included in the coverage.
Yann blasts an anonymous e-mailer as “gutless.” But what someone says on a topic like this in public could have business consequences. The statements last forever on the web.
More important are the facts cited by a participant and the strength of his or her reasoning.
It’s inconsistent of Yann to complain about anonymity when the entire Assembly of PRS is anonymous at this point.
Chapters don’t have to identify their delegates until Aug. 1. Previously, chapter delegates were elected by Dec. 1 of the preceding year and their names were available year-round.
Who ever heard of a democracy with a secret legislature?
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