|October 11, 2011|
|PRSA Board Member Quits|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|Gary McCormick, of the HGTV unit of Scripps Networks, citing “personal and professional reasons,” resigned Oct. 4 with less than three months to go in his term on the board. |
He had previously quit the 2006 board in February of that year.
Also quitting the 2006 board was Ron Owens of Kaiser Permanente, the only African-American male to elected to the Society’s board in its 64-year history. Members interpreted the resignations of both as a protest of some sort although neither would say anything beyond “personal reasons.”
McCormick got on the board in 2004 as a replacement for counselor Sherry Treco-Jones of Decatur, Ga., who resigned in April of the last year of her three-year term.
McCormick, Owens and Treceo-Jones are the only three sitting directors ever to resign from the board.
McCormick did not return phone calls or e-mails seeking a further explanation.
Treco-Jones Quit in Apparent Protest
Treco-Jones quit the day after recommendations of the governance task force (link, sub req'd) that she headed were turned down by the national board. The board voted 8-6 to disregard the advice of the task force which was looking into charges of irregularities in the 2003 nominating committee headed by Kathy Lewton, 2001 chair.
One reform sought was providing candidates with any negative comments on them so they could be rebutted. Some 2003 candidates claimed they were slandered by highly negative letters and were even considering legal action. Cheryl Procter-Rogers, 2006 chair, and Jeff Julin, 2007 chair, were committee members with Treco-Jones.
The committee was investigating how candidate Maria Russell got 90 lines of type in the 2003 Bluebook as “senior counsel” to nine different boards and committees. Russell was nominated and elected treasurer. No such senior counsel post had existed previously and it was dropped the next year. Critics said this positioned Russell as one of the most active members in the history of the Society and noted that such activities were crucial in determining whether someone obtained a nomination.
Scripps Has Stout Ethical Code
McCormick in 2006 was program manager at URS Coleman, chemical weapons disposal site at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md.
Members said his resignation last week had to be a protest of some sort because he is set to leave the board at the end of this year. They wonder if he can now serve as nominating committee chair in 2013 since he quit while in office. He is the only executive committee member to quit the board.
Scripps is one of the most famous names in newspaper journalism. The company split into newspaper and cable operations three years ago.
The 20-page Scripps ethical code (PDF) is one of the most extensive in the newspaper industry and champions the role of the press in American democracy. A Scripss reporter described a three-hour session on ethics that is mandatory for company employees.
Possible Reasons for Resignation
McCormick could be protesting against any number of policies at the Society including the refusal of chair Rosanna Fiske to take “live” questions on teleconferences, which are now in “listen-only” mode; the threat to suspend in-person Assemblies; the refusal of national leaders to supply a list of Assembly delegates that rank-and-file members can see; the signing of a three-year contract with COO Bill Murray and the refusal of the board to disclose its terms; the removal of 45 staff names from the Society website and the removal of the single list of 110 chapter presidents, and the banning of any O’Dwyer staff member from the 2011 Assembly and national conference in Orlando, Fla., Oct. 15-18.
Chair Rosanna Fiske said she accepted his resignation with “great personal regret” and said he served the Society with “distinction.” The Society has been “fortunate to have his counsel and leadership,” she added, wishing him “well as he continues to succeed in his personal and professional endeavors.”
McCormick disappointed us when he promised to put African-Americans, reporters and other outsiders on his Strategic Planning Committee in 2009 and didn’t follow up on that promise. Apparently the board over-ruled him. He should have quit then.
He further disappointed us when he came to our office with COO Bill Murray March 19, 2010 and mostly listened while Murray said the Society has decided not to “deal” with anyone from the O’Dwyer Co.
Supposedly, we had committed unpardonable offenses although they were not spelled out.
Murray refused to acknowledge that the O’Dwyer Co. has five useful informational products for PR people. He refused to look at the box full of articles that were being copied and sold by the Society without permission, a massive theft of authors’ materials that went on from 1980-94.
Murray had one modus operandi with the O’Dwyer Co.—attack, attack, attack.
McCormick Dismissed Direct Elections
Another disappointment was McCormick’s rejection in mid-2010 of any possibility of the Society conducting direct elections via e-mail. The 2009 Assembly had directed him and the board to study that option since the bylaws re-write committee had proposed direct elections.
Numerous services assist groups in conducting secure e-mail votes including Condorcet which does it for free and has been used by 60,000+ organizations.
Although he works for one of the finest names in print and broadcast journalism, he has been silent about the board’s decision to bar any O’Dwyer reporter from the 2011 Assembly and national conference.
A charge of “retaliation” against the Society lodged by this reporter with the U.S. Justice Dept. is still “under consideration” a Justice spokesperson said this week. PRS banned us from the 2011 Assembly after we had sought assistive hearing devices in 2009 and 2010.
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