|November 3, 2009|
|PRSA Assembly Fights for Survival|
|By Greg Hazley|
|The PRSA Assembly, infiltrated to the max by national leaders and h.q. staff, is nevertheless putting up a fight for its survival, although victory is by no means assured. |
|Boneheaded, time-wasting 1.5-hour lunch kept in revised agenda.|
More than a dozen amendments have been filed opposing the bald power grab by leaders and staff that would rob the Assembly of its power to elect board and officers, further "pack" the Assembly with 25 national committee heads, put a sitting board member as head of the nominating committee, and allow proxy voting in the Assembly.
Other amendments would erase the power sought by the board to expel any member at its "sole discretion" and would keep district representation on the board.
Leadership has proposed making all directors "at-large," eliminating mandatory representation by each of the ten districts.
Big Fight is over Proxy Voting
The immediate big fight Saturday at 8:30 a.m. will be over proxy voting.
If proxies are allowed, which leadership has been rounding up for months, chances are leadership will get its way.
However, experts in the web discussion group for Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR) say that any attempt to use proxies to put proxy voting into the bylaws (in five separate places) would be “improper” and should be ruled “null and void” on a Point of Order.
If the chair, who will be PRS chair Mike Cherenson, refuses to accept that ruling, he can be over-ruled by a simple majority vote of delegates present, say the RONR experts.
They point out that the Assembly delegates themselves and not the chair, have the final say over what happens Saturday.
This point has not been made clear to the delegates, most of whom will have little knowledge of the hundreds of rules and interpretations in the 700 pages of RONR.
Also, few of the delegates will have much experience addressing a room full of 250 people with the chair and parliamentarian ready to jump down their throats if they speak too long or become confused by the Byzantine RONR rules.
Delegates are physically in an inferior position when they shouldn’t be.
Cherenson, parliamentarian Colette Trohan (who has been working for months with leaders on the bylaws revision), the 16 other directors and lawyer Ann Thomas will be on a stage looking down on the delegates when it should be the other way around.
It is the board that was elected by the Assembly and reports to the Assembly and not vice versa.
Delegate Caucus Needed
What is needed Friday night is for the delegates to listen politely to Cherenson and bylaws chair Dave Rickey and then caucus on their own sans national directors, district heads or section chairs.
They should elect their own chair who would serve as chair of the Assembly. Together with other officers elected by the delegates, they should then occupy the stage and put the board and their advisers in the audience in the front rows.
How revolutionary is this? Not at all. This is exactly how the meetings of the “assemblies” of doctors, lawyers, CPAs and psychologists are conducted.
Their bylaws are emphatic that these professional bodies are run by the “assemblies” (actually called Houses of Delegates and Councils) and not by the boards.
The PR Society is far out of step with the governance practices of the “real” professions.
PRS has been taken over by a tyrannical staff that has boosted payroll to $5.4M as of 2008 and as of the first nine months has not cut payroll costs at all.
The desperate staff, which has seen membership dip to 21,000 and its webinar/seminar business virtually collapse, wants to sign up anyone connected with "communications." To stem the tide of non-renewals, it’s offering $110 off the $225 dues to anyone who can claim "hardship" including those with disabilities and those on maternity leave.
The Assembly needs to take over the power to govern the Society and Saturday is the day to do it because no advance notice of amendments is needed.
Someone should propose, as was done in 2006, that the Assembly establish itself as the "ultimate policy-making body" of the Society.
Candidates Should Run on Real Platforms
Instead of the insider-ridden nominating and election process, any dues-paying member should be able to run before the entire membership for board or national office on a specific platform.
We're sure a candidate would win hands down who promised the following:
1. Move most of the offices from New York, leaving a midtown library/meeting center (copying AICPA and many other organizations). Reduce dues.
2. Allow chapter only membership.
3. Allow direct student membership.
4. Provide PDF of members to members who want it.
5. Install at least 10 senior members at offices.
6. Eliminate executive committee from bylaws
7. Bar proxy voting (if that was not done).
8. Vastly improve financial reporting in terms of quantity, quality and timeliness. Report all spending on meals by individual staff, leader names.
9. End presidents-elect stroking weekend in New York in June and replace with Spring Assembly.
10. Put all discussion boards on main Society website, ending private e-groups.
— Jack O'Dwyer
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