|November 4, 2009|
|Unethical Proxies, Phony Financials, What's Next?|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|The rude, crude barbarians who have sacked the h.q. of the PR Society of America continue their rampage, trampling principles of good governance and standard financial reporting.|
Parliamentarian Colette Trohan, quoting lawyer Ann Thomas, has told members that "proxies must be allowed" at the Assembly Saturday. This is a mis-reading of New York State law #609 that lets “members” of an organization vote by proxy.
It does not refer to elected representatives of members such as Assembly delegates.
|Barbarians sack Rome.|
The use of proxies is so unethical and undemocratic that it’s a no-brainer.
No matter what Thomas and Cherenson say, the delegates should march up to the front table at the beginning of the meeting and turn in all the extra voting machines they have been given. There is no law against that.
They can watch Thomas' mouth drop. They don’t have to take any orders from her.
Out of Step with Major Professions
The Society is completely out of step with the professional associations of doctors, lawyers, CPAs and psychologists who do not allow proxies in their assemblies.
Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, which PRS purports to follow, says that any state (such as New York) that allows proxies unless specifically forbidden is wrong. Proxies in a deliberative body violate the one-person/one vote rule (which PRS supports when it comes to elections), says RONR, because with proxies one person can have many votes.
RONR does not mind proxies being used for elections but never to decide such matters as bylaws and resolutions where debate may take place.
The principle of legislators being present to discuss and then vote is so fundamental that experts in RONR tell us that the first attempted use of proxies in the Assembly Saturday can be met with a “Point of Order” that will declare that vote "null and void."
Should chair Mike Cherenson declare that "out of order" or try to quash it in any way, he can be over-ruled by a majority vote of the delegates.
Meeting Belongs to Delegates
What Trohan and the PRS directors (who will be seated on the same level with Assembly for the first time in years and in reaction to criticisms) is that control of the meeting is in the hands of the delegates and not the chair or the board.
That point has not even been made to the delegates, much less stressed.
What they have received in a memo called "Speaking the Delegate’s Language," is tips on addressing the chair, making and seconding motions, limiting debate, etc.
Those instructions are o.k. but nit-picking.
It cannot be emphasized too much that the delegates, representing 21,000 members who can’t be there in person, have the power to run things including passing a measure that makes the Assembly the "ultimate authority" in PRS policy and practices.
The delegates have been treated like a doormat for so many years that they are finally rebelling.
They complained last year about the 17 board members sitting on a stage above them as though they were mucky-mucks although most of them are in very minor jobs and several are solo practitioners.
So in the afternoon these worthies actually came down and sat for a while with the delegates.
Kathy Lewton, 2001 president, had put the board on the same level as the delegates that year.
Demand Removal of "Communications"
Fifteen members, representing all ten districts, have submitted the longest of any of the proposals to the bylaws committee.
It includes an amendment removing the word "communications" from throughout the bylaws on the ground that it is a retreat from all the values of public relations.
Proposers include Lewton; Sally Evans of Houston; Doug Fenichel, Tri-State district chair; Prof. Carole Gorney; Terri Johnson, chair, Educators Academy; Prof. Dean Kruckeberg, and Prof Maria Russell, former treasurer of PRS.
We agree with that but point out to them that PR as practiced by the PR Society is not something that is desirable.
PRS h.q. has been dominated since 1980 by non-PR professionals who have disregarded the main principles of PR that include recognition of the press’s right to cover Society activities and basic democratic rights of members.
PRS has not lived up to its Code promise of adhering to the "highest standards of accuracy and truth."
Financial Reporting Criticized
As proof of this we need reach no further than the execrable financial report just issued. We lay this at the feet of CFO Phil Bonaventura, CPA (pictured). We feel the financial reporting of PRS is far below the high standards embodied in those three letters.
As we have noted:
--The first half report was not provided until late October when it should have come out months before.
--The third quarter, showing a 45% decline in income was not broken out.
--A claim was made that “registration” income was down $1.1M from the previous year because it was "deferred" although the previous year was not restated as required. Also, both the 2008 and 2009 conferences are in Q4 so why the sudden change and especially with no explanation.
--The income statement, balance sheet and cash flows statements were not with the report filed by treasurer Tom Eppes in PRSAY nor has anything about the report been in the “media room” of PRS. We would think the press would be interested in the financial performance of the Society especially in these difficult times.
--The "indirect" rather than the "direct" method of cash flows was used although FASB has recommended the later since 1987 as easier to read and providing more information. PRS could provide both if it wishes.
--The word “registration” was used and lumped into this were figures for national conference and seminars which are used in the audit. Conference and seminar income should have been broken out.
--IRS Form 990, with important information in it such as legal costs, COO Bill Murray’s compensation and occupancy costs, has yet to be filed although it was initially due May 15.
It looks like the Society is keeping this from delegates and members until after the conference, which would be an abomination.
Worse yet, the report as filed by treasurer on PRSAY is headlined crazily, “Surplus for ’09.”
Phila., Fla., Get Conference, Not NY
The report of the July 24 board meeting, which finally came out in late October, revealed that the 2011 conference will be in Orlando and the 2012 conference will be in Philadelphia.
Justaminute! The conference was just in Florida in 2005 (Miami Beach) and in Philadelphia in 2007.
New York, which had the 2004 conference (biggest in history with 4,000 attendees and which saves travel by 35 or so staffers), has been dissed twice.
So the score is Philadelphia two, Florida two, and New York, zero.
This does not make fiscal sense.
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