|November 6, 2009|
|PRSA/Sunshine Pulls Rug from Tampa|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|Sunshine district officers of the PR Society, headed by chair Andrea Finger of Disney, met last night and voted not to support the Tampa chapter's fight against use of proxies in the Assembly.|
This is a stunning blow by district leaders to one of its biggest chapters (more than 200 members).
Can you blame us for being suspicious about this refusal to listen to Tampa's extensive and well-reasoned case against proxies?
Orlando, home of Disney World, was just announced as the site of the 2011 national conference of the Society.
Finger, who has yet to return a phone call or e-mail, is manager of media relations, Walt Disney Imagineering.
Sources say the district leaders reasoned that delegates carrying proxies would somehow be falling down on their duty to the absent delegates by not voting the proxies.
Such reasoning is piffle compared to the arguments against proxy voting presented in the form of an amendment by chapter president Mary Beth Haban (pictured), senior manager of PR, Visit St. Petersburg-Clearwater, and Tampa counselor Patt Reed.
RONR’s Stout Opposition Cited
The extensive filing by Haban and Reed noted that a basic tenet of RONR is that "legislators have to be present to debate on and enact laws. That's a fundamental principle of deliberative assemblies such as PRSA's Leadership Assembly."
Haban and Reed also note that while New York State laws may allow proxy voting, they do not require any member to exercise such a "right" which is really a "wrong" in our view.
Delegates also have the right to walk out of the room or end the meeting at 8:30 a.m. by majority vote but they don’t exercise such rights.
We think that powerful association interests in New York have kept the law that allows proxy voting for legislative bodies of non-profit corporations.
PRS should move to another state, for one thing.
Delegates can prove their mettle to us and their devotion to ethics by marching up to the front desk of the Assembly Saturday and plunking down all those extra voting machines in front of lawyer Ann Thomas.
That would show Thomas and the board who is running things—the delegates and not the lawyers or the board.
RONR Says Assemblies Rule
Another major rule of RONR that the PRS board is flouting is that representatives of the general membership are superior to the board. This is the "default" position in RONR concerning boards and memberships.
Says page nine of RONR: "A board within an organized society is an instrument of the society’s full assembly to which it is subordinate."
Is there anything about the word “subordinate” that the PRS board does not understand? There is no wiggle room there, no possibility for spin.
The only possibility is to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to it which is the technique usually employed by PRS leadership.
RONR is very reasonable. How could the board of any group boss around the entire membership as represented by assembly delegates?
The "assemblies" of lawyers, doctors, CPAs and psychologists all have the power of being the "ultimate authority" for policy positions of the groups.
The delegates should not listen to anything that PRS lawyer Ann Thomas has to say. Lawyers are only supposed to function in the presence of opposing lawyers. One of the first actions of the Assembly Saturday should be asking the board not to take any advice from Thomas since there is no opposing lawyer on the side of the delegates who oppose portions of the proposed bylaws.
PRSA Innovates to Retain Members
The PR Society is showing creativity in its efforts to maintain its member base during a recession that has already cut membership from 22,000+ to 21,000.
One program is a "baby bonus" that lets new mothers only pay $115 to renew instead of the usual rate of $225.
They have to apply to the "Hardship Plan" that has been created for those who are temporarily out of the job market.
Other candidates are those who have suffered disabilities.
Only those who have been in the Society for three years are eligible.
This is an innovative program that reflects the mostly female membership of the Society and of the PR industry itself.
Women have flooded into PR in recent decades and comprise more than 70% of PRS members and an even greater portion of the new members.
Members who recently renewed at the full rate can get a refund of $110 if they later lost their jobs.
Lapsed members without jobs can also come back at the reduced $115 rate.
Another innovation of the Society is letting members pay quarterly (except those taking the $115 option).
PRS, like many organizations, has to scratch these days to bolster revenues.
Big hits have been taken in dues income, off 9.4% to $3.8M for the first nine months; advertising, down 57% to $216,419 and sponsorships down 41% to $367,923.
There was a jump of 148% in "miscellaneous" income to $311,176 but PRS provides no breakout of what products or services this involves.
"Examinations and fees," also undefined, rose 16% to $645,910.
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