|March 26, 2010|
|Close the PRSA Kangaroo Court!|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|We were treated to methods used by the PRSA Kangaroo Court last Friday when chair Gary McCormick and COO Bill Murray showed up at our offices with a raft of charges against us but no substantiation whatever.|
It didn't matter. For the Kangaroo Court judges, we were guilty and have been read out of the corps.
For our side, we presented a dozen pages of hard proofs including our four-pager detailing the unethical and illegal copying practices of the Society; records of the $60K profits this practice was churning up annually; list of articles in one info pack that including nine from O'Dwyer publications; copy of former COO Ray Gaulke's letter urging Society advertisers to advertise in PR Week/U.S., and details of Prof. Gail Baker's sudden resignation as Ethics Board chair.
PRSA officials pictured, L-R: Phil Tate, treasurer; Mike Cherenson, former chair/CEO; Gary McCormick, current chair/CEO; Bill Murray, COO; Gerard Corbett, secretary, Rosanna Fiske, chair/president-elect.
The Kangaroo judges did not have a single piece of paper or evidence to buttress their case. In PRSA Kangarooland, no such things are needed.
We're far from the only victims of this Court.
Several leaders and members who have been known to associate with us have received the same treatment.
An early victim was Rea Smith, a 22-year veteran of h.q. who rose to be executive VP and who committed suicide in 1981, a year after she was ousted from h.q. by the Pat Jackson regime.
We don't claim Smith's ostracism was entirely due to her friendship with us but it seems to have played a role.
Rea had us as a Silver Anvil judge three times in the 1970s — something that would make current Society leaders sick to their stomachs.
We were welcome at h.q. where we made much use of the library under Mary Wilson.
With Rea’s knowledge and blessing, we went to lunch at least once a month with Society PR directors Rocco Sacci and Art Young. Sacci became a personal friend, attending operas and other New York events with us.
When XVP Betsy Kovacs joined in January 1980, one of the first moves was appointing Rea to the Foundation and banishing her to an office far from h.q.
There was no need for such harsh treatment of Smith who was virtually alone in the world. Her husband, Shirley, had died some years before.
She was no doubt a victim of the Kangaroo Court.
Harrison Is Worst Case of All
The Court at its best (or worst) involved Washington, D.C., counselor Summerlein Harrison.
Harrison, reading in the O'Dwyer NL in 1988 about the PR advice four PRSA members (including two former officers) had given to CIA head Bill Casey, publicly called on the PRSA Ethics Board to do something.
The revelations came out as part of the Iran/Contra investigations.
Presenting fund-raising ideas to Casey at a confidential meeting were Kalman Druck, 1972 PRSA president; Kenneth Clark, treasurer for three terms in the mid-1970s; member James Bowling, formerly with Philip Morris but at that time with Burson-Marsteller, and William Greener Jr., SVP at G.D. Searle.
B-M founder Harold Burson had been invited but told the O'Dwyer NL that he turned down the invitation when he learned the meeting was about "support for the Contras."
According to documents, the CIA would raise funds for the Contras but its role would be kept secret.
Said Harrison: "The CIA has never been known for holding public gala fundraising events with printed programs. The CIA's level of involvement should have tipped these people off that they were advising the taking of illegal action," she said.
According to notes taken by Clark, Casey liked the PR input and wanted "a follow up."
Guess Who Got Prosecuted — Harrison
The PRSA Kangaroo Court was summoned to action and you can guess what happened.
The four PRSA members were totally exonerated of any wrongdoing and two charges of ethical violations were leveled against Harrison — for speaking to the press about her criticisms (although she did this before filing a complaint with the Society) and failure to respond in a timely fashion to and EB query.
Harrison was incensed that the chair of the Ethics Board was B-M executive Elias Buchwald, who would be in the position of ruling on the actions of two fellow employees (a B-M staffer had substituted for Burson). She demanded Buchwald be removed from the investigation but he sent her a query anyway to which she would not respond.
Harrison lost her job at David Apter & Associates, which later closed. She moved to Hawaii where she continues her career as a PR pro.
Two Southerners Escaped Notice
The Kangaroo Court did not seem to be in session when two Society leaders in the South got into hot water.
The Charlotte, N.C., firm of Joe Epley, 1991 president, got statewide banner headlines that year when someone "outed" a 500-page "PR Assessment" by the firm labeled "Confidential" that had the suggestion that the public should be given 12-13 sites for a nuclear waste facility instead of the "real" 5-7 sites so that the opposition would be more "dispersed."
Headlines blasted the "secret waste dump PR plan."
The Epley Report had negative comments about two newspapers. The Anson Record was called "strikingly negative" and "frequently inaccurate" while the Richmond County Daily Journal was said to be "very poorly done” and “appears to be on the cheapest of stock."
The PRSA Kangaroo Court gave no hint of investigating Epley's possible role in this matter. He received the Gold Anvil of the Society in 2008.
Lee Duffey Lost Bid for President
Counselor Lee Duffey of Atlanta was treasurer of the Society in 1999 and in position to be president-elect when the O'Dwyer NL revealed his firm was in the middle of a controversy over the allegedly false claims being made about the EIFS form of construction (External Insulation Finishing System).
The EIFS industry claimed that Duffey's firm, working secretly for other building materials including bricks, was spreading falsehoods not only in Georgia but other states.
Duffey refused to divulge his client list to the O'Dwyer NL. The Ethics Code only said that PR pros had to be "prepared" to divulge clients but did not have to actually divulge them.
Efforts by Society leaders over the years to tighten this loophole had failed.
The Ethics Board not only did no public investigation of Duffey, it dissolved the entire code and embarked on a $196,000 creation of a new code that would have no enforcement mechanism at all.
Duffey ran in 1999 for 2000 president-elect but was defeated in a contest in the Assembly by Kathy Lewton.
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