Following is an open letter to Brian E. Keeley, president and CEO of Baptist Health South Florida, a group of hospitals with 1,728 beds that had revenues of $2.3 billion in 2012. Keeley is the boss of PRSA candidate Kathy Barbour.

Dear Mr. Keeley:

I know you are a busy man and so am I so I will cut to the chase. I’m a reporter fighting a press boycott by PR Society of America, the organization that Baptist Health PR director Kathy Barbour seeks to head.

Barbour, Lewis
Keeley, Barbour
I don’t mind being called a "liar," "flat-out liar," "pig," "peasant," "disgusting," "unethical" and other choice words by the Society and it supporters. Nor do I mind the screaming threat by an Assembly delegate to beat me "to a pulp" delivered an inch from my nose.

I did mind an entire day of my Assembly notes being stolen from my conference bag in 2003 when my back was turned. The Society then refused to let me hear the tape. I did mind being blocked from the Assembly, exhibit hall and all sessions at the 2012 conference in San Francisco. I face a similar boot at the conference in Philadelphia Oct. 26-29.

I have read the 21 pages of the Code of Ethics of Baptist Heath (PDF) in which you say all employees must show a commitment to "honesty, integrity and transparency."  You define integrity as "doing the right thing when no one is watching." The use of "Baptist" in the name of the hospital invokes religious principles which include truthfulness and fair dealing. The 16 million-member Southern Baptist convention is the second largest U.S. religious body after the Catholic Church. There is an added burden on the hospital to do the "right thing" in this instance.

Barbour Nomination Assured

Time is of the essence in this matter since the nominating committee will meet Aug. 2-4 in Chicago and will almost certainly pick Barbour for chair-elect.

Six of the last seven chairs have been men so the likelihood of Barbour opponent Blake Lewis getting the nod is slim. Women comprise more than 70% of the Society’s membership and they have been beefing about the dominance of men in the top post.

Nomination of Barbour will subject her to close examination and perhaps a challenge by a write-in candidate. This is possible until Sept. 26, a month before the election.

But how can anyone challenge Barbour if they don’t know her views on 11 key issues facing the Society which are listed at the end of this letter?

An initial reading of her 12-page submission to the nomcom found the statement that Baptist Health is ranked "No. 1 nationally as the Best Place for Diversity" by Fortune magazine

Fortune said it has no such ranking. Baptist Health places No. 42 on the magazine's list of "The 100 Best Companies to Work For." BH has 13,302 employees of whom 74% are women and 72% are minorities.

It does not offer domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples. Baptists only recognize marriage as being between one man and one woman. It does not provide 100% health coverage but allows telecommuting and a "compressed work week." It provides on-site child care.

Barbour, as treasurer in 2012, is responsible for withholding IRS Form 990 from the 2012 Assembly. This form gives the pay packages of eight Society staffers making $100K+.

She is responsible for misleading financial reporting in the 2011 audit because the Society books dues as cash when FASB Section 958-605-25-1 (as well as common sense) demands that income be booked as earned. This practice boosts net assets by about $2.5 million.

Society Leaders Mum

This e-mail is being sent to you because no officer of the PR Society has spoken to me since chair Judy Phair did in 2005.

Barbour has not responded to e-mails from me since she joined the board in 2009. She ignored an e-mail sent last week to her and the other candidates asking them to state their positions on 11 issues confronting the Society.

Not only is this reporter snubbed, but so is the entire membership. Last year’s chair Gerry Corbett spoke to none of the 110 chapters as far as we can determine. This year’s chair, Mickey Nall, has spoken to one—Atlanta, his own chapter. Rosanna Fiske, 2011 chair, spoke to two chapters.

No Society chair has addressed the New York chapter membership in more than 25 years.  Previously, the chair spoke to the final New York meeting in June. Appearing in New York would give the four PR trade publications based in the city a chance to question the chairs (O’Dwyer’s, PR Week/U.S., PR News and PRnewser). The last press conference of Society leaders was in 1993 at the Orlando annual conference. Members are not allowed to know who is in the Assembly, what they say, or how they vote. Proxies are used in violation of Robert’s Rules.

Perhaps Barbour will talk to you.

What Do I Want? Access; Questions Answered

I hope Barbour will live up to your Code of Ethics in which you say Baptist Health is against “wrongdoing.” What could be right about blocking a reporter from his or her duties? The National Press Club, the world’s biggest such organization, examined PR Society's charges against me and talked at length to a Society official. NPC not only rejected the charges and urged the Society to stop the boycott, but sent its statement to 390 major media. New York State Senator Liz Krueger "heartily" endorsed the NPC stand on her official stationery.

If Barbour cannot get the Society to change its policies, she should withdraw as a candidate.

The abusive practices of the Society have caused its membership total to stagnate for nearly 13 years. It had 20,266 members in 2002 but only has "21,000" now, the number posted on its website. Here is a link to 11 major abusive areas in the Society:

It engaged in an anti-competitive practice when it barred me from visiting the nearly 50 booths of PR service companies at the 2011-2012 conferences. About half of the exhibitors are O'Dwyer Co. advertisers and they wanted to meet with me.

Questions for Barbour and Other Candidates

(Readers are invited to answer the questions and e-mail their responses to melissa@odwyerprcom or mail them to #600, 271 Madison Ave., NY NY 10016).

Please tell us where you stand on the following issues facing the Society.

--Non-Accredited members should be allowed to run for national offices This has been forbidden since the 1970s although currently only 18% of members are APR and new APRs are coming in at a rate that for the past ten years is half the rate for the previous ten.

(    ) Yes     (    ) No

--Reporters should be allowed to join PRSA and have full access to financial reports. PR people are allowed to join all press clubs in the U.S. and IABC allows reporters as full members.

(    ) Yes      (    ) No

--The Society should post its annual report and IRS Form 990 on its website no later than May 31 each year. The 990 (with pay packages of eight staffers making $100K+), has not been made available until after the Assembly for the past three years.

(    ) Yes     (    )  No

--The Society, with $4.7 million in cash and investments, should open a midtown facility for use by members, prospective members and the press. The New York chapter meets in midtown bars since Society h.q. are inconveniently located downtown. That would be a better investment than the $2,401,883 the Society has put into stocks ($1,389,723) and bonds and preferred stock ($1,012,160).

(    ) Yes     (    ) No

--The Society should provide an online directory of members that duplicates the former printed directory which was cancelled as of 2005. Cited were costs of printing, paper and postage. However, a PDF would shift all these costs to users. The PDF could be kept 100% up-to-date.

(    ) Yes     (    ) No

--The list of national board members and officers on the Society website should show their actual e-mail addresses, the full address of the officer or board member, and state which directors represent which districts. 

(    ) Yes     (    ) No

--A list of all staff members including their titles, phones and e-mails should again appear on the Society website. Only seven names currently appear.

(    ) Yes     (    ) No

--No member should have his or her access to the Society website cancelled without a full hearing. Currently, a member is being deprived of web access. Attempts to gain an explanation from COO Bill Murray or other staffers have been ignored.

(    ) Yes     (    ) No

--The Assembly should elect its own officers and conduct its own meeting, just like lawyer, medical and accounting groups do. Allowing officers to cram the a.m. session with speeches followed by breaking up the Assembly into pieces for much of the afternoon should stop.

(    ) Yes     (    ) No

--Non-APR members should be allowed on the Board of Ethics. Barring non-APRs implies they are not as ethical as APRs.

(    ) Yes     (    ) No

--The nominating committee should reflect the APR/non-APR proportion of members. The 2013 nomcom had 16 APRs and two non-APRs when that should be reversed to reflect that only 18% of members are APR.

(    ) Yes     (    ) No