PRSA staff’s aversion to national conferences in New York (one in past 25 years) has cost upwards of $4.5 million in the past ten years.

There’s no doubt about the staff’s fondness for distant cities for meetings although the June “Leadership Rally” of 135 chapter, district and section officers is always in New York.

PRSA 2017 Int'l Conference in Boston

Staff at conferences, often numbering 30 and more when much of the work could be done by local volunteers, get a week or two on the Society’s tab—meals, entertainment, travel and personal business expenses. Advance trips are also on the Society.

Travel/meals/hotel expenses were $464,880 in 2015 when the conference was in Atlanta; $489,526 when it was in Washington, D.C., and $434,970 when it was in Philadelphia, for a total of $1,389,376. PRSA has yet to send the O’Dwyer Co. its IRS form 990 for 2016 which has the travel expenses.

Average is $464K yearly which works out to $4.6 million over a ten-year period. Not all of the expenses are conference related but there’s no doubt most of them are. In this day of the phone and internet, why is all this travel needed?

Thirty-one Staffers in Boston

Registered for the Oct. 7-10 meeting in Boston were 31 PRSA staffers.

They included CEO Joseph Truncale, CFO Philip Bonaventura, marketing officer John Robinson, controller Wai Cheung, VP Karla Voth, VP Jay Starr, VP Alex Ortiz, sr. mgr. Don Bill, web mgr. Michael Benoit, program manager Caroline Berman, pubs. dir. John Elsasser, regional rep Donald Mounce, mgr. Colleen Seaver, client services mgr. Richard Spector, exec asst. Donna Jonas, sections mgr. Vada Wilson, digital comms. Troy Thompson, dev. coord. John Kesaris, prof. dev. dir. Jason Barnhart, and admin. assts. Melissa Murray and John Gumbiner.

Staffers without titles who attended were Albert Chau, Crystal DeStafano, Dean Essner, Ilene Glantz, Rod Granger, Samantha Lake, Michael Molaro and June Ramadham.

Amber Pardes was listed as the sole PRSA/Boston volunteer, helping at a “reception event.” PRSA staff at conferences make it clear to locals that the conference is their “show.”

The Society has yet to release any report on the Assembly Oct. 7. Board, chapters and Educators Academy, doormats to the staff, are silent

Members Will Like List

Members will no doubt be interested in the list, particularly veterans who, until 2005 when the printed members’ directory was discontinued, had access to the full list of staff members including their titles, phone numbers and emails.

Fewer than a half dozen staffers have been listed on the Society’s website in recent years. The absence of such data makes it impossible to track staff turnover.

No staffers are listed in the non-members area of the reconstructed PRSA website which members have called “user-unfriendly.”

Cruise Movie Recalls Nasty PRSA Episode

American Made

“American Made,” a current movie starring Tom Cruise that has grossed more than $100 million, recalls a particularly nasty episode in PRSA’s history.

Cruise plays TWA pilot Barry Seal who became a drug smuggler for the Medellin Cartel in the 1980s. He also brings guns to the Nicaraguan Contras who were trying to overthrow the government.

The “Iran-Contra” connection turned into a political scandal for the second Reagan Administration since it was discovered that senior Reagan officials secretly helped in the sale of arms to Iran even though it was the subject of an arms embargo. The plan was to fund the Contras in Nicaragua.

Wikipedia called it “one of the biggest covert CIA operations in the history of the U.S.”

PRSA leaders got involved when CIA head Bill Casey in 1983 asked five of them to help with fund-raising ideas at a confidential meeting in his offices. The CIA is barred from operating in the U.S.

Four PRSA Leaders Met with CIA Head

Attending the confidential meeting were 1972 PRSA president Kalman Druck; three-term PRSA treasurer Ken Clark; James Bowling, Burson-Marsteller, and William Greener Jr., SVP, G.D. Searle.

Harold Burson was invited but declined when he heard the meeting was about “support for the Contras.” According to government documents, the CIA would secretly raise funds for the Contras.

According to notes taken by Clark, which surfaced in government documents, Casey liked the fund-raising ideas given to him by the four execs and wanted “a follow up.”

Harrison Asks for PRSA Action, Gets Clobbered

Summer HarrisonSummer Harrison

Summer Harrison, who was with David Apter & Assocs., D.C., called on the PRSA Ethics Board to investigate reports that were in the O’Dwyer NL and major newspapers. The PRSA members should have known they were “advising the taking of illegal action,” she told the board. “The CIA has never been known for holding public gala fund-raising events,” she said.

The Ethics Board, playing dumb, asked Harrison to forward what charges she was hearing. B-M executive Elias Buchwald began an investigation of Harrison rather than the charges and she demanded his removal from the investigation. He queried her anyway and she refused to reply to him. 

Kangaroo CourtPRSA 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.

Harrison was then hit with two charges of ethical violations including speaking to the press about the charges against the PRSA leaders and failure to respond to an EB inquiry. She lost her job at Apter, which later closed, and moved to Hawaii.

A full O’Dwyer report is here.

The EB exonerated the four PR execs of any wrongdoing.

Harrison worked in D.C. from 1980 to 1988 when she headed the D.C. Statehood Coalition Media Outreach. She moved to Hawaii where she is currently executive director at Medical Disability Advocacy, University of Manchester.