PR Society of America chair Gary McCormick, asked yesterday about the rejection of at-large director candidate Regina Lewis, who would have been the only African-American on the 2011 board, said that the "single criterion of ethnicity" was not sufficient to win her a nomination.

In other developments, McCormick, appearing before PRSA's Thoroughbred Chapter, said the board has dropped its bid for direct elections by PRSA members, a subject that occupied much of last year, and has sought a further postponement of its Form 990 report to the IRS.

McCormick with David Caldwell of Lexington PR firm Preston-Osborne.
Photo: Kathie Stamps
It is skipping the second deadline of Aug. 15 for the 990 and may have it ready by the end of August, he said.

The Society delayed the report until mid-October last year and Assembly delegates were not able to see it. The report contains the pay/benefits of the six highest paid staffers at PRSA.

McCormick expressed surprise that the bios and position statements of the ten nominees were not accessible from the Society website and said he would look into it. As of press time, the bios were not available in the main listing of nominees on the Society website.

PR Prof. Got Nomination

The nomination Lewis sought instead went to Prof. Susan Walton of Brigham-Young University, Provo, Utah. Some members noted that nominating chair Jeff Julin is based in Denver in neighboring Colorado.

The 2011 board would be comprised of 17 whites as is the 2010 board should no one successfully oppose the official candidates.

Brigham-Youngís 34,000 students are 98.5% Mormon and 13% minority including 165 blacks.

The U.S. Census Bureau defines race and ethnicity as "separate and distinct entities." Ethnicity refers to a set of behaviors and beliefs while race is an unchangeable physical trait. A race is "a biological subspecies," says a website on the subject.

Wikipedia says ethnicity mostly refers to having a common language and cultural background and often means "recent immigrants from non-English speaking countries."

African-American PR counselor Mike Paul castigated the PR Society last year for failing to integrate at a time when the U.S. has African-American Barack Obama as its president.

McCormick spoke to an audience of 30 at the Thoroughbred chapter of the Society in Lexington, Ky.

Freelance reporter Kathie Stamps asked him after the meeting during a private conversation in a hallway about the failure of Lewis to win the nomination. The question had been suggested by this website. Questions by the reporter were not allowed during the lunch.

Lewis Candidacy 'A Touchy Subject'

McCormick replied that the failure of Lewis to win the nomination for at-large director is a "touchy subject."

Regina Lewis
Lewis is chief communications officer of The Potter's House church, Dallas, having joined in June, and has a background of 25 years in PR posts.

Potter's is a non-denominational "mega-church" led by T.D. Jakes.

Lewis 'A Great Candidate'

McCormick called Lewis "a great candidate" but said that even she would not want to be picked "on her ethnicity alone." He said the Society needs "diverse candidates from all arenas" and noted PRSA has worked with the National Black PR Society and the Hispanic PR Assn. to attract more black and Hispanic candidates.

A candidacy should not be based on a "single criterion of ethnicity," McCormick added, saying there would be increased emphasis on "diversity" in next year's process.

It appears that Wynona Redmond, president of the NBPRS and non-voting senior counsel on the PR Society board, recruited Lewis to run for the PRS board.

She is parliamentarian of NBPRS.

Strikes against Lewis, a 25-year PR veteran, may include her expertise in parliamentary procedure since the 2009 Assembly voted in the use of proxies which are forbidden under Robert's Rules and other guides for deliberative bodies.

She was also one of only six candidates who answered a series of 14 questions put to them by three Fellows of the Society in June.

One of her answers was that any paid up member should be able to run for national board or officer service whether they are APR or not.

She also supported publishing Assembly transcripts, audiocasting the Assembly, and converting Tactics and Strategist to PDFs only, ending the print versions.

Such views would not sit well with the nomcom or the PRS board.

A PR professional since 1986, Lewis worked at nine companies including FitzGerald Communications; Capital Relations/MS&L; Fleishman-Hillard; The Bohle Co.; Kodak; Media Cybernetics and Hi-Tech PR of Shandwick.

She became a principal in 2000 in Celsius Holdings Corp., PR firm in Jupiter, Fla.

Too Many Academics, Say Members

Susan Walton
Critics of the 2010 nomcom said it failed its "diversity" mission twice in skipping over Lewis because her replacement, Walton, would be another academic on a board that needs corporate executives.

The 17-member 2010 board includes five academics or almost one-third of the board.

The proposed 2011 board would include, besides Walton, four other academics: Steven Grant of the National Education Assn., serving a second straight two-year term; Prof. Stephen Iseman of Ohio Northern University; Asst. Prof. Kirk Hazlett of Curry College, Belmont, Mass. (2,000 students), and Assoc. Prof. Rosanna Fiske of Florida Intíl University who will be chair.

Many business PR people feel academics are shielded from the harsh realities of the PR marketplace and do not understand problems faced in the "real" world. Some academics may even have tenure, but in any case have jobs that are much more secure than those in the business world, they say.

Business PR pros also feel the academics are astute politicians and are not likely to challenge any existing order.