The bylaw of PR Society of America that bars non-accredited members from holding national office appears to violate the ethical code of the Universal Accreditation Board.

The website of the UAB says APRs “cannot imply the lack of APR in any way affects a competing professional’s competence.”

This observation was made Sept. 30 in a Society e-group posting by Michael McDougall, VP, corporate communications and PA, Bausch & Lomb, Rochester.

He asks, “Does excluding non-APR members from national board roles in effect imply a lack of competence? Are we upholding the UAB guidelines in practice? If not, then what stands in the way of non-APRs serving the Society in board leadership positions?”

He notes the UAB also says that “An individual can have APR revoked for improper usage per these usage guidelines.”

The APRs in the e-group who want no change in the rule say they are better than non-APRs in several ways.

APRs say non-APRs have not shown the same “commitment” as APRs to the Society’s “own credential” or to the “professional development” that APR represents.

Non-APRs are also charged with failing to show “that one is truly dedicated to the profession,” says one posting.

Such remarks imply that non-APRs are unmotivated, lazy, and disloyal to their own organization and the industry in general.

McDougall says that he and another Rochester chapter delegate, Christopher Veronda of Eastman Kodak, who was on the Society board in 2007-08, will both vote in support of the amendment that would let non-APRs on the board.

Argument Ignored so Far

The argument of McDougall is being ignored by those who want to keep non-APRs off the board.

Also ignored is advice of the American Society of Assn. Executives that groups like the PR Society and IABC must not put too much emphasis on their accrediting programs lest they become liable for misbehavior or poor performance by accredited members.

Groups that “accredit, certify or credential some of its members or non-members encounter a host of legal issues,” lawyer Robert Portman told an ASAE meeting Dec. 5-7, 1999 in Indianapolis.

He presented a 21-page paper on the subject.

Not making a dent in the position of the keep-non-APRs-off-the-board faction is the Society’s own survey of 750 members in 2008 that found that 84% of members want any paid up member to be able to run for the board.

Another finding that is ignored is the “Leadership Briefing” of Feb. 20, 2009, that said, “Most associations allow any voting member in good standing to run for their boards.”

Roll Call Votes Needed at Assembly

Assembly delegates, if they are to truly represent the members and not just their own interests, must demand that all votes be roll call and the results made available within a few minutes.

The numbered electronic voting devices are set up to do that but arrangements must be made in advance so this is possible on the day of the Assembly.

There has been only one roll call vote in the Assembly since the devices were introduced in 1999—the vote allowing non-APRs in the Assembly that was taken in 2004.

Non-APRs were allowed in the Assembly by a vote of 181-83. Since a two-thirds margin was needed, the bylaw only passed by a margin of six votes.

Members did not get to see the actual voting record until nearly two months later.

Paul Wetzel of the Boston chapter had proposed taking the roll call vote at the start of the meeting.

It should have been done far in advance so the staff could have made arrangements to print out and circulate on the floor of the Assembly who voted what way.

A major mystery of last year is how 56 proxy votes were voted. Only a few insiders know the answer.

That should not happen again this year.

Delegates Should Use Podium

Society leaders speak from a stage looking down on the delegates but force delegates to speak from the floor looking up at the board.

Many fellow delegates just see the backs of the heads of delegates who are “addressing the chair.”

Any delegate who dares to address the other delegates is quickly hit with the demand, “Address the chair!”

That is false advice that the Society’s parliamentarian customarily does not contradict.

Robert’s Rules, on page 23, says, “Members address only the chair, or address each other through the chair.”

This means a delegate can say, “Mr. or Ms. Chair” as a courtesy, and then address the delegates directly.

Delegates should be able to use the mikes at the podium just like the leaders do.

Another problem with the aisle mikes is that many delegates are not used to talking on mikes and fail to talk closely enough to them.

Some delegates fail to identify themselves fully by name and chapter.

Even delegates with normal hearing have problems hearing the delegates in the aisles.

It’s about time leaders decided that a “best practice” is giving delegates equal access to the podium. The meeting is supposed to be of, by and for the delegates and not the board.

Under Robert’s, it is the board that is supposed to report to the delegates and not vice versa, as it is at the Society.

The “assemblies” of lawyers, doctors and CPAs all are the “ultimate authority” in these groups and tell their boards what to do.

This 2010 Assembly should definitely not approve a “hard landing” at 5 p.m. because it will take a two-thirds vote to overturn it.

The Assembly could show its independence by electing its own chair for the meeting and setting no adjournment whatever. It can just remain in session indefinitely.