The PRSA Assembly that meets tomorrow in Washington, D.C., needs to show some backbone or it will be squashed again by the national board and its “hired guns,” parliamentarian Colette Trohan and lawyer Ann Thomas.

The national board leads the delegates around like a shepherd leading sheep to pasture (or slaughter).

Hour after hour of time is eaten up with canned presentations that should have been distributed beforehand.

Tomorrow’s agenda gobbles up the first hour and a half this way (including a 15-minute break) before debate can begin.

Delegates should not adopt any agenda. It becomes a straight jacket that requires a two-thirds vote to change.

Another time-waster is the hour and a half set aside for lunch when it could be a 20-minute box lunch at the delegates’ tables.

Trohan: Shut Up!

Trohan has far overstepped her charge in telling the delegates that no possible changes are allowed in the amendment that would let non-APRs on the board for the first time in more than 30 years. She said in delegate calls last week that the APR amendment “presented a very interesting parliamentary pickle” that took “some time for me to think my way through it.”

She also said RR is “fair” but different rules are applicable at different times and using RR can be “very situational.”

“You have to weigh all the different pieces” and sometimes “you can’t give definitive answers” without more information, she said.

If Trohan is so perplexed by the APR situation, which we don’t think she understands, she should back off.

Here’s the “situation”: the APRs, only a small minority of the membership, currently about 3,900 or 19%, have blocked the other 80% of the members from running for the national board from about the mid-1970s.

The Strategic Planning Committee in 1999 urged dropping this rule but that board said it would fight it. Boards have been fighting it ever since including the 2010 board.

Notice Was Given 11 Years Ago

As for “scope of notice,” which Trohan invokes, how about 11 years?

Also, the Committee for a Democratic PRSA announced its goal in April of this year of making APR optional.

An immediate debate was started on the PRSAY moderated blog about the Committee’s aims. That is in the free area of the website.

The board claimed neutrality but its actions are anything but neutral.

It prohibited mention of the Committee in Tactics online or in Strategist and wouldn’t let the Committee use the Society’s 21,000 e-mail list. A half-page article on an inside page appeared in the September Tactics, far too late.

Richard Edelman and Bill Doescher of the New York chapter went to the Society board meeting in Atlanta in July and pleaded for the board to support letting non-APRs on the board.

Only silence ensued.

Then, more than two months later, the board issued minutes that didn’t mention any support of the Committee, only that it remained in favor of the bylaw it proposed for 2009—that APR be one of three options. The other two are leadership posts and 20 years in ever-higher PR posts.

Blocked from using the e-list, the Committee only obtained 305 signatures on its petition or about 1.5% of the membership. Another 150 said they supported the petition but would not allow their names to be publicized. The goal was 1,000 signatures.

Assembly Needs Own Lawyer

Thomas, who is all set to snap at any delegate who tries to tell the board what to do, is wrong.

She’s wrong when she says New York State Law “trumps” Robert’s Rules and any bylaws.

RR, aware that some states demand a positive statement that proxies are forbidden, says that when RR is adopted by a group that adoption should satisfy any state law.

The Assembly and board simply ignore this section.

Thomas can quote all the law she wants but it’s an unfair situation because the delegates don’t have their own lawyer. Neither do they have their own parliamentarian, which they should.

Trohan has nothing but praise for the “fairness” of RR.

So why doesn’t the Assembly follow RR?

Throughout RR is the rule that if there is a body like the Society’s Assembly, that body “has full and sole power to act for the entire organization,” as stated on page 56. There are similar thoughts in other sections.

The Assembly elects the board and officers of the Society but at the same time is forbidden to tell the board what to do.

The board last year failed in an attempt to remove this power from the Assembly. Instead, it instructed the board to provide a report on how direct elections could be conducted.

Gary McCormick, ignoring this, declared the issue closed in July because of technical and legal problems. That was another slap at the Assembly.

The “assemblies” of the American Bar Assn., American Medical Assn. and AICPA are the “ultimate authority” in those groups and sit over their boards.

RR Is Outdated; Technology Ignored

RR, created in the late 1800’s, is hopelessly outdated.

It protects the rights of the “absent” when there need be no such thing any more—not with cellphones, internet, video and audio conferencing and the possibility of secure e-mail voting via BigPulse and other services.

PRS’s own bylaws say, under “Remote Communications,” that any member of the Assembly “may participate by means of conference telephone or by any means of communication by which all persons participating in the meeting are able to hear one another an otherwise fully participate in the meeting. Such participation constitutes presence in person.”

So there is no need for proxies. Delegates who remain at home can listen into the debate tomorrow morning and phone how they want to vote. The meeting lasts from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., plenty of time to consider debating points and make decisions.

The entire membership should be able to hear the debate but the Society refuses to arrange this.

Last year it wouldn’t make a transcript of the Assembly—a shameful exercise that trampled on the most sacred principles in RR including the ban on proxies.

2009 Assembly Was a Fiasco

Voting records from the 2004 Assembly.

Although Society leaders are now patting themselves on the back at how wonderful last year’s meeting was, it violated the RR rule that all articles in a bylaws revision must be put up for discussion and vote. Only some of them were.

Only a few members this year have been able to view the nearly 200 postings in the e-group debate on the APR amendment.

Two blue chip PR executives have now come forward to ask for a roll call vote on the APR amendment—Michael McDougall of Bausch & Lomb and Christopher Veronda of Eastman Kodak.

We hope they get their request for an immediate printout of the vote so everyone—and not just a few insiders—can see how the room stacks up politically.

This link (sub req'd) shows how the roll call vote printed out in 2004 when APRs were allowed in the Assembly. It took two months for the Society to release this document when it could have and should have been available at the Assembly.

That was the first and last such poll although electronic voting devices are supposed to show how elected representatives vote.