Supporters of APRs having exclusive rights to board/officer posts of PRSA yesterday trounced those who would open the seats to the general membership.

The vote was 172-104 against an amendment that would let non-APRs on the board as long as they had either 20 years in ever-higher PR posts or Society leadership posts.

Needed to achieve a two-thirds majority were 184 votes.

Delegates, in no mood to let PR people on the board who had done no committee service whatever, signaled their intentions of retaining tight control when they buried a motion for a roll call vote on the amendment by voting 233 against it and 45 in favor.

This undemocratic action blocks members from knowing how their elected delegates voted.

The only ones having this priceless political knowledge are the board and some staff members.

A "compromise amendment" (discussed in a e-group) that would have added one more qualification was not put forward.

Parliamentarian Colette Trohan had said in a two-page memo that she would rule "out of order" any attempt to change the amendment because "scope of notice" would be violated.

Delegates also shut off debate after a half hour by the margin of 181-93.

Loud applause greeted one delegate who said taking the APR exam should not be a barrier to anyone who wants to serve the Society and letting someone on the national board who has been a local committee member only one year and who is not APR "does not serve the best interests of the Society."

Non-APRs were repeatedly blasted for showing "lack of commitment."

Art Stevens of the Committee for a Democratic PRSA and Kathy Lewton of the WestFair chapter led those in support of the motion.

One delegate noted that Lewton had posted more than 10,000 words in the governance e-group on the issue.

Both said it was unfair to deny full membership rights to more than 16,000 members.

Stevens, interviewed during a break in the afternoon Assembly, said those who wanted to open national posts to all members reminded him of President Reagan vowing to tear down the Berlin Wall.

He said APR is the Society's own "Berlin Wall" and that it must come down in order to bring democracy and freedom to the Society.

The delegates, he said, unwittingly insulted many of the highest corporate and agency executives in the industry by saying they are unworthy to be in national Society leadership.

"These are the very people that many in this room want to obtain jobs and accounts from," he noted. He said the delegates had behaved "in a very short-sighted manner."

20 Delegates Give Us an Award

While talking to Stevens, about 20 delegates formed a line and began presenting us with pens.

Bewildered, we started accepting them since delegates were all smiling and this did not look like any criticism of us.

Most just walked away but one finally explained that our blogs on the APR issue had reached a "flashpoint" (gone viral) in Twitter and blogville and that we were being given pens as a recognition of our efforts to communicate. [Such a ritual was featured in the 2001 film "A Beautiful Mind," when Princeton faculty members presented mathematician John Nash with pens to honor his work.]

Delegates were aware that we were the only reporter at the Assembly and also that we had been denied admittance to the Assembly lunch.

We tried to enter but Society VP-PR Arthur Yann blocked the way.

Numerous delegates saw this and also our attempts to win a change in this policy by bringing it to the attention of former Society President Judith Phair and current Tri-State director Lynn Appelbaum.

Both said they were helpless to do anything. Yann said it was the board's decision to block us from attending the Assembly lunch although this has happened only once before in 40 years, the 2007 lunch presided over by Jeff Julin. He said the press was barred because it was a "working lunch" on the Strategic Plan.

We asked both Phair and Appelbaum who is in charge of the Society, the staff or the members?

Yann could give us no reason for being blocked from the lunch.

He had also tightened press restrictions, saying no photos at all were allowed of the Assembly, even when it was not in session. He has threatened permanent expulsion from the Assembly if any orders are disobeyed.

Roll Call Vote Defeated

Making the motion for a roll call vote was Michael McDougall of Bausch & Lomb who also specified that the results be available "within 24 hours."

McDougall, a supporter of non-APRs on the board in the Society e-group on governance, reiterated his view that the entire board of PRSA appears to be in violation of the ?Usage Guidance? of the Universal Accreditation Board because it has used APR for "competitive purposes" (eliminating competition from 80% of the members).

UAB is supposed to remove APR from anyone who does that but UAB chair Anne Dubois has said "competition' only refers to competition for jobs and accounts.

Lauri-Ellen Smith, special assistant to the sheriff in Jacksonville and chair of the PA & Government Section, said later in the meeting that her "credibility goes up" whenever she mentions her APR in a business situation.

"APR shows I'm committed to my profession," she said.

Such remarks could be interpreted as using APR in a competitive business situation.

McCullough Sees "Emperor's Clothes"

Daryl McCullough, CEO of Paine PR, Irvine, Calif., said it was about time for someone to tell the Assembly the truth about itself, just like the boy who told the emperor "he had no clothes."

"This Assembly is in crisis of relevance," he said.

"To have 16,000 of your own members disenfranchised is not something to be proud of but to be embarrassed by. You have shown yourself to be an insular group."

McCullough said his firm has 85 staffers and he does not look for APRs.

In fact, he said, APRs perform less well than non-APRs.

During a discussion on the future of APR, one delegate said that since the current test seems to target junior PR people (21 chapters of two college textbooks are recommended as study materials), there might be two levels of APR, a "junior APR" for newcomers and a "senior APR" for those further up their career ladders.