PRSA president and COO Bill Murray will be at a 7:30 a.m. breakfast tomorrow at Padilla Spear Beardsley in Minneapolis and should answer some questions.

He was picked in 2006 by a search committee that said it was looking for a “charismatic leader” who would be a “visionary” and an “accomplished speaker.” (link, sub req'd)

I have not found that to be the case. Murray has mostly been in seclusion, not speaking either to the New York or other chapters. I know of only one other chapter he has spoken to in 4.5 years besides a previous visit to Minneapolis—the National Capital chapter in 2007. No questions were allowed in D.C.

He has not earned the title of president and should not have it. “Presidents” are elected and not appointed as Murray was.

The presidents of the major professional associations, ABA, AMA and AICPA, are elected lawyers, doctors and CPAs. The staff head is always a professional of that occupation. Murray is not a PR professional nor a member of PRSA.

In an unusual move, the Minnesota chapter of the Society has banned press and non-members from tomorrow’s breakfast.

However, we’re hopeful a courageous member or two will present the following questions to Murray:

1. What is your pay? By Federal law, association members are supposed to know it as well as the pay of the next seven highest paid staffers.

It takes PRSA members almost two years to find this out because PRS withholds IRS Form 990 till late in the next year—loophole lawyering.
You got $373,618 in pay/fringes/nontaxable benefits in 2009; CFO Phil Bonaventura got $221,706 for same; Jennifer Ian got $131,197 for same; VP John Robinson $140,610 in pay; VP-PR Arthur Yann, $137,687; VP Karla Voth, $135,746; VP Barbara McDonald, 126,554, and director Judith Voss, $115,805.

The total is $1.3M but that does not include retirement and other benefits for the five lowest paid top staffers.

Since payroll in 2009 was $5,368,506, that left about $4M for the remaining 45 staffers or an average of $88,000 which is far more than about 95% of Society members make.

Chapter presidents I have talked to about the proposed $30 dues increase to $255 are shocked at the salary/fringe figures. They were not aware of them.

They were also not aware of the $755K occupancy costs of New York h.q. in 2009 (also the latest available figure). This works out to about $34 per sq. ft. PRS’s problem is its super-expensive New York h.q. It might be justified if staff pitched the 20,000-member New York PR/communications industry. It has alienated itself from that community—hiking downtown where it is holed up at 33 Maiden lane. It booted the New York chapter in 1992.

What “Pay Freeze?”

2. How can chair Rosanna Fiske claim there is a pay freeze when pay/fringes rose 3% in 2010 to $5,529,699? Pay/fringes rose 8% in Q1 to $1,390,314 or 57% of revenues of $2,249,824. This is a high total since 501/c/6s in the $10M range usually pay staff 35-40% of income.

3. How can the Society justify disregarding rule 958-605-2-1 of the Financial Accounting Standards Board that calls for dues income to be booked over the period involved? All the major professional groups defer about half their dues income. PRSA does not defer any dues income, deferring only $290,948 it assigns to payment for Tactics & Strategist.

4. Further on your financial reporting, how can PRSA report only $260,816 as staff costs for the annual conference which is 4.7% of payroll of $5.5M? It’s far greater than that and could be close to $2M since the conference is a huge undertaking each year.

Press Can’t See Finances

5. Why can’t the press view your finances? Only members have access to your audit and quarterly reports.

6. Why do you, elected leaders and staff refuse to discuss making the entire membership list available to members and others as a PDF? This database, a member’s treasure for 50 years, was taken from them without either their permission or knowledge and no vote or discussion in the Assembly. There is no excuse for withholding this database unless you like to keep members in the dark and divided.

A group of PR professors pleaded with leadership (link, sub req'd) to give back this list but no one would talk to them.

They presented 14 unassailable reasons for giving the members back their membership list in convenient form and not 50 names at a time as in the online directory. A key reason was that they lent it to students for job-hunting.

PRSA Has “Secret” Assembly

7. How can leaders justify withholding the national list of Assembly delegates since 2005 and an audiotape or transcript of the Assembly? There is no complete national list since delegates don’t have to post their names on it if they don’t feel like it. Delegates don’t even know who the other delegates are. PRSA has the only secret legislative body in the world all the way down to Cub Scout packs.

Members don’t know who the delegates are (national list), what they say in the Assembly, or how the individual delegates vote.

Members know a few of the delegates—from their own chapter, district and the sections, but that’s it.

8. Why are not you, chair Rosanna Fiske or Yann out on the circuit preaching the “Business Case for PR?” Fiske, in her first six months in office, has only spoken to one chapter—Miami, her home chapter— based on available records.

Her speaking schedule is not available. The visit of Murray to Minneapolis was also not on the national website—an alert member tipped me off.

There’s no question that the leaders and staff are in hiding from the members.

Leaders Alienated from Members

A controversial dues hike has been proposed but there is no provision for either Murray or any elected leader facing a chapter in person with the press present. Discussion is to be “electronic” only—e-mails and e-groups. There is no provision for a teleconference.

Democracy is lacking not only at the national level but at the chapter level. None of the 110 chapters would dare to put up the dues question to a vote of the membership because it would be soundly defeated.

Last’s year issue—letting non-APRs run for the board—was debated for months but no chapter took a vote on the issue.

Secure, free voting by e-mail is available via Condorcet Internet Voting Service, operated by the Cornell Compuer Science Dept.

It has been used by more than 60,000 organizations since 2003.

Why doesn’t national leadership and staff use this system to let the 21,000 members vote on the dues increase?