Members of PR Society of America who are facing a $30 dues hike to $255, raising about $600,000, should take a look at the $731K+ in salary and fringes paid to the top three staffers—COO Bill Murray ($373K); CFO Phil Bonaventura ($221K), and VP-PR Art Yann ($137K).

Murray, Bonaventura, Yann
Murray, Bonaventura, Yann
The fourth highest paid staffer also happens to be a male—VP-development John Robinson who joined in 2001 and whose salary was $140K in 2009.

Only 2009 figures are available since the Society withholds its IRS Form 990 until the end of the year (although it’s originally due May 15).

It’s odd that in a Society and an industry that has more female than male employees by far, that the four highest paid executives of the Society should be males.

Ian Leaves Staff

Searching Jennifer Ian, who was VP-membership since 2003, I found that she left PRS in June 2010 and landed at the American Thoracic Society in April 2011 as director, member and chapter relations.

Yann, who joined in 2008, is paid more than Karla Voth, VP-special events, who has been with PRS since 1990.
Her job includes supervising the all-important national conference each year.

Her pay of $135K in 2009 was surpassed by the $137K pay of Yann in that year.

Judith Voss, director of professional development and with PRS since 2000, was paid $115K in 2009.

Barbara McDonald, VP-marketing, who joined in 2005, was paid $126K.

Ditch the Three Men

Members who are now faced with a $30 national dues hike to $255 when almost all activities are at the local level, should take a hard look at the three quarters of a million being paid to the top three staffers.

There is enough executive talent to run the Society without the three highest paid males.

I have detailed criticisms of Murray including his failure to live up to the title of “president.” He should be out in the business world preaching the “Business Case for PR” and appearing regularly before chapter memberships.

He delivered a “blackball” to me in my own office March 19, 2010 and I feel that disqualifies him from being Society president.

If the executive committee (which is the body making this decision) gives him another two-year contract that will be a commitment of about $800K for the two years and most probably another $400K should PRS decide not to renew him.

That’s what happened with the two previous COOs.

Ray Gaulke was given a five-year contract starting in 2000 but PRS bought him out for the $250K due that year and $250K in severance.

Catherine Bolton gave in her resignation at the end of 2005, collected $300K for 2006 and another $300K in severance.

Bonaventura’s Performance Is Lacking

I have bones to pick with Bonaventura.

He has allowed leaders to talk endlessly of “returning 1% of revenues to reserves” when the Society has no such thing as reserves.

It has “net assets” which are supposed to be the cash/savings that it has earned.

It breaks a FASB rule by booking a year’s dues as cash when dues should be booked ratably over the year’s duration of the dues. This bloats the “net assets” figure by about $2.2 million.

Members are getting a skewed view of their finances.

As CFO, Bonaventura is in charge of the financial reporting and it’s too little and too late.

Members should not have to wait until the end of the year to get IRS Form 990 that has pay of the top eight staffers; legal costs ($299,000 from 2007-09); occupancy costs, stock trades and other information.

The PRS audit and 990 should be on the front page of the Society website in a prominent position—advice given by the Independent Sector, whose membership is about 500 non—profits. They’re not.

I found numerous flaws in the Society’s financial reporting in 2009 including failure to break out the third quarter and lateness in providing the first half report, which did not come out until late October.

It’s not Bonaventura’s fault, but PRS does not let non-members including reporters see its audit and quarterly reports. How is the press supposed to report on PRS if it can’t see the Society’s finances?

Financial reporting by the Society is deficient and substandard and does not live up to the high values expressed in its Code of Ethics.