PR Society of America leaders and staff refused on two teleconferences yesterday to say what products or services will be cut if the Assembly doesn’t pass a $30 dues hike.

Chair Rosanna Fiske said one thing is certain — there won’t be any free webinars if the hike doesn’t pass. She had announced two weeks ago that if members took one $150 webinar a month the value would total $1,800 over a year’s time.

Fiske, dues hike committee member Tony D’Angelo, COO “Blackball” Bill Murray (his voice constantly breaking up due to spasmodic dysphonia) and CFO Phil Bonaventura all refused to go into details of what might be cut.

Mark McClennan, Northeast district nominee for the board, reiterated the demand for specifics in a posting today in the PRS Assembly delegate e-group.

“Give us an idea of a few things that are potentially on the chopping block,” he pleaded.

Amazing News Comes Out

The a.m. call was produced these notable items:

--PRS sends two e-mails a day to members in the form of news bulletins and pitches for webinars/seminars but could not bring itself to announce the proposed dues increase in an e-mail. Members have been complaining in LinkedIn and in the e-group that they never heard of the increase.

--D’Angelo said the annual “Leadership Rally” for presidents-elect and chairs of sections and districts costs $140,000 but that cutting it would be “the wrong thing to do” since the attendees “rave about it.” He said: “I personally am against dropping it.” Murray had also praised the LR in a previous teleconference, saying “research” showed it was popular and it was a “discrete” budget item. [Editor’s View: it’s open bribery of those who vote in the Assembly, has not produced a scrap of written advice for anyone in 12 years, and who wouldn’t like a free weekend in New York each June?]

--Fiske, again describing the proposed destruction of the 2011 Assembly by breaking it up into dozens of small groups for much of the afternoon, blamed the delegates themselves for suggesting this (quoting a survey of the

--Fiske subjected all calls on the two teleconferences to censorship. Participants had to post their questions on an accompanying website which were then read off by a PRS staffer. There were only about a half dozen questions.

--D’Angelo repeatedly referred to the “reserves” of PRS when VP-Art Yann has said that the proper term is “net assets.” The Society has no “reserves” (only banks have that). PRS’s “net assets” are fake because more than $2.2 million of unearned dues is included in that figure in defiance of FASB Section 958-605-21-1. PRS has a couple of months of earned money on which to operate—very thin ice. It had a $312,797 operating loss in the second quarter, a loss hidden as part of the first half report. Journalists are barred from seeing such financial reports.

Alice-in-Wonderland Quality in Discussions

Leader/staff/member discussions have an “Alice-in-Wonderland” quality because a whole herd of elephants-in-the-room is never mentioned.

The APRs who run PRS wasted $2.9 million on the program from 1986-2002 and have turned their backs on millions of easy income by only having one national conference in New York in 23 years with another one yet to be scheduled. The 2004 New York conference drew a record 4,000. Large savings result from a New York location because there is no need for “advance trips” by staffers nor any need for travel/hotel/meals for the 35 or more staffers who attend a conference.

PRS could save $285,349 by sending Tactics and Strategist by PDF (printing cost $171,218 and postage $141,131 in 2010). Ten years of such savings would be $2.8 million.

O’Dwyer’s Charged with “Misinformation”

Fiske, at the end of the a.m. call, said there have been “several questions” from delegates about “communications from a New York newsletter publisher.”

She offered to set the record straight if delegates would call her privately. “There are several pieces of misinformation there,” she said.

We challenge Fiske or any delegate to refute any of the facts or opinions this site has carried about the Society’s finances and its quest of a dues hike.

More than 300 O’Dwyer e-mails have been sent to the presidents of the 110 chapters and only two presidents have demanded we stop sending them.

One is Sarah Lamm, president of the North Carolina chapter, which has about 230 members.

Lamm, who is leaving the employ of Capstrat, Raleigh, because her husband has a new out-of-state job, e-mailed us “Unsubscribe” as though we were sending her SPAM. We have polled the 11-member board of the chapter to see if the other directors agree. This should not be a unilateral decision by Lamm.

President-elect of the chapter is Meghan Woodlief, who left Capstrat a couple of months ago, said CEO Ken Eudy, whose firm billed $11.8M in 2010.

Eudy’s bio on the firm’s website notes his extensive journalistic background—six years as chief political writer for the Charlotte Observer, the state’s biggest newspaper, and six years as TV news correspondent with stations in Raleigh and Charlotte.

We have asked Eudy to call Fiske and Murray and read them the riot act — stop all this information blocking, evasion of members and false financial reporting. He should tell Fiske to stop running from the members and face chapter memberships in person starting with the biggest city chapter — New York. The “war” on New York is destroying the Society.

All e-mails to the presidents are personally addressed and do not constitute SPAM. It appears that most of the chapter presidents are reading our reports and finding out a lot of things they would never get from PRS leadership or staff. We hope the presidents will forward the blogs to their entire memberships. Presidents we have talked to usually say they will bring it before the board. The democratic thing to do would be to pass it onto the entire membership.

Murray’s New Contract Is Dodged

COO Bill Murray
Another unworldly aspect of the dues discussion is that no one ever asks about the new three-year contract of Murray.

He and the board have shown contempt for the membership by not revealing the terms of his contract. Even the terms of his 2010-11 contract remain secret since PRS has yet to file its 2010 IRS Form 990 and refuses to say when it will be filed. Initial deadline was May 15. PRS kept this document from the 2009 and 2010 Assemblies.

Murray’s pay/fringes were $373,000 in 2009. Bonaventura got $221K and VP-PR Art Yann, $137K.

Kennedy, Others Had SD

PRS members have said we should not mention Murray’s affliction with spasmodic dysphonia, pointing out that Senator Robert F. Kennedy had this problem and nevertheless had a successful career.

Others with it, they said, were singer Fred Lavery, who had to retire because of it, and Dutch radio presenter Sjors Frohlich, who also quit his job because of it.

The condition is incurable and tends to get worse.

Handicapped people should be hired but not if their handicap interferes with performance of their jobs.

Murray, carrying the title of president and getting well paid for it, should be out on the circuit preaching the Society’s “Business Case for PR.”

We have no record of public appearances by Murray. He has not addressed the New York chapter in his first 4.5 years in office.

The Society itself should be setting an example of openness, democracy, and fairness. Instead, it is doing the opposite.

Advertising/PR have a low and even declining image with the public, according to the latest Gallup poll. The antics at PRS are not helping this situation.