PR Society of America treasurer Phil Tate on Wednesday refused to discuss “dollar costs” of programs when asked to do so by Westchester/Fairfield (Conn.) chapter president Ken Koprowski, saying he didn’t think “specific dollar figures” are “important” for this “top line view” of things that would be eliminated if the dues hike fails.

COO “Blackball” Bill Murray said he would discuss it with Koprowski “off line.”

'Let them eat cake'
This is the equivalent of Marie Antoinette saying “Let ‘em eat cake” to the French people.

This blog will deal with the carload of embarrassing figures that leaders don’t want to discuss.

Murray’s Pay a Secret

First thing they don’t want to discuss is the new three-year contract of Murray starting in January, 2012. Last report of his pay was for 2009 when he got $373K in pay/fringes.

His two hires, CFO Phil Bonaventura and VP-PR Art Yann, got $221K and $137K, respectively, in 2009. Total was $761K (not counting Yann’s unreported benefits).

So this is probably up to $800K starting in 2012. Since PRS typically pays a year’s salary to departing executives, the four-year commitment is $3.2M.

The top eight executives got about $1.3M of the total pay/fringes of $5,368,206, leaving about $4M for the remaining 45 staffers. Their average pay was $88K. How many PR pros make $88K each year?

Maddening is that chair Rosanna Fiske, the board and Murray refuse to tell members even what Murray and the other execs made in 2010.

Members act like they’re employees of Murray et al instead of vice versa.

We do not think Murray is qualified for this job because he is not out on the hustings preaching the “Business Case for PR.” He also spent an hour in our office last year saying PRS “chooses” not to deal with us, and has now served written notice on us that we will not be “credentialed” for the 2011 Assembly or conference.

If enough members don’t call and e-mail him to complain about that un-American act (212/460-1401; [email protected]), members will not have details of what goes on at the Assembly. We’re the only reporter to have covered it for at least 15 years.

Transcripts of the Assembly were stopped after the 2004 meeting. Reporters who attend are now forbidden to record or take pictures of the Assembly.

Second Most Important: Snub to New York

Second most important dollar figure, after the bloated staff salaries that consume more than 50% of income when this should be 40% or below, is the millions of income lost because of the bias against New York, which has at least 20 times more communications people than any other city.

Only one annual conference has been scheduled in New York since 1990—the record-breaking one in 2004. What’s tearing the Society apart is unchecked local pride that demands the conference be shopped around the country to appease local PRS politicians.

PRS loses hundreds of thousands on the conference but won’t admit it. Members have to check the alleged staff costs of the conference--$260K in 2010 or 4.7% of total staff pay/fringes of $5,529,699.

Past officers scoff at that, saying half the staff spends about half the year on it or 25% ($1.38M in true staff costs).

Miniscule Costs Reported in 1990s

The $260K now reported is an improvement over the $59K reported for the 1993 conference and $53K for 1994 (2.4% of payroll of $2,143,938).
We started beefing about those ridiculous figures and PRS then started boosting them first to the $100k level and now to $200K+ but still far below the real costs.

The only way to determine that would be for members to work at h.q. and see what everyone does. Up to 35 staffers may attend any one conference. “Audited” reports can’t possibly substitute for on-the-spot observance. Too bad members are forbidden to work in their own h.q.

The conferences may even lose more money if the Assembly is cancelled. More than 200 Assembly delegates who would have paid $1,095 to register for the conference probably would not attend if there is no in-person Assembly.

Big Loss on Student Memberships

PRS, under the lash of its new rulers (the educators, who replaced the counselors), spurned millions in income over the years by confining student memberships to the 300 colleges that have a quota of PR courses and nearby members who can be advisors.

Plenty of students would like to put PRS memberships on their resumes to show interest in PR but the PR professors, who have trouble finding jobs for their own students, don’t want more competition for them.

But opening student memberships to non-PR majors like English, history and science, might bring a higher grade of students to the field who would win jobs.

Geographic and educator politics are what is strangling PRS. Add to this an overpaid, out-of-control h.q. staff and leaders who are asking members to spend about five times their chapter dues to national. The list of chapters and their dues shows 48 are in the $50-$60 bracket, 28 are in the $30-$40 bracket, and 18 are below $30. Members typically complain they get more than 90% of benefits from networking and other services on the local level.

Look at Each Line Item

Members need to go over each line item in the audit, noting especially the huge sum for editorial staff ($731,750) when almost all the articles are written by volunteers; the $582,898 in “deferred rent,” a ridiculous entry that means PRS has $582K in cash simply because it didn’t pay the first year’s rent when it moved to 33 Maiden Lane in 2004; the accounts receivable of $362,705, asking whether this includes dues that were billed to members (a deplorable accounting ploy on a par with booking dues as cash), and the investments that include more than $1M in the stock market. A trade group like PRS should not have anything in the “market.”

Delegates and members have to say “no” now to the plan to disperse the Assembly into 30 different “chat groups” that will discuss well-worn topics.

This is a ruse to block delegates from questioning the leaders.

Fiske’s excuse for not being on the afternoon teleconference Wednesday (“has a professional commitment at her University”) does not wash. A further explanation is required. The teleconference had been scheduled a month ago and was for less than an hour.

Stevens Blasts Assembly Cancellation

We suspect she didn’t want to talk about the threat to cancel the Assembly, the “holy of holies” of PRS, that has riled many members.

Art Stevens, a PRS presidential nominee, president of PRS/New York, and holder of the PRS “Patrick Jackson Award,” has e-mailed to PRS that cancellation of the Assembly “cannot be allowed to ever happen regardless of what the Society’s financial situation is. To eliminate in-person Assembly meetings is tantamount to castrating the Society. It must have in-person Assembly meetings. They are part of our democratic process…it would literally be the beginning of the end for the Society. Never speak of this again.”

A significant and deplorable practice instituted by Fiske is putting PRS teleconferences in “listen-only” mode so that members cannot speak on it.

It’s no longer a teleconference but something else.

(Image: Wikimedia)