A spokesperson for the U.S. Justice Dept. said that my charge that PR Society of America “retaliated” against me when I sought hearing assistance at its conference last year “is being looked at to see if action will be taken.”

The complaint remains “live” and has not been dismissed, said the spokesperson.

justice dept. sealJustice has been asked again to take action as soon as possible because the Society’s Assembly takes place Oct. 15 followed by its annual conference and this request could become “moot.”

Chair Rosanna Fiske and COO Bill Murray have put in writing that this writer will not be given “credentials” for either the 2011 Assembly or conference.

The complaint to Justice, which does not require a lawyer’s assistance, was made in writing on Aug. 26.

It noted that when this writer sought hearing devices for the Assembly and conference last year in Washington, D.C., the Washington Hilton provided such devices which were used for the Assembly.

I was allowed to cover the Assembly but under a new policy was not allowed to record anything or take pictures on pain of being permanently banned. Those rules were followed.

That was retaliation.

Charging $1,275 Was Retaliation

Also, for the first time in 40 years, the Society suddenly decided to charge me the regular fee of $1,275 to cover the conference while other PR trade reporters (Scott Van Camp for PR News and Tonya Garcia for PR Newser) were given free press passes. That is also retaliation.

The reason for demanding payment to attend the conference, given in an e-mail by Society VP-PR Arthur Yann, was that I had received a press pass for the 2009 conference but did not report on it. That was false because the O’Dwyer website carried a major story by me on the discussion by Arianna Huffington and Wendell Potter. Nevertheless, the $1,275 charge for admittance remained and I did not cover any of the general sessions.

Further retaliation included blocking me from attending the Assembly lunch when I had attended at least 40 in previous years. I needed to talk to delegates who had just turned down a bid to let non-accredited members run for the national board.

Physical Violence Was Threatened

Additional retaliation was the threat of physical violence that an Assembly delegate made to me while I was waiting in front of the Washington Hilton.

A large blond man in a t-shirt rushed up to me with his face inches from mine screaming obscenities at me and putting me in fear of an imminent physical attack. He told me never to talk again with Marisa Vallbona, who had just been elected to the PRS board. She had traded more than 45 e-mails with me in the preceding few months and I considered her my “friend.”

The assailant fled when I asked a nearby doorman to call the police.

fiske murray
Fiske, Murray
The assailant was described by Yann in an e-mail to me as an Assembly delegate. Yann further wrote that a national director witnessed this “altercation.” The Society has refused to investigate this incident or answer any questions about it.

Retaliation Is Illegal

Lawyers for the National Assn. of the Deaf provided this writer with sections of the Americans with Disabilities Act which say that it’s illegal to retaliate in any form against someone with a disability who seeks assistance. (ADA.Section C.F.R. #301c).

More than mechanical hearing devices is needed.

What’s needed is simple courtesy from the Society.

I covered the Assembly for decades while sitting in the middle of it with the New York delegation. I was able to see and hear well and take pictures unobtrusively.

In recent years PRS policy has been to confine me to the back of the room and outside the Assembly area. An exception was last year when I was placed at a table off to the right side at least 20 feet from the delegates.

Hearing Is Difficult for Many

I have sat in the back with numerous members who also couldn’t hear what’s going on because we can only see the backs of the heads of delegates who are far away who speak from the floor. They don’t speak closely enough to the mike and seem to be unfamiliar with how to use it.

Delegates should speak from the stage and address the rest of the delegates “through the chair” so their facial expressions and gestures can be seen by everyone. They don’t have to “address the chair,” says Robert’s Rules. Leaders speak from the stage and make sure everyone hears and sees what they have to say.

The only way members not present will know what is said is if I cover the dialogue. PRS has not produced a transcript since 2004. The “minutes” it supplies only report on actions and votes taken and provide no quotes. No other reporter has covered the Assembly for at least 15 years.