Paula Ruth, who has her own PR firm in Houston and who is also chapter administrator of PR Society's Houston chapter, ninth biggest chapter with 450 members, has commented on this website the arduous route chapters must take to win the national conference.

Leaders of the New York chapter, which has hosted only one national conference since 1991, showed little interest in seeking another one when asked about it this week.

Photo: Houston CVB
Ruth, noting that Houston has been unsuccessful in winning the conference despite efforts to do so, said one aspect of site selection is that the location is “rotated” through various “zones” so that having it in one Southwest city would block other Southwest cities from having it for a number of years.

Perhaps the snub to Houston could be traced to its revolt against national in 1985 when the chapter withheld dues until national coughed up more information.

The Houston board met with 1985 president Dave Ferguson on Jan. 13 that year and was so dissatisfied with his “evasive” answers to questions that it demanded written answers and instructed chapter members to withhold dues until the questions were answered. Ferguson retaliated by threatening to drop chapter members from the members’ directory. The dispute was settled in March when Houston expressed satisfaction with the new answers.

Move of H.Q. from NYC Was Sought

Houston and six other chapters (Dallas, Denver, Chicago, Indianapolis, Memphis and Atlanta) had submitted extensive proposals in 1985 for moving h.q. to one of those cities. They had been asked to make them by national.

When the national board rejected all of them, 25 Houston members, including the entire board headed by Margot Dimond, sent a petition to the national board demanding that the relocation decision be made by the Assembly. PRS’s lease at 845 Third Ave. (52nd St.) was up in April 1987. The national board not only rejected the demand but permanently cancelled the Spring Assembly, blaming its cost.

A chief reason for blocking a move to another city was that the entire staff of 40 said it would refuse to make the move and leaders said the cost of replacing the staff in another city was prohibitive.

Dimond and others said the national board “railroaded” the issue, refusing to estimate the costs of staying in New York. Payroll costs went from $1,027,652 in 1987 to $5.6 million in 2010. Houston said bypassing the Assembly on h.q. relocation was “an outrage and unprofessional.”

The 1985 Assembly voted 126-20 to have the national board reconsider its decision to keep h.q. in New York. The board ignored the vote.

Longterm Planning Needed for Conference

Ruth notes that since conference cities are picked up to five years in advance, chapter leaders who start the process will not be the ones in office when the conference actually takes place.

“The president who succeeds in campaigning for the conference will very likely be different from the one who will be in charge when the conference arrives,” she notes.

Campaigning for a conference will take attention from other chapter goals such as building membership, training and other programs, raising money for scholarships, and website development, she said.

“Hosting a national conference is expensive to a local chapter in both human and volunteer time as well as those who attend it,” she added.

Ruth said leaders move the conference around the U.S. so that “travel costs” of members who attend will be more “equitably” spread.

However, this website points out that only a small fraction of members attend the conference—less than 5%. The main benefactors are insiders—the 17 national board members who go free; the 20+ living ex-chairs and presidents who go free; the 150+ speakers who polish their resumes with this assignment; the 35 or so staffers who spend a week to ten days in the host city on the PRS tab (plus advance trips), and the mostly APR Assembly delegates who get much of their expenses paid by the chapter.

A New York location, besides saving on staff travel/meals/hotels, would probably double the number of exhibitors since most of them are based in New York and find shipping exhib materials to distant cities to be prohibitively expensive.

Senior Member Decries Info Blockage

A posting Feb. 15 on this website by a senior member has slammed chair Gerry Corbett for refusing to answer questions including where are the minutes for the four board meetings last year as well as the minutes for the 2011 Assembly?

The stonewalling of Corbett, staff and other board members flies in the face of the PRS Code promise to support the “free flow of information,” says the posting by the Fellow of the Society.

“Why do you hide the list of Assembly delegates from the delegates and other interested parties?” asks the member.

“It is about time that PRS responds to its members’ questions and those of the media rather than hiding their noses in their bunkers,” the member wrote.