New York State Senator Liz Krueger, in whose district this reporter resides, has sent PR Society president and COO William Murray a letter saying the banning of me from the 2011 Assembly is “deeply concerning, especially given your status as a tax-exempt industry trade association.”

Krueger, Murray
Krueger, Murray
Said the letter: “Whatever the merits of your organization’s and Mr. O’Dwyer’s disagreements, he and his publication’s reporting staff ought to be afforded fair access to events that are otherwise open to the press.”

Senator Krueger said she “wholeheartedly” agrees with the National Press Club Statement of Oct. 20, 2011 that said, “Asking difficult questions designed to get answers that an organization would rather not provide is not disrupting an event. We would rather see a group like PRS allow reporters who might write negative stories about them into their events than not. We think it sets a good example for their members whereas banning reporters does not.”

Senator Krueger added, “I strongly encourage your organization to reconsider its position on this matter and change course.”

She also criticized the Society for attempting to charge O’Dwyer staffers to attend the annual conference events while letting other trade reporters in free. [Full text of letter, PDF]

This happened at the 2010 conference in Washington, D.C., when the Society said O’Dwyer staffers would have to pay the full fee of $1,275 to attend any of the plenary sessions although Tonya Garcia of PR Newser and Scott Van Camp of PR News went free.

While I was allowed to cover the 2010 Assembly and assistive hearing devices were provided to me, I was banned from the 2011 Assembly. Guards blocked my entrance to the opening night reception, the exhibit hall and all the plenary sessions.

The Society took this punitive action against me based on charges it put in a 23-page letter. Although the PRS bylaws say no punitive action can be taken against a member unless the member has been “sanctioned by a government agency or convicted in a court of law,” the Society judged me guilty of something in its own “court” and punished me by blocking coverage and attempting to charge me for covering events open to other press.

Said Senator Krueger’s letter to Murray: “I urge you to provide the same level of access for Mr. O’Dwyer and O’Dwyer PR as you do to other members of the media covering your events.”
Krueger Represents East Side District

Senator Krueger represents a the 26th District which encompasses the East Side of Manhattan, including the New York home address of this reporter. A Democrat, she was elected to the Senate in 2002 during a special election. She is Vice Chair, Senate Finance Committee, and Chair, Select Committee on Budget and Tax Reform. Other committee memberships include banking, higher education, housing, construction and community development.

She is known as a strong advocate of tenants’ rights and was a leader in the fight to pass the Women’s Health and Wellness Act. Her career has been dedicated to issues relating to poverty including hunger and homelessness, lack of affordable housing and job training.

For 15 years she was associate director, Community Food Resource Center. Senator Krueger has a B.A. from Northwestern University in Social Policy and Human Development and a master’s degree from the University of Chicago’s Harris Graduate School of Public Policy. Her husband is Dr. John E. Seley, professor of Urban Planning and Geography at the City University of New York Graduate Center and Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs.

Investigation of PRS Is Needed

New York State, which chartered PRS in 1947, should do an investigation of the association.

Members have been complaining about the lack of democratic procedures for years but a “Committee for a Democratic PRS” failed in its goal in 2010 of opening up national offices to non-accredited members.

It was defeated in the Assembly which is about 70% accredited (APR) delegates although APRs only constitute 18% of the members.

There should be a probe of whether leaders of the Society are violating the ban against “inurement” to volunteers.

Insiders in a non-profit are not supposed to get any special benefits, particularly those with a monetary value.

More than 20 ex-presidents and chairs have free admittance to the national conference for life although this costs members up to $1,000 and more depending on when they register.

Ex-chairs and presidents may also get free chapter memberships for life.

About 135 chapter presidents-elect, district and section chairs will meet in June for the annual “Leadership Rally” in New York. Each gets $550 towards expenses plus five free meals worth another $200 or so.

This meeting has been held since 1999. Up until 1986, there was a spring meeting of the Assembly which had the power to pass bylaws. It was cancelled on the ground it was too expensive. Leaders have put the cost of the Leadership Rally at $140,000.

State officials should also look into the alienation of national h.q. from the New York chapter and New York PR community.

Offices were moved downtown to 33 Maiden lane in 2004, virtually eliminating use by the New York PR community which is mostly in midtown.

There are no New Yorkers on the current 17-member board and only two have served in the past 10 years.

Although New York has far more PR, advertising, journalists and media than any other city, only one annual conference (2004) has been in New York since 1992 and no further conferences are scheduled. New York chapter leaders say national has told them that hotel costs in New York are too high.

The New York chapter, after decades at PRS offices, was asked to leave in 1992 because of space needs by national. The office now has 22,000 sq. ft. but the chapter has not been invited back.