This website’s criticism of Kaiser-Permanente senior VP Diane Gage-Lofgren has been called “unfair” in an e-mail from KP lawyer Anne Deibert.

Our criticism is that KP PR staffer Laura Dunn, on a PRS teleconference Aug. 29, said that Gage-Lofgren would conduct an “unconference” for three hours of the PR Society Assembly in which delegates could post whatever ideas they wanted on bulletin boards.

But Gage-Lofgren then posted on the PRS website that her team “has already hosted a handful of meetings to bring together a list of Assembly objectives and themes that we’d like the unconference participants to have in mind.”

Holly Potter
Holly Potter, VP-PR, Kaiser Permanente
These include “growing and retaining Society membership, uncovering membership and growth development issues, and finding ways national can support membership,” said the Gage-Logren posting.

So which is it?! Can the delegates post whatever ideas they want, such as chapter-only membership, or do they have to follow the suggestions of Gage-Lofgren and her team?

Attempts to get Gage-Lofgren to answer that question were called “harassment” in an e-mail yesterday from Diebert.

“You have made certain unfounded and unfair allegations regarding Kaiser Permanente and Ms. Gage-Lofgren and her work with PRS,” says the letter, adding: “We view these unfair statements as potentially damaging to the reputations of Kaiser Permanente and our valued employee.”

We are urged to consult our “legal counsel” since KP “vigorously protects our reputation and our brand from baseless attacks.”

Delegates: Dump Gage-Lofgren

Most important order of business here is that the delegates should not turn over their one meeting of the year for three hours to Gage-Lofgren, whose job is to dismantle the Assembly into small discussion groups.

The delegates should seize control of their own meeting and elect their own officers, running the meeting the same way that the major professional associations run theirs.

The Houses of Delegates of the American Bar Assn. and American Medical Assn. have their own leaders who are separate from the board. The purpose of such bodies and the PRS Assembly is to hold the feet of their boards to the fire, not give them a foot massage.

PRS’s ten largest chapters have nearly 70 delegates and can wrest control of the Assembly from the board and its lawyers if they organize. There’s plenty of time for that.

Chapters and their presidents are:

National Capital, Suzanne Holroyd, Dept. of Defense
Georgia, Julie Davis, counselor
New York, Harry Zlokower, counselor
Chicago, Deborah Harvey, Golin Harris
Los Angeles, Anne Stephany, Loews Hotels
Colorado, Sarah Rasmussen, MGA Comms.
Detroit, Jennifer Flowers, Henry Ford Health Systems
Minnesota, Brant Skogrand, counselor
Houston, Ed Davis, Fifth Ring PR
Philadelphia, Blair Cardinal, Buchanan PR

Much-needed reforms are not going to take place at PRS unless the Assembly takes control of the Society. Delegates have to rethink their roles. They are not some rubber stamp of the board and national staff. They are supposed to represent the 82% of members who are not APR and who would sever APR from governance if they had the chance.

Allowing Gage-Lofgren and her team to bust up the Assembly this year, duplicating what happened at the 2011 Assembly, will be a sign that the delegates are putting their own interests above that of the membership and the PR industry.

KP Should Look at Bedmate

As for our damaging the “brand” of KP, it should have looked at the governance abuses and press-avoiding practices of the PR Society before becoming the “premiere” (main) sponsor of the 2012 conference in S.F. and having Gage-Lofgren as the conductor of the afternoon session of the Assembly.

Numerous groups and individuals have urged PRS to halt its press-interference tactics including the National Press Club and New York State Senator Liz Krueger.

KP is identifying its precious “brand” with press interference, a growing worldwide phenomenon that is being attacked by Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights of UNESCO.

Harassing reporters by threatening them with legal action is one of the most popular tools of press-avoiding regimes and companies.

Abusive practices of PRS are catalogued in web links in the O’Dwyer’s Directory of PRS Abuses.

KP PR Staff Is in Lockdown

Attempts to reach the large KP PR staff were unsuccessful.

Eight staffers are listed on the website by their phone numbers but none would pick up the phone. Only one staffer, Farra Levin, has a personal e-mail. Attempts to e-mail the others go to the kpnewscenter, which does not reply. Calls to the “media hotline” are ignored.

Holly Potter, VP-PR, sent us an e-mail saying that if we wanted press credentials we would have to seek them from PRS. PRS does not respond to such requests.

Potter’s e-mail had the return address of the KP news center. There is no way for a reporter to directly e-mail or phone Potter, who received the “PR Team Leader” award of PR News in 2009.