PR Society members are criticizing not only the decision of leaders to merge the group's Multicultural section into its diversity committee but how the decision was made and revealed.

Kerri Allen, of Revolucion, New York, an Hispanic brand communications firm, and co-chair of the multicultural section, said in a statement: "On the eve of 2010, what organization would scrap their multicultural initiatives? What's next on the chopping block? That silly social media thingy?"

Bloggers said that there was no mention of the possible closing of the section at the section council meeting at the conference in San Diego in early November and that section leaders were told on Nov. 18 in a teleconference that its membership numbers were "on par" with those of other sections.

Joe Ciarallo, editor of of Mediabistro, has covered the story extensively.

Allen said that PRS' committees have no voting power in the Assembly as is the case with sections and that committee leaders are appointed rather than elected.

"If their social media section were down a couple of members, would they tell them the day before their office was closed for two weeks for the holiday after 26 years of involvement?" said the statement by Allen.

[PRS announced Dec. 24 that its h.q. would be closed until Jan. 4 and that any calls or e-mails would not be answered until then].

'Physical Disabilities?' Now Included

PRS CEO Bill Murray, in a statement Dec. 22, said the definition of "diversity" is being expanded to include "not only racial, ethnic and cultural diversity, but the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transsexual community and individuals with physical disabilities, all of whom can be better accommodated and served under a single umbrella."

[Editor's note: the staff and leaders of PRS refused three requests for better seating arrangements or use of earphones which were made by editor Jack O'Dwyer of this website at the Assembly Nov. 7 and the opening conference session Nov. 8 featuring Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post. O'Dwyer reported he has a hearing loss and was unable to hear much of the proceedings but the three requests were turned down. With assistance of several organizations, including the national Assn. of the Deaf, O'Dwyer is exploring whether PRS violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act in refusing to make any accommodation for his hearing problem. Title III covers hotels, theaters and other places of public accommodations and non-profit as well as for-profit organizations and specifies that efforts must be made to accommodate handicaps of any type.]

Travel and Food Sections Merged

Murray also announced the merger of the Travel and Food sections into one section apparently because their memberships had fallen below the 200 level.

The Corporate Responsibility Section has been folded, apparently for the same reason, and is now a ?Council of Experts? without a vote in the Assembly.

"The knowledge and content created by the Council will be available free to all members, eliminating payment of a section membership fee," said Murray.

Rejected African-American Candidate

The PRS nominating committee this year rejected an attempt by Washington, D.C., counselor Ofield Dukes to become the at-large representative on the board.

He would have been the only African-American on the 17-member board and only the second African-American male on the board in its 63 years.

Debra Miller and Cheryl Procter-Rogers are the only African-American women to serve on the board. Ron Owens of Kaiser-Permanente was elected to a three-year term in 2004 but quit the board after six months.

Dukes has worked closely with Democratic Administrations since the Administration of Lyndon Johnson in the 1960?s. He is currently working with the Barack Obama Administration on housing problems including homeowners who have defaulted on their loans.

The nomcom headed by Rhoda Weiss instead picked Barbara Whitman, Honolulu counselor. Reports on this website that Weiss and Whitman are close friends have not been challenged by either Weiss or Whitman. Weiss has spent considerable time in Hawaii working for the St. Joseph?s Hospice.

Gary McCormick, 2010 chair, offered Dukes a non-voting seat on the 2010 board but he refused.

New York counselor Michael Paul, who blasted the all-white PRS board earlier this year, had tried to set up a meeting with PRS staffers and officers but the staffers and officers rejected this.