PRSA leaders are trying to place the responsibility (blame?)
for the legal pursuit of the e-mailer who criticized COO Catherine
Bolton on PRSA's law firm, Moses & Singer. But the law
firm is not buying it. Clients alone are responsible for taking
legal action, M&S said.
President Judy Phair told us via phone that she and 2004
president Del Galloway "followed the advice of counsel"
in initiating the action last Nov. 16.
Janet Troy, PRSA PR director, sent us this e-mail:
"We are not suing anyone. The court has found for Catherine
in the pre-action disclosure. The action was initiated on
the advice of counsel to the Society and Catherine as the
action was viewed as interfering in the governance of the
Society. It also presented a safety concern."
Arthur Abelman, of counsel at M&S who handles PRSA, said
he "gives advice" but that PRSA, like all his clients,
"makes the decision."
"I don't take the responsibility for starting any legal
action, I give advice," he said.
Having started this expensive, embarrassing legal action,
Del and Judy should end it now before there is further horrific
cost to the image and purse of the Society.
Do we really want to hear the 50 or so staffers of PRSA questioned
in court under oath on their opinion of the management skills
Especially missing in this debate is president-elect Cheryl
Procter-Rogers, whose own company, Time Warner, got hit with
two legal actions. She feels it's a legal dispute and she
But it's far more than that.
As far as we know, Procter-Rogers has raised no objection
whatever to this "outing" that is of supreme concern
to PRSA members and the general public. This case is the first
one of its type in New York and could set a dangerous legal
Also unheard from is Gerard Corbett, who represents the other
major corporation on the PRSA board, Hitachi. We urge both
companies to take a close look at the use of their brands
There are huge PR First Amendment and other considerations
here besides legal ones.
A good part of the country is running these days on information
posted anonymously on blogs, websites, finance/yahoo and similar
chat rooms, letters-to-the editor, etc. Almost all the postings
on the O'Dwyer website by PR people are anonymous because
contributors don't want to be hit on for expressing an opinion.
People will worry about saying "boo" about anything
if they think an e-mail provider will "out" them
at the drop of a legal petition.
Time Warner Cable, by the way, put up no fight when M&S
came to it with a subpoena demanding that its Road Runner
brand give up the owner of an e-mail address and list of people
e-mailed to by this address. As is its practice, TWC did not
even show up at a court date for this. TWC told the owner
of the address that it was his/her problem to respond.
"John Doe" hired law firm Quarto Dunning which
crafted a 13-page reply to the court with numerous legal arguments
and citations of relevant decisions. M&S had started the
legal action with a two-page, one-paragraph petition that
QD called "threadbare."
QD's best argument was that Bolton had suffered no "economic
harm" and that this was essential for a finding of possible
The QD rebuttal resulted in Judge Kibbe Payne writing a decision
of thousands of words that ran in the New York Law Journal
after it front-paged a previous story.
TWC was hit with another "legal action" ordering
it to turn over CHs e-mail records and it complied.
We wonder if PRSA and M&S were anticipating such a hub-bub?
Maybe they thought the mere "outing" of CH would
end the e-mails and thus warn other potential critics without
the need for a public defamation lawsuit in which many PRSA
staffers and others would have to testify under oath.
PRSA, whose last press conference was in 1993, has a record
of not liking to air matters in public.
Who's running PRSA anyway, the board or Moses & Singer?
Abelman was on the governance task force named by Galloway
last year (whose work is finished). He is remains on the 2005
nominating committee, also in an "ex-officio" capacity.
How many associations allow someone from their law firms
such influence? Governance at PRSA needs an overhaul but its
not going to be done by the very people who are not sharing
H.q. turned its back on PRSA/New York and the rich New York
PR/communications market, as evidenced by the record $580,000
profit PRSA made on the 2004 national conference in New York.
Boltons managerial abilities have been questioned by
the anonymous e-mailer. But is that so far-fetched?
It can be argued that she is a "limited interest public
figure" in the PR community and defamation charges are
harder for public figures to prove.
Bolton joined PRSA on Sept. 3, 2000 as "chief PR officer"
from the Int'l Copper Assn. where she was VP-communications.
By December she was acting president and COO and the next
month was named president and COO, heading a staff of about
50. Predecessor Ray Gaulke quit those posts suddenly in October
2000. He had been picked in 1993 after a lengthy search by
a committee of six and a fee of $40K to Korn/Ferry.
We question some of the actions made at h.q. including the
sudden departure in July 2004 of Rob Levy (without explanation)
after he boosted training income 61% in the first half to
$1.28 million. The move of h.q. downtown was championed by
Bolton and we think it was one of PRSAs worst decisions
ever. We also question this legal action in which she is a