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March 10, 2005


New Yorkers, who got short shrift from the 2004 PRSA nominating committee, which nominated no New Yorkers, resulting in a 17-member non-New York board, have come up short on the expanded 2005 nomcom.

None of the 22 PRSA members on the 2005 nomcom is from New York, further evidence of the recent strong anti-New York tide that washed PRSA h.q. from "Lower Midtown South" to the downtown financial district.

The New York chapter, with more than 700 members, is the biggest city-based chapter. National Capital, biggest chapter with more than 1,000 members, draws from Virginia and Maryland as well as D.C. Georgia, the second biggest with 900+ members, is statewide.

Political control of PRSA shifted from the large chapters to the smaller ones in the 1970s and 1980s when the number of chapters skyrocketed from 60 to more than 110. Some of the new chapters had as few as ten members but these chapters had the voting power of a chapter with 100 members.

Nomcom Abuses Charged in 2003 and 2004

Following numerous complaints and demands for investigation of both the 2003 nomcom and the 2004 nomcom, the PRSA board added three more ex-officio members to the 19 on the nomcom.

Arthur Abelman

They are Arthur Abelman of Moses & Singer, PRSA's longtime law firm; David Rickey, chair of the ethics board and chair of the governance task force appointed by 2004 president Del Galloway, and Dr. Mark Schilansky, podiatrist who was parliamentarian for the 2004 Assembly.

PRSA veterans said Abelman and Rickey are there to help eliminate complaints.

The nomcom conducts almost all of its business in teleconferences or via mailings. The members meet in Chicago at O'Hare airport in August to make their final decisions. Only officer candidates are required to go to Chicago.

"There is almost no work to do except sit back and wait for candidates to appear," said a former nomcom member.

In the past, the only ex-officio member has been the immediate past president, in this case, Galloway. Reed Byron, 2003 president, is nomcom chair.

2003, 2004 Nomcoms Criticized

The 2003 nomcom, headed by 2001 president Kathy Lewton, was hit with numerous charges of irregularities including allowing candidates to file after the official deadline; helping candidates with their filings; seeking and even nominating one candidate who lacked the proper credentials (forcing withdrawal of the nomination), and heavy lobbying by officers of PRSA for and against candidates despite a ban on such activities by a 2000 governance task force.

The ethics board sent a three-page letter to the 2003 board detailing the charges and asking for an investigation. The matter was never brought either to the board's attention or to the attention of the 2003 Assembly despite promises that it would be brought before the Assembly.

The 2004 nomcom was criticized for counting the votes in secret although no one complained about the counting at the meeting. Nomcom members said the vote was not close.

Complaints about the counting were made later at a teleconference by nomcom members Donna Stein, Verona, N.Y., counselor; Gail Rymer, Lockheed Martin; Karen Grava, University of Conn., and Tim Dodson, Miami counselor.

Another complaint about the 2004 nominating process was that national board members lobbied heavily for their favorites in defiance of the recommendation by a nomcom task force in 2000 headed by 1987 president Jack Felton that condemned interference in the nominating process by board members.

Lobbying for their candidates were board members Judy Phair, Del Galloway, Debbie Mason and Anthony D'Angelo.
Following criticism of the 2004 nomcom, Galloway named a committee to study the nomcom.

When this was met with criticism by those who pointed out the 2003 nomcom had not been investigated, Galloway then expanded the investigation to include all aspects of PRSA's governance.

Four Return from 2004 Nomcom

Some members feel it's an abusive practice for members of a previous nomcom to show up on the next nomcom while others feel this gives the nomcom some "consistency."

Returning to the nomcom after having served in 2004 are Vivian Hamilton, counselor from Eagle River, Alaska; Beth Mehlberth, VP of Edward Howard & Co.; Monty Hagler, counselor from High Point, N.C., and Gayle Pohl, associate professor, University of Northern Iowa.

Other members of the 2005 nomcom are Pamela Miles and Paige McMahon, counselors who are both former presidents of the National Capital chapter; Joe Vecchione, 1994 PRSA president; Michael Herman, 2004 chair, Counselors Academy; Scott Shirai; Stephen Shivinsky; Laurel O'Brien; Jeffrey Douglas; Jeffrey Halik; Dianne Smith; Rebecca Hart; Chad Perry; Dennis Gaschen, and Irene Maslowski.

Unless there is a spring Assembly that changes the bylaws of PRSA, no non-APRs may seek nominations in spite of a severe shortage of candidates brought about by the small and declining number of APRs.

Only ten candidates showed up for seven board and officer posts last year although the 2004 nomcom had four months to seek candidates.

Because of the difficulty of attracting national board members, the length of board service was extended from two to three years starting in 2003.

PRSA president Judy Phair has said there will be no move to decouple the board from APR this year unless it comes from the rank-and-file members.

There is no evidence that the board has taken a vote on this issue.

Board members are forbidden to talk about board actions or how they vote on issues either to reporters or their own members.

Board members never make speeches about PR or the PR industry or if they do, no texts are supplied to the press.

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