PRSA's lawyer, Arthur Abelman, is demanding that we retract
charges in an editorial Feb. 2 on this website that PRSA practices
"false bookkeeping," uses "continued false
accounting," and is engaged in "blatant bribery."
Our lawyer, who reads everything we write, says don't retract
anything but explain our charges further.
What was most striking about the Abelman letter was that
it ignored 12 other points we made about PRSA including charges
that it is "undemocratic" because it has blocked
80% of members from running for national office since 1973,
and has failed to use its blast e-mail to find out the opinions
of its 20,000 members.
We also criticized the continued dominance of accredited
members when the 2004 Assembly voted to let non-APRs join
To complete this action, PRSA should let non-APRs on the
nominating committee and should allow non-APRs to petition
for a special Assembly meeting.
If non-APRs are o.k. for the Assembly, they should be o.k.
for the board.
The fact that PRSA is so undemocratic in so many ways is
galling to us because the U.S. is spending precious lives
and countless dollars to promote democracy in Iraq and elsewhere.
How PRSA can be so insular and so out of step with the nation's
supreme value is a mystery to us. It's out of step with its
own code of ethics which mentions the need for "informed
decision-making in a democratic society."
Also not mentioned by Abelman was the failure of PRSA to
take up the issue of letting students join from any of the
4,000 colleges in the U.S. instead of just the 270 recognized
This is an inequity to students in the other colleges and
another indication of the exclusionary, elitist policies of
Abelman says the fact that he doesn't mention our other points
does not mean he admits any of them. But he doesn't rebut
The sketchy, 10-line letter of Abelman doesn't
give any specifics about our claim of "false bookkeeping"
Time on Conference Too Low
PRSA reported $103,000 as "staff time" on the 2004
national conference in New York. Former officers and directors
tell us about half the staff spends about half the year on
planning conferences years in advance. The dollar amount is
over $1 million and could be close to $2 million, they say.
We believe them because arranging for more than 130 speakers,
producing elaborate programs and other printed materials,
and making advance visits to various cities must consume a
lot of time. It's obviously far more than the $100K or so
claimed each year on the PRSA audit.
We would be only too glad to argue these points with Abelman
but we should really be talking to Jeff Julin, treasurer of
PRSA, based at MGA Communications in Denver.
Can't Speak Publicly
But under long policy, no PRSA officer or director except
the president can talk to us or any press. This is a bizarre
policy that can only backfire.
It has. The PRSA search committee for a new COO to succeed
Catherine Bolton has told senior members that PRSA needs to
attract "the Society's next leader" and asks them
whether the leader should have such traits as "visionary"
and be a "charismatic leader" and "an accomplished
This is a slap in the face to Rhoda Weiss, president-elect,
and Julin, who is an odds-on bet to be the next president-elect.
Obviously, the search committee does not see them as "charismatic,"
"visionary," etc. How can they be when they've put
themselves under house arrest by hiding out from the press
their entire careers at PRSA?! How can you be charismatic
if you're never seen in public?
Also in the same "no-speaking" boat
with Weiss and Julin are the Assembly, district leaders, past
presidents, chapter presidents, and the College of Fellows.
All seem to have taken vows of silence on matters that should
be under discussion.
Ex-leaders tell us that dissidents fear they
will not get their budgets passed (such as for travel, food
and hotels); that they will miss out on key appointments,
and that people will stop talking to them. They fear being
Dues Account Needed
We also feel it's false and misleading for PRSA to book a
year's advance dues from a member as cash when a year's service
is owed for these dues.
Other professional trade groups like the American Medical
Assn., American Bar Assn., AICPA, American Society of Assn.
Executives, and PRSA's peer organization, International Assn.
of Business Communicators, all have substantial deferred dues
PRSA in 1991 had such an account worth $904,767. Why was
it drawn down to $310,000 as of Dec. 31, 2004, when PRSA was
much bigger than it was in 1991? PRSA income was $5.2 million
in 1991 vs. $10.9M in 2004.
'Leaders' Rally Deserves Criticism
Abelman wants us to retract our claim that the June weekend
in New York for chapter presidents-elect is "blatant
We have been critics of this bootless meeting since it was
started four years ago and called it "bribery" on
March 20, 2005 without getting a letter from Abelman.
Instead of meeting in New York for ego-massaging by the PRSA
staff (this is the ultimate ego-trip), the presidents-elect
should be at a spring Assembly that can vote on much-needed
PRSA governance reforms.
Each president-elect gets $500 in cash from the Society and
the weekend costs $100,000 by PRSA's own count. How come Assembly
delegates don't get $500 to help defray expenses? They don't
even get a break on the conference fee, which is about $1,000
depending on whether there is early registration. Also, they
are forced to spend two extra nights at a conference city
when the Assembly could just as well take place on the Monday
afternoon of a conference. The delegates are not "coddled"
while non-voting presidents-elect are.
We're not accusing the presidents-elect nor PRSA of a crime.
"Bribery," says our Webster's dictionary, means
giving something, especially money, to "induce someone
to do something illegal or wrong."
We think it's wrong for the presidents-elect to be "schmoozed"
out of their voting rights by having their egos stroked. A
good part of the meeting is also spent by staff telling about
all the PRSA services available to them.
This mutual love affair should be replaced by hard-working
chapter delegates making needed reforms such as decoupling
the board from APR; opening up the PRSA website to member
opinions; letting the Assembly meet all year long by teleconference,
PRSA had a spring Assembly until 1985 when, after a big battle
between the board and Assembly over moving h.q. out of town,
the board permanently cancelled the spring Assembly, saying
it was too expensive.
The entire 40-person PRSA staff, except for COO Betsy Kovacs,
said it would quit if h.q. left New York. The board said it
would be too expensive to replace the staff and voted to keep
h.q. in New York. Seven chapters had submitted materials that
were about two feet high in favor of moving and were aghast
at the decision. Some chapter leaders wondered if the national
board ever had any intention of leaving New York.