Susan Hart
Susan Hart

Two long-standing PRSA members have introduced what they say is the first in a series of five bylaw amendments that call for reforms in the organization’s ethics, governance, organizational transparency and nonpartisanship.

The proposed amendments, authored by former PRSA Nashville chapter president Susan Hart and past PRSA national board member Mary Beth West, include measures that would require PRSA to hold its leadership accountable when organizational policies, decisions, communications or other actions fail to comply with its own code of ethics.

The first of the amendments would change the name of PRSA’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS) to the Advisory Council of Ethics and Professional Standards (ACEPS). In addition to the name change, the amendment would establish the body’s independence from the PRSA national board. It would also create an accountability model within PRSA’s national structure and empower the PRSA Leadership Assembly to elect the advisory council’s 11 members.

According to Hart/West, the proposed bylaw amendments are a response to what they call “a long pattern of PRSA ethics incidents in 2017.”

Mary Beth West
Mary Beth West

Those incidents are said to include the improper online deletion and withholding of information concerning national board meetings and the non-disclosure by PRSA of a $30,000 sponsorship while promoting that sponsor’s brand.

The two also say that their attempts to make bylaw changes have been stymied by the current BEPS. After submitting their draft proposals to BEPS, they received an email from BEPS chair Nance Larsen saying that those proposals had been reviewed by the board and had been moved on the PRSA Governance Committee with no further input from the authors.

To advance to the PRSA Governance Committee, each proposal will need to collect a minimum of 25 signatures from PRSA members in good standing.

Hart and West will soon begin soliciting electronic petition signatures via the PRSA’s “GoPetition” platform.

There is an Aug. 6 deadline for all proposals to be finalized in advance of the delegation vote at the PRSA National Assembly on Oct. 6 in Austin but Hart and West said that in order for that to happen the proposals will need to make their way to the Governance Committee well in advance of the deadline.

The four other proposals are to be released soon.