Providing PRSA with a non-voting ethics officer on its national board, eliminating the role of the national board in officer nominations and adding a voting ethics representative to the PRSA nominating committee are the aim of the second, third and fourth of five new PRSA national bylaw amendment proposals which have been introduced by PRSA fellows Susan Hart and Mary Beth West.

The new ethics officer, who would not participate in actual board votes but simply help advise leadership as an ethics authority, would basically serve as “an ombudsman or inspector general present for all board business," West said. The new bylaw also stipulates that the ethics officer not serve in other concurrent leadership posts and cannot pursue other posts, either as ethics officer or on BEPS, for one year immediately following their term.

Hart and West say that the core rationale for this bylaw proposal is that, at PRSA's highest level of management—the national board—the organization lacks any form of accountability function.

“The addition of a new, fully independent ethics officer to the national board – who does not participate in actual board votes but simply helps advise leadership as an ethics authority – is urgently needed," said Hart.

The third proposed bylaw, eliminating the national board’s role in nominating officers, is seen as a way of “correcting” a 2016 bylaw change that allowed the Board of Directors – not the PRSA Nominating Committee – to appraise and present candidates for PRSA national officer positions (Chair-Elect, Treasurer and Secretary).

The fourth proposal would name a member of PRSA’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS) (or Advisory Council of Ethics and Professional Standards, if renamed as proposed via separate bylaw amendment proposal) as a fully voting member of the Nominating Committee. Hart and West recommend that this ethics representative directly steward Code of Ethics-compliant and confidential processes, procedures, commentary, deliberations and decision-making during all phases of Nominating Committee operations.

A fifth bylaw proposal, which would add the word “nonpartisan” to PRSA's Statement of Purpose. will also be submitted for approval.

Each proposal will need to have a minimum of 25 signatures from PRSA members in good standing (as verified by PRSA Headquarters staff) in order to proceed to PRSA's Governance Committee for review in time for the national board's July 24 meeting, at which time the board will take a pro or con stance on each proposal, prior to its being added to the agenda at the agenda of the PRSA 2018 National Assembly, which will take place October 6 in Austin, Texas.