Stephanie Cegielski, VP-PR of PRSA, has cited, as a reason for denying us membership in the Society, the 35 charges that were in a 23-page document dated Sept. 1, 2011. It “clearly lays out why you are unfit to be a member of our organization,” she said in an e-mail April 11.
We had tried to rebut the charges on the Society’s website shortly after Sept. 1, 2011 but VP-PR Arthur Yann, who died June 13, 2013, had shut down the Society website area discussing those charges after one rebuttal was made and within five days. The charges are very similar to those that would be in a lawsuit. There are numerous allegations of wrongdoing that require rebutting.
Cegielski is a 2006 law grad of the University of Denver. We had pointed out to her that we met the requirements for membership as spelled out on the Society website and noted that 17 employees of PR Newswire and 12 of BusinessWire, two of the biggest and most regular Society advertisers (“Gold” sponsors in 2014 at $20K each), are allowed to be members even though most or all are performing a sales function. The Society’s legal bills in the past nine years totaled $582,608. Joe DeRupo, associate PR director from 2007-10, is a Columbia Law School grad. Rosanne Mottola, current PR manager, previously worked at her father’s law firm.
Following is the letter delivered to us in Sept. 1, 2011. Our comments are in orange.
Mr. Jack O’Dwyer
J.R. O’Dwyer Company, Inc
271 Madison Ave., #600
New York, NY 10016
Dear Mr. O’Dwyer:
An ongoing theme in your published commentary is the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)’s alleged refusal to explain why we have chosen to limit the J.R. O’Dwyer Company’s access to our news, events, staff and volunteers. Inasmuch as we have repeatedly raised objections with your professional conduct, our rationale should be well known to you.
Nevertheless, and at your urging, this letter will set forth and document specific patterns of behavior that, collectively, constitute the basis for our current course of action. We invite you to evaluate the examples we give against the normal standards of professional conduct for journalists, as set forth in the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)’s Code of Ethics; these standards include:
Seek Truth and Report It
Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
− Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
− Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
− Identify sources whenever feasible.
− Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity.
− Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent.
− Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public.
− Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.
− Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.
− Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting.
Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect. Journalists should:
− Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage.
− Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.
− Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know. Journalists should:
− Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other. Journalists should:
− Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
− Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
− Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.
With this context in mind, Mr. O’Dwyer, following are the reasons why we will not grant the J.R. O’Dwyer Company more liberal access to our news, events, staff and volunteers. At various times and on repeated occasions, you or other members of the J.R. O’Dwyer Company have:
O’Dwyer: The PR Society, which sold hundreds of thousands of copies of authors’ articles without their permission from 1978 to 1994, when an O’Dwyer expose immediately halted this practice, is in no position to lecture anyone about ethics. We have not done anything journalistically unethical nor has anyone from SPJ or any place except the PR Society accused us of that.
1. Misrepresented PRSA’s financial condition and accounting practices.
a) PRSA financial statements are reviewed internally by PRSA’s Finance Committee, Audit Committee and Board of Directors, and are made available to PRSA members. This process results in full disclosure of our financial information in accordance with all applicable deadlines and legal and regulatory requirements.
In the article excerpted below, you allege that the PRSA Board is attempting to deprive PRSA members of financial information.
(Source: O’Dwyer, Jack, “PRSA ‘Audit’ Is Superficial, Misleading,” Friday, July 22, 2011, www.odwyerpr.com.)
(PRSA Vice President, Public Relations) says the CPA firm of PKF/New York has given an “unqualified” opinion about the Society’s presentation of its finances. PKF says they are “presented fairly.”
The PKF audit and its predecessors are superficial documents used by the PRSA board to deprive members of their right to know how their money is being spent.
b) PRSA dues are nonrefundable. The Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) established by the Federal Accounting Standards Board (FASB) state that it is acceptable to book nonrefundable revenues upon receipt. PRSA’s current independent auditor, PKF International, as well as other independent auditors who have reviewed PRSA’s finances over the course of several years, all have concluded that PRSA dues revenue is accounted for properly in PRSA’s quarterly and annual financial statements.
In the articles excerpted below, you allege that PRSA’s financial statements violate FASB accounting guidelines.
(Source: O’Dwyer, Jack, “PRSA Financial Report Violates FASB Rules,” Thursday, July 21, 2011, www.odwyerpr.com.)
(Source: O’Dwyer, Jack, “Only a Brief Period to Make Mark for (PRSA president and CEO),” Feb. 2, 2006, www.odwyerpr.com.)
c) Each year, PRSA’s financial statements are reviewed by independent, external auditors. PRSA provides no direction to its auditors during the audit process. Furthermore, PRSA rebids its audit services periodically, as a way of ensuring its auditors’ independence and managing costs.
In the article excerpted below, you allege that PRSA directed the work of its independent auditors. You also allege that the independent auditors used by PRSA over the years quit or were fired by PRSA, allegedly for refusing to follow PRSA’s direction.
(Source: O’Dwyer, Jack, “Financial Oversight Lacking at PRSA,” July 13, 2011, www.odwyerpr.com.)
The PR Society, which is seeking a $30 dues increase from members this year. (sic) is inconsistent in handling its deferred dues account. It raids the account when it needs to beautify the books for consumption by members.
No. 8 is the continued false accounting on PRSA dues, which are booked immediately as cash and called ‘reserves’ when they are a liability for future services owed to members. ... the new boards headed by (PRSA Chair) in 2001 and (PRS Chair) in 2002 ordered D&T to sign off on non‐deferral of dues again.
D&T quit. The Society announced in early 2002 that it was looking for a new auditor after the 2001 audit was finished. It looks like D&T wouldn’t go along with the reversion to not deferring dues income.
D&T had replaced Ernst & Young in 1992 which was the first audit after E&Y apparently was ordered by the Society to drop the Statement of Functional Expenses.
It appears that E&Y quit rather than take part in the truncated functional expenses.
O’Dwyer: Section 958-605-25-1 of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (not the “Federal” Accounting Standards Board cited by the Society) says that dues are to be booked as earned over the period covered by the dues which is one year in the case of the Society.
It books them as cash, inflating its net assets by about $2.5 million (since 2013 dues income was about $5M). All the major professional groups (ABA, AMA, AICPA, ASAE, IABC, etc.) defer half or more of their dues income. This is not only an accounting rule, but common sense. You should not book income until you have earned it. However, a group can contend that since it will never give any dues money back to the members, it can count it as cash. But members are misled as to the size of “net assets.”
The Society’s financial reporting is a ripe area for examination. No amount of financial documents and reports are a substitute for members actually working at h.q. and observing day-to-day and minute-by-minute exactly how their funds are being spent. This has not been allowed since about 1980 when Patrick Jackson took over as president and replaced about 10 PR careerists with association people and office workers. His philosophy was to have a staff of “association professionals” and one or two PR people. His attitude to the press, as expressed to Morley Safer of “60 Minutes” at a Center for Communication seminar, was “Duck ‘em, screw ‘em, and go direct.”
Betsy Kovacs, association pro who headed the staff from 1980 to 1993, employed one experienced PR person from 1984-93—Donna Peltier. Peltier was under tight wraps, unable to see the press without Kovacs being present. Succeeding “PR” staffers at h.q. have had to be super loyal to the staff and officers. What’s needed are about 10 PR careerists at h.q. who could monitor the spending, examining actual expense account chits and actual checks. Board members only get secondary financial reports, not original documents, past directors have told us.
Ripe for examination is the so-called “travel” account which is really travel, meals and hotels. That was $467,241 in 2012, latest year available. About that amount is spent every year. How much of it is staff meals? How much of it is staff visiting cities across the U.S. to plan the annual conference which should be in New York every year based on economics. The largest (by far) conference was in New York in 2004 when attendance reached 4,000. The potential audience in New York—tens of thousands of people from the PR, publishing, advertising, financial, graphics, high-tech, data-gathering, etc., industries dwarfs that of any other city. More than 50 trade groups only have their annual conferences in New York, the Javits Center reports. Domination of Society leadership by those based elsewhere than New York and staff desires are also evident in the move of h.q. to downtown, far from the midtown PR and publishing community.
Society financial reporting can be described as too little and too late. The 2013 Assembly did not get to know that CEO Bill Murray received a $61,222 bonus in 2012 because IRS Form 990, which has such information, was withheld from it. The Society delivered a copy of the 990 to our office in early November 2013. It refuses to make a digital copy available to the press or members. Members, if they want to view the 990, which has the pay packages of those making more than $100K, have to send in a written request for it or go to h.q. to view it in person.
Why Murray got a bonus is a mystery to us since revenues in 2012 were $10,688,213 or $343,367 less than the $11,083,420 they were in 2006, the year before he arrived. A $30 dues hike boosted revenues in 2012. Membership, which was 20,266 in 2000, is now slightly higher 14 years later at just over 21,000.
The fact that none of the “Big Four” CPA firms are working for the Society, although Deloitte & Touche and Ernst & Young did until 2001, is what CPAs call “a red flag.” Possibly none of the Big Four want to be involved in the way the Society keeps its books. That’s what we think.
Since reporters are barred from membership, it is impossible for them to cover the Society adequately because they can’t get the quarterly or annual financial reports unless they ask a member to obtain them. The Society regards such actions by member as unethical.
d) In the e‐mail below, you threaten to prejudice the relationship between the editor of PRSA’s Public Relations Journal and the university that employs him. You also acknowledge writing to bias the employment relationships of other PRSA leaders.
(Source: Excerpts of July 9, 2009, e‐mail from Jack O’Dwyer to the editor of PRSA’s Public Relations Journal, who is a professor of public relations at a Massachusetts university.)
The reference is to PR’s most visible PR educator, Donald Wright, PR professor at Boston University and editor of the online PR Journal of the Society for its first eight years until the end of 2013. His credentials include president of the Int’l PR Assn. in 2004.
We wondered if Wright was aware that he was being referenced in the 23-pages of charges against us.
We told BU President Robert Brown about the 18-years that the Society copied and sold authors’ articles without their permission and also described the Society as “anti-information, anti-intellectual, anti-democracy, anti-press and anti-member” and wondered how BU and Wright could be associated with such an organization. We e-mailed Barton Carter, chair of the Dept. of Communication at BU, a practicing lawyer specializing in communication law, with the same charges. None of the above ever responded.
A habit of the 23-pages is not to use the actual names of the people involved although it’s easy to deduce whom they are talking about. This seems like strange behavior on the part of the lawyers who prepared the document.
e) After reporting multiple times that PRSA failed to accommodate you, when you stated you were “having trouble hearing the presentations” at PRSA’s 2009 National Assembly, you attempted to prejudice the relationship between the PRSA chair [Gary McCormick] and the board of a local nonprofit organization for the deaf, on which he sits. [The Knoxville Center of the Deaf].
I noticed you being on the board of the (City) [Knoxville] Center of the Deaf and almost choked. The Society was awful to me at the Assembly where lawyers for the National Assn. of the Deaf assure me I have full legal rights to be able to hear since I was invited, credentialled (sic) press.
My e‐mails (sic) to (the organization’s) board and staff members is below. I am working all weekend on this story.
Hello (organization’s president):
This e‐mail is mostly addressed to you as president of (organization’s) board and (director) who talked to me Friday, Jan. 8.
I would like the entire board to be aware of this situation. Working headline on my story which I will post Monday is “Deaf Assn. Turns Deaf Ear.”
A very major issue is at stake here. I, a reporter, was blocked on Nov. 7, 2009 from adequately hearing the most important Assembly in the 63‐year history of the PR Society now headed by
(PRSA chair and CEO), who is on your board. How (PRSA chair and CEO) can position himself as a friend of the deaf and hard‐of‐hearing and do nothing to rectify my maltreatment at the Society Assembly is beyond me.
This was the most important Assembly in the 63-year history of PRSA since it was considering a complete revision of the bylaws. We believe the conduct of the meeting, in which basic Robert’s and parliamentary rules were ignored, including the use of proxy votes and failure to air all articles in the revision, render much of what was done Nov. 7 invalid.
PRSA blocked us from hearing about half of what went on but McCormick, if he has any weight on the new board, could rectify this by getting us both the audiotape and transcript of the 5.5 hours of discussion and debate. Both were available for Assemblies until 2005.
It’s inconsistent for him to be on the board of the Knoxville Center of the Deaf while also refusing to make up for PRSA’s improper and unethical blocking of our coverage. He resigned from the 2006 PRS board, obviously in dissatisfaction with certain board policies. Another board member, Ron Owens, resigned the same year.
2. Interfered with the employment and educational relationships of PRSA leaders and volunteers.
a) In the e‐mail below, you attempt to prejudice the relationship between a candidate for PRSA’s Board of Directors, [Mickey Nall] and the university where he is public relations executive in residence.
(Source: July 11, 2011 e‐mail from Jack O’Dwyer to the University of Oregon.)
I'm hoping someone from the School of Journalism and Communication will look into the current and recent history of PR Society of America. (Candidate) of (Firm), who has just been named "PR Executive in Residence" at (University), is seeking the highest elective post of PRSA.
I have a number of questions about the ethical conduct of the Society.
I can’t see how (University) can be connected to this anti‐information, anti‐intellectual, anti‐democracy, anti‐press and anti‐member (PRSA) regime. It drags your name and (university’s) name through the PRS mud.
Since PRS is refusing to answer any of my questions and even ducks member questions, I am writing to the employers of board members and others connected with PRS to point out the blatant abuses in this group. PRS simply doesn’t want any regulation (by me). Our country is in the tank because big biz and financiers escaped regulation.
Since you and I have talked to each other a lot, I’m telling you I will contact all known officials of (university) and ask for an investigation of the PR Society. If they take one look ... they will demand you separate yourself from PRS. Usually I don’t tell PRS leaders I’m writing to their employers because none of them talk to me or answer any e‐mails. PRS’s (sic) censorship and repressive practices are just like those of Iran and China. ... I have only begun.
The unnamed person is Mickey Nall, managing director of Ogilvy PR Worldwide, who became chair of the Society in 2013 and who was named “PR Executive in Residence” at the University of Oregon in 2011.
Coincidentally, UofO is also where one of the Society-copied authors, Prof. Tom Bivins, is “Media Ethics Chair.” Bivins had joined us and 11 other authors in 1994 in a bid to get compensation from the Society which had made hundreds of thousands of dollars selling authors’ works without their permission from 1978-94. Among the materials copied was a 17-page chapter from Handbook for PR Writing by Bivins.
We contacted by e-mail and phone UofO president Richard Lariviere, dean of the J School Tim Gleason, and Bivins and asked how could the school be connected with an organization that had sold so many works of authors for so many years without their permission and then refused to deal with them in any way, insisting on a lawsuit? None of the three ever responded.
In another coincidence, UofO became a major recipient of funds from Lorry Lokey, founder of BusinessWire, who sold it to Berkshire Hathaway in 2006 for a reported $500 million. He has given “nearly $132M” to UofO, according to the Oregon Quarterly. We theorized that some of the Lokey money may have funded Nall’s “PR Executive in Residence” post.
3. Investigated personal details in the private lives of PRSA leaders and volunteers.
(Source: Jan. 9, 2010, e‐mail from Jack O’Dwyer to the chair and CEO of PRSA.)
a) In the article excerpted below, your “newsletter” alleges that the partner of PRSA’s president and CEO died of AIDS; this, despite your having been sent a written statement, prior to the publication date of this article, making it clear that the death was not AIDS related.
(Source: Author unknown, “PR Opinion Items,” Jack O’Dwyer’s Newsletter [Internet edition], March 24, 2004.)
This false charge was dealt with by an O’Dwyer web posting Nov. 2, 2011:
A claim by Yann is that I alleged that the partner of 2004 president Del Galloway “died of AIDS—a disease which (rightly or wrongly) carries a strong social stigma—despite having been told specifically that AIDS was not the cause of death.”
Yann added: “Was that ethical journalistic conduct? If he worked at the New York Times, would he still have a job? At News of the World…maybe.”
(Source: Dec. 30, 2008, e‐mail from the Jack O’Dwyer to PRSA’s chair and CEO.)
Since [he] died at the relatively young age of 45, the assumption being made by many PRSA members is that he died of AIDS. They wonder if (PRSA president and CEO) is at risk.
No O’Dwyer publication or the O’Dwyer website ever mentioned the word AIDS in connection with the death of dentist Keith Francois [life partner of Galloway] until Melanie Husk, a co-worker of Galloway’s, said that Francois did not die of AIDS. She would not give the cause of death.
Yann has correctly pointed out to the website that an editorial in the March 24, 2004 O’Dwyer NL (page eight) said that “the assumption being made by many PRSA Members is that Francois died of AIDS.” The editorial said members wonder “if Galloway is at risk.” It did not state that Francois died of AIDS, only that there was speculation of that.
The worry among members was justified because a high percentage of all men who die between the ages of 25-44 do so because of HIV/AIDS, according to 1994 statistics of the Centers for Disease Control. Those were the statistics available at that time.
The March 31, 2004 O’Dwyer NL noted in the same item that according to the Centers for Disease Control, HIV/AIDS in 1994 became the leading cause of death among all men aged 25-44, accounting for 23% of such deaths. The death rate among gays alone was higher, it said.
b) In the e‐mails to PRSA’s chair and CEO excerpted below, you seek information about his family (wife, brother and minor children) and marital status, and present facts that seemingly arose out of your private investigations of these individuals.
I’m surprised that you’re a twin and I certainly will mention it. I noticed you gave a number of personal details including that you have three children. However, we got their ages but not their names. We also don’t have your wife’s name. What is the name of your twin and what is he doing with his life?
I looked up the law on Google and since you’re a public figure in business you’re as public as the two Presidential candidates.
They don’t hide their children or other relatives. Also, how can you have kids without a wife? She deserves credit.
(Source: Dec. 31, 2008, e‐mail from the Jack O’Dwyer to PRSA’s chair and CEO.)
(Source: Jan. 5, 2009, e‐mail from the Jack O’Dwyer to PRSA’s chair and CEO.)
(Source: March 28, 2009, e‐mail from the Jack O’Dwyer to PRSA’s chair and CEO.)
If you’re going to talk about your children, you should give their names and your wife’s name.
The mother should get credit. ... Is your twin a man or a woman, paternal twins or identical. This person should have a name. You shouldn’t give out parts of information.
I usually don't delve into the personal lives of people but in this case they may be affecting their performance of their duties at the Society.
Reports are widespread that (PRSA COO) went through a divorce last year and (PRSA Chair) is now going through a divorce.
I usually don't cover personal lives ... but marriage and divorce are public acts. (PRSA COO and PRSA Chair) are "limited" public figures in the PR industry.
Their personal lives are now under discussion by members and I think the air should be cleared.
As for your private life, you have made a big issue out of portraying yourself as a model husband, father and community member. You pointed out in your pitch for (PRSA’s Chairmanship) how much you like working with children (“I coach a lot of kids in several different sports and that’s one of my greatest leadership opportunities”—from Tactics) and the fact that you started a lacrosse league in (state).
You have mentioned the ages of your children, 9, 7 and 4, and the fact that you have a twin sister. You talk at length about your father (Father’s Name) with whom I had many contacts since his firm (Firm Name) was one of the first PR firms to go public. You lost ownership of this firm, selling it to (Acquiring Firm Name).
You have provided numerous facts about your private life and now you suddenly say it’s off‐limits. Your divorce or separation or whatever should be candidly discussed. Reports like this fly around, as you well know, and nobody knows the real truth until you tell them. It’s obvious something is amiss because, while you mention your children, you never give any credit to your wife, (Wife’s Name) (whom I met once at a Society national conference).
You have portrayed yourself as a model father and family man and this divorce or separation or whatever demands an explanation. Maybe too much time being required for the Society interfered with your marriage.
(Source: March 30, 2009, e‐mail from the Jack O’Dwyer to PRSA’s chair and CEO.)
Cherenson mentioned his three children (9, 7 and 4) in interviews with other PR media, as well as his twin sister and his father, and otherwise portrayed himself as a model father and husband, telling how he helped to form a lacrosse league in New Jersey. I never “sought” any information about his children or family.
When I asked him why he never mentioned his wife, Gail, whom I met at a PRS conference, he claimed I was harassing him. The children were not mentioned in any stories. No credit was ever given to Gail in any mentions by Cherenson of his family.
c) In the e‐mails to a candidate for PRSA’s Board of Directors excerpted below, you seek information about her personal finances, family (grandfather, father and minor children) and maiden name.
(Source: July 6, 2009, e‐mail from Jack O’Dwyer to a candidate for PRSA’s Board of Directors.)
(Source: July 9, 2009, e‐mail from Jack O’Dwyer to the same candidate for PRSA’s Board of Directors.)
I’m working on an editorial about you and (another candidate for the PRSA Board) after getting information on your presentations that are on the website.
You also say you wanted to “give back” to PR and you made a “personal commitment” that included being “committed to financially support the PR program at my local university.” This sounds like you gave money to (university). How much? they you (sic) say your agency gave funds to the (endowment fund). How much?
Your many friends and acquaintances say your family has money and you don’t have to worry. In your bio, you say your father was a famous journalist who took pictures of ‘presidents and other hugely important people.’ Can we know his name? Is he still alive? Why is this such a secret?
Your father was a photojournalist who traveled the world with his family. I would certainly like to know more.
I continue to do research and find that your grandfather had a painting of the ancestral mansion of your family in (country) indicating you come from serious money. Your grandfather had or still has an art studio in (city) and your father was a famous photographer, as you point out. You refuse to name him. Your ‘successful’ PR firm no longer exists.
Apparently, you endowed (university) with serious funds. You refuse to discuss this or anything but your gift to (university) is mentioned in your presentation to the nomcom.
You are married and have two children. What is your maiden name?
The biography of Rosanna Fiske, 2011 chair, mentions her “famous” photographer father. Her application for nomination for chair mentioned she had donated a sum of money to the school.
When I asked Fiske in an e-mail the name of her father and how much she donated, I got hit with charges of harassment-- that I sought “information about her personal finances, family (grandfather, father and minor children) and maiden name.” Harassment is a crime punishable by jail and fines. The identity of Fiske’s famous photographer father is still unknown to us and we hope someone will supply it.
Cherenson and Fiske are the ones who brought up their families, not me.
4. Surreptitiously accessed or attempted to access PRSA’s proprietary information systems and conference calls without our prior knowledge or consent.
Monitoring tools used to track access to MemberNet, the private, members‐only area of PRSA’s Web site, determined that a computer with an Internet Protocol (IP) address registered to the J.R. O’Dwyer Company made 11 unauthorized attempts to access MemberNet between March 4 and April 3, 2008.
Records from PRSA’s teleconferencing vendor show that telephone numbers registered to the J.R. O’Dwyer Company connected to PRSA teleconference calls without permission or authorization five times between May 22, 2007, and May 12, 2009.
a) In the article excerpted below, your “website” admits to listening in on a PRSA Leadership Assembly Delegate call, which was done without PRSA’s prior knowledge or consent.
(Source: Author unknown, “PRS Board Has Nine New Directors,” Jan. 23, 2009, www.odwyerpr.com; excerpted below.)
A [PRSA Leadership Assembly] delegate, at the near end of the one‐hour [PRSA conference] call, then asked (PRSA immediate past chair) whether he and the board want to remove governance responsibilities from the Assembly?
odwyerpr.com did not get the rest of the quote because it was cut off. The website thought that the PRS hour was over and that must have been the reason.
However, (PRSA vice president, Public Relations) said in an e‐mail Jan. 18 that odwyerpr.com was mistaken about the reason for the cutoff. He said PRS discovered that an O’Dwyer phone number was listening into (sic) the call and that was the reason for the cutoff.
“No member of the O’Dwyer organization was invited to participate on the call” and it was an “unauthorized listener,” said (PRSA vice president, Public Relations).
[Mr. O’Dwyer] said he wanted someone to go to the meeting and tape it, even though he said that they were not allowed to be taped.
I admit trying but not succeeding to listen to conference calls. There was no need for me to do so since members who had every right to listen to the calls gave me extensive descriptions of about a half dozen of them. The calls should be available to non-members as well as members. What are they hiding? The Society cannot throttle 21,000 members and it should stop trying to do this. The “conference” calls eventually became anything but. Leaders put the calls into “lecture only mode” and left virtually no opportunity for delegate questions and comments.
b) In the e‐mail excerpted below, the president of a PRSSA Chapter at a university in Ohio states that you attempted to engage her to tape a speech by PRSA’s president and CEO.
(Source: May 7, 2009 e‐mail from the president of a PRSSA Chapter in Ohio to PRSA’s vice president, Public Relations.)
5. Harassed college students who are part of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).
a) You asked two journalism professors at a university in Ohio to recommend a student to attend and cover a local speech by PRSA’s president and CEO. Both professors referred the opportunity to the president of the local PRSSA Chapter and, after speaking with you about the opportunity, she characterized the conversation in an e‐mail to PRSA, excerpted below.
I have copied the solicitation that was sent to both of our journalism professors at the (University). I am a 4.0 student and a talented writer so BOTH professors, unbeknown to each other, sent me the “opportunity.”
I called [Mr. O’Dwyer] as soon as I got the message of the situation.
While on the phone, O’Dwyer proceeded to continually bad‐mouth the PRSA by telling me the things they are doing wrong. He said that they breached their “fiduciary responsibility” by placing members’ money into stocks and thereby losing $250,000 of their money. He stated that he has tried continually to contact people in the organization and they refuse to answer his questions. He said he wanted someone to go to the meeting and tape it, even though he said that they were not allowed to be taped. He wanted someone to ask the gentleman speaking on Thursday a list of hard questions and get as many answers as they could.
When he took a breath, I told him that I did not think that this was something that I would be interested in. He proceeded to call me a ‘chicken’ and told me he would not let me “chicken” out of this. He needed and wanted the President of the PRSSA chapter to cover this. He told me “I am paying you 200 dollars!!!”
I continued to try to gracefully decline his offer and then he would cut my sentence off and say “I can’t believe you’re a chicken.” Angrily, I told him that he could not bully me into anything ... . Seeing that I was not going to get off the phone gracefully, I said “thank you” and hung up (he was still talking).
Then I called both of the professors who offered this position to me to strongly urge them to not send any student this “opportunity.” I told them of my experience with this man & they both agreed that perhaps his motives were not exactly as he said they were.
Then I called you (vice president, Public Relations), as I wanted you to be aware of the potential disturbance at the PRSA meeting next Thursday. I felt that that was the right thing to do under the circumstances.
[Below is the solicitation.]
I was attracted to you by your description as “Distinguished Professor of News (Journalism)” at the University.
I’m looking for a good student to cover the head of the world’s largest association of PR people Thursday, May 14 at the Martin Center of the University, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. I would pay up to $200 for a recording of the session (on a regular tape, not digital) and some pictures. It would be good if the student could ask some questions for me. I’d go myself if I were able.
The speaker, (PRSA chair), will be able to handle any questions since he heads a PR assn. with 22,000 regular members and 10,000 student members and is expert in press relations.
I also sent this to (journalism professor) in the hope that one of you might help me.
(Source: May 7, 2009 e‐mail from the president of a PRSSA Chapter in Ohio to PRSA’s vice president, Public Relations.)
The incident involved here is the attempt to get either professors or students from three local universities—Akron, Kent State and Youngstown State—to cover a talk that 2009 chair Mike Cherenson was to give to the Akron chapter of the Society. We only learned of this visit by chance. The speaking schedule of Cherenson and other chairs is not something that is on the Society website.
We were offering $200 for the assignment. PR and J profs at the three colleges said they could not cover and they were unable to get any of their students to cover. This would have been a nice journalistic exercise for a budding reporter or PR person. We tried to get help from reporters at the Akron Beacon-Journal and struck out there also. The Society had put a tight clamp on Cherenson’s visit.
Chapter president Danielle McCann initially told us that chapter lunches were always open to the press. But the next day she e-mailed that “no press is or was invited to attend” the Cherenson lunch. Blocking coverage of Cherenson is not something the Society can be proud of.
b) You sent an e‐mail, excerpted below, to the President of PRSSA [Brandi Boatner, then at Hawaii Pacific University and now with IBM and 2014 secretary of the Society’s New York chapter—ed. note] regarding her unwillingness to enter into a dialogue with you. You then sent an e‐mail, also excerpted below, to officials at the university where she is enrolled.
(Source: Feb. 11, 2009, e‐mail from Jack O’Dwyer to the PRSSA student president.)
(Source: Dec. 12, 2008, e‐mail from Jack O’Dwyer to the president and the PRSSA faculty adviser at a university in Hawaii, where PRSSA’s national president was enrolled.)
You’re mentioned and your picture and school are used in the attached story.
I hope you will give me a fair break and listen to my side of this story. I feel very unfairly treated by you.
It’s not a credit to you, your school or PR.
In America, the accused have the right to face their accusers and the right to defend themselves.
You have denied me that right.
Here’s the link to the story. Free sample user/pass are (user name) & (password). It’s also totally un‐American that the PR Society forbids any of the nearly 300 student chapter leaders from viewing sales pitches for our five products. (PRSA chair and CEO) has said, “knowledge is power...make yourself the most knowledgeable practitioner you can.” I don’t see how censoring our products accomplishes that.
I’m contacting you because leaders of the PRSSA chapters are forbidden to talk to me. I have tried without success to contact the ten national leaders, including (PRSSA National President), but none of them have responded except to say I must first contact h.q.
Forbiding (sic) the students from knowing about our five products, which are based on 40 years of covering the PR industry, is anti‐intellectual and does not belong in a university. Our materials are of the finest quality, archived on Lexis‐Nexis in full text since 1989. The New York TImes (sic) calls us ‘the bible of PR.’ The Society bars the O’Dwyer Co. from advertising any of its products in
Tactics or on the Society website and won’t let anyone from our company join the Society.
It’s sad that college students have to be victims of this battle.
The battle for information from the Society tells a lot about the current practice of PR. Secrecy is at the root of the financial scandals that are resulting in a possible Depression. To view this story on odwyerpr.com, use (username) and (password) as the user/password.
c) The Editor of PRSSA’s student publication, FORUM, explained to you via e‐mail that she was “familiar with you and your publications” and “not interested in asking for nor seeing your materials”; that she had “no interest” in speaking with you; and that she would prefer you “not contact [her] or officials of [her] university any further.” In response, you sent her the e‐mail, excerpted below. You subsequently sent two additional mails, also excerpted below, to officials at the university in Utah where she was enrolled.
(Source: Dec. 15, 2008, e‐mail from Jack O’Dwyer to the editor of PRSSA’s student publication, FORUM.)
You said in an e‐mail to me Nov. 23 that you were “informed that you [me] were asked to address any questions or concerns you have to the PRSA/PRSSA headquarters in New York” and that you would “appreciate it if in the future you would go through PRSSA if you have any requests.” Being a PR professional, you must understand the importance of going through the right channels in an organization.
I am wondering who told you to address my questions or concerns to either PRSSA or PRSA and that you were not to deal with me at least until that happened. You are a very important national leader of PRSSA since you are editor‐in‐chief of The Forum (sic). As your bio points out, you are an active member of the Church of the Latter‐day‐Saints (sic).”
(vice president, Public Relations), VP‐PR of the Society, contacted at about 3 p.m. today, Dec. 15, said there is no such order from him and that you are free to talk to me as far as he and the Society are concerned.
I have a call into (director of Education), director of education of the Society, who is listed at the top of the section on PRSSA, to see if she has given students such a policy. But as of 4:05 today she has not returned the call. I also called (manager, Student Programs), coordinator of student programs shortly after (director of Education). I left a voice‐mail message with (manager of Student Programs) and will copy them on this e‐mail.
Since the PR Society has severely criticized me in a full page in the September Tactics (attached) I could see where students might not want to deal with me.
The American Assn. of University Professors, with 43,000 members, says students must have “conflicting views on contentious subjects” or they are being educationally “deprived.” Depriving or discouraging in any way PR student awareness of the stories and opinions on the five O’Dwyer products would seem to fall under what the AAUP is talking about.
I am continuing efforts to clear my name with members of the Student Chapter of the PR Society at (university) as well as faculty who are members of the PR Society. Attempts to gain equal space in Tactics to rebut the full page of false charges against me in 22,000 copies of the publication have gone nowhere.
It would be nice to have an article in The Forum (sic) of the Student Society of which (PRSSA member) is editor but [she] has now told me I am not to contact her again and says I should not contact any school officials, either.
I am unable to e‐mail (university president) directly so I hope you will pass on this e‐mail to him. I believe it’s a matter of academic freedom that [he] should be involved in. Does [he] agree that I should cease attempts to clear my name with school officials and students?
It’s hard for me to understand institutions of higher learning turning their backs on information and opinions.
(Source: Dec. 17, 2008, e‐mail from Jack O’Dwyer to officials at the university in Utah, where the editor of PRSSA’s student publication FORUM was enrolled.)
(Source: Dec. 18, 2008, e‐mail from Jack O’Dwyer to officials at the university in Utah, where the editor of PRSSA’s student publication FORUM was enrolled.)
d) You repeatedly attempted to contact several members of PRSSA’s National Committee, apparently for the purpose of soliciting product sales, and spoke critically of PRSA.
My attempts to reach out to the eight universities represented by the ten members of the national PR Student Society board have gone exactly nowhere. I am trying to show that I have not ‘repeatedly stepped far beyond the bounds of accurate and professional reporting’ as charged in a full page attack on me in the September ‘Ethics Month’ issue of Tactics [attached].
Most of the ten student leaders don’t respond to phone calls or e‐mails. This includes (PRSSA national president) of (university). I would expect her, at least, to answer me. I thought the buck ‘stopped with the president.’ This seems to be a remarkable record of stonewalling and evasion although maybe I’m wrong. I would be glad to hear any evidence that I am wrong.
I don’t think (PRSSA Member) has seen the four‐page article I wrote on the Society’s sale of authors’ articles without their permission, amounting literally to hundreds of thousands of copies of those articles, or many of the other materials on the Society that I could give her. I need to talk to her.
I’m not getting a fair hearing from PR Society Student chapters at the major universities in the U.S. as represented by the ten student leaders.
I’m surprised that institutions of higher learning would accept anything less than the full examination of an issue as important as this. The National Education Assn., represented by (PRSA board member), says education is the ‘pursuit of truth.’ That is what I’m doing and I don’t think there’s anything wrong in that.
[PRSA Student Member 1] “I spoke with Mr. O’Dwyer at Conference in Detroit during the PRSA Assembly. He didn’t know who I was and started talking to me telling me that PRSA Board members were from another planet. Once he read my badge he told me about this directory. I then told him he should contact (PRSA director of Education) if he wanted PRSSA members to participate in this “campaign” and his response was “She doesn’t like me.”
[PRSA Student Member 2] “I also received several calls from Jack O’Dwyer. He kept calling me back to back while I was in class. He called from (phone number one) at 10:29 am when I finally answered for the first time. He said he wanted to talk to me but I told him I couldn’t talk because I was on my way to my next class. He then told me to call him back at (phone number two) when I got out of class, but I never had the opportunity to return his call. I continue with my day going to class, when I received another call from Mr. O’Dwyer at 3:10 pm from (phone number one). He verified that I was on the National Committee and my address. From his tone it sounding (sic) like he was reading from the PRSSA website because he kept repeating my info0rmation (sic) in the order it is listed on our site. I was skeptical of this man when he kept calling my phone back so I never offered him any information. He offered to send me a free book and before I could respond he switch (sic) tones with me and said how his company was the best and PRSA would not let him put his information on their site. ... I told him if he had any questions, comments, or concerns about PRSA or PRSSA he should direct them to headquarters. He hung up in my face.”
[PRSA Student Member 3] “He had some subscription to something that I told him not to send. I think he is sending me a directory. I’ll continue to direct him to hq.”
6. Falsely characterized the professional credentials of PRSA staff members.
(Source: Excerpts of an online discussion among PRSSA student members in November 2008, which took place on the organization’s Google Groups page.)
The Society should not discourage or block students from dealing directly with a reporter.
a) PRSA’s CFO [Philip Bonaventura—added by O’Dwyer] is a licensed CPA and is entitled to include the CPA designation in describing his professional credentials. Investigations of improper use of the CPA designation are kept confidential, up until the point at which the New York State Education Department takes disciplinary action.
In the articles excerpted below, your newsletter asserts that PRSA’s CFO is not a registered CPA and is not entitled to use that designation. You also imply that the Office of Professional Discipline of the New York State is investigating the matter.
(Source: Author unknown, “NYS Discipline Office Probes PRSA CFO,” June 22, 2007, www.odwyerpr.com.)
“The Office of Professional Discipline of the New York State Education Department is examining evidence that (PRSA CFO), named CFO of PRSA on June, 19, may have improperly used the term CPA in connection with his announcement.
He is not currently a registered CPA and only those who have registered, paid the $245 fee, and taken at least 24 hours of formal education each year, can use that term in public.
The NYSSCPA is sending him a letter telling him to “cease and desist” claims of membership. (PRSA CFO) has suffered embarrassment and will probably be subject to a reprimand by New York State because of PRSA’s flawed press release on him.
False claims were made that he is a “Certified Public Accountant” when he is forbidden to use that title in public because he has dropped his registration. He did not have current memberships in the national and New York CPA societies as claimed. At the time of the release, he had let his membership lapse in the New York Society of Assn. Executives for a year and a half.
We’re disappointed in (PRSA CFO)’s appointment because we wanted a bona fide, registered CPA at PRSA in hopes that a CPA would rid PRSA of its substandard financial reporting practices.
Pursuant to Section 6502 of the State Education Law, a NYS CPA’s professional license is valid for life unless it is revoked as part of a disciplinary proceeding. A licensee who engages in public practice must maintain a current registration. Engaging in public practice is defined as holding out to the public and performing audit and/or attestation services, or working for a public accounting firm in any capacity. Therefore, a NYS licensed CPA who works for an employer other than a private firm and who does not hold out to the public and perform audit and/or attest may allow his registration to lapse, or go into an ‘inactive’ status. Such an individual is still a licensed CPA in NYS and may use the CPA designation is (sic) his/her signature, on his/her business cards, on his/her resume etc. He or she may not engage in public practice, as defined above until he/she has reactivated his/her registration.
I trust this provides the clarification you were seeking. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any additional questions.
[The New York State Education Department State Board for Public Accountancy] cannot confirm for you whether a complaint has been lodged and/or an investigation opened against (PRSA CFO). Such investigations are conducted by the State Education Department’s Office of Professional Discipline (OPD). Investigations are confidential up until the point that the State Board of Regents take (sic) formal action against a licensee.
It is likely, that a complaint about your press release when you hired (PRSA CFO) would have been quickly reviewed and dismissed, as (PRSA CFO)’s use of title is not inconsistent with existing Law, Rule and Regulation.
7. Used abhorrent imagery to describe PRSA and its operations.
(Source: O’Dwyer, Jack, “(PRSA CFO) Faces Possible Reprimand,” June 25, 2007, www.odwyerpr.com.)
(Source: June 25, 2007, e‐mail from New York State Education Department to PRSA president and COO.)
(Source: June 25, 2007, e‐mail from New York State Education Department to PRSA president and COO.)
We pointed out that Bonaventura had not followed the requirements for being a “Registered” CPA by taking the proper courses and paying the required fees for an unknown period of time. His status as provided by the New York State Education Dept. was that it was “inactive.” We did nothing wrong in pointing that out. Bonaventura later registered. He also brought his membership up to date in the New York Society of Assn. Executives. We did nothing wrong in pointing out that his membership had lapsed.
At least Bonaventura is a CPA. Previous CFO for the Society, from 2001-06, was John Colletti, who was a “Certified Management Accountant,” a designation of the Institute of Management Accountants.
a) In the interview excerpted below, you compare your company’s attempts to gain remuneration from PRSA to Holocaust victims’ efforts to gain reparations from the Nazis.
O’Dwyer: “I am mad at [PRSA] ... I am never going to forgive them any more than the victims of the Nazis in World War II gave up on reparations. It took them 50 years to get them, but I’m never gonna let [PRSA] off the hook on that.”
(Source: 39:25 of “FIR Interview: Jack O’Dwyer,” Jan. 21, 2009. Available at www.forimmediaterelease.biz/index.php?/weblog/fir_interview_jack_odwyer.)
The families of the victims of the Nazi concentration camps, who had deposits in Swiss banks, were rebuffed by the Swiss until the 1990s but never gave up. They eventually won billions of dollars in settlements. There’s nothing improper in saying that we will continue our fight for justice for the many authors who were ripped off by the Society and citing the long fight of the families of the Nazi victims as an example of determination.
b) In the article excerpted below, you compare your company's attempts to gain "justice" from PRSA's Board of Directors to an African-American trying to gain justice from a racist mob.
(Source: O’Dwyer, Jack, “HSMAI Gave Out 685 Awards Jan. 26,” Feb. 2, 2009, www.odwyerpr.com.)
That blog noted that the Society had announced a boycott against the O’Dwyer Co. via a full page in the September 2008 Tactics and had refused to print our rebuttal to its charges. We also noted the Society’s continued refusal to address the issue of selling copies of authors’ articles from 1978-94 without their permission.
We noted the Society had an all-white board and had a record of almost no participation by blacks in Society leadership. Only one black male had ever served on the board in the history of the Society, Ronald Owens of Kaiser Permanente in 2006. He quit after serving five months of a three-year term. The 2008 Assembly had two blacks among more than 275 delegates.
Our blog said “we have about as much chance of getting justice from the all-APR out-of-town board (except for New Yorker Lynn Appelbaum) as a black lynch victim would get from a mob in the Old South.” We stand by that statement as 100% true. The Society has shown time and again its unfair treatment of this writer and the O’Dwyer Co.
The blog said:
c) In the article excerpted below, you liken to “inbreeding” the stipulation that PRSA board members must possess the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential
(Source: O’Dwyer, Jack, “PRS Mishandles All‐White Board Issue,” Feb. 9, 2009, www.odwyerpr.com.)
d) In the article excerpted below, you compare PRSA leaders to repressive religious mullahs and murderous dictators.
(Source: O’Dwyer, Jack, “Economist Copied by Time, Newsweek,” June 21, 2009, www.odwyerpr.com.)
We figure [members of the J.R. O’Dwyer Company] have about as much chance of getting justice from the all‐APR out‐of‐town [PRSA] board ... as a black lynch victim would get from a mob in the Old South.
The “gene pool” of the [PRSA] board has shrunk to near zero in 35 years of APR inbreeding and needs refreshening (sic). The Hapsburgs, chronic inbreeders (sic), developed impotence, retardation and the ‘Hapsburg lip,’ a hideous deformity that blocked chewing. The PRS board has developed intellectual and character deformities over the years. Its members have lost the ability to know right from wrong.
Fundamentalist APRs, not unlike the mullahs who have lots of sway in the MidEast, have ruled the Society since the 1970s.
They remind us of the regimes of Fidel Castro, in power in Cuba since the 1950s, and Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since the 1960s. Both leaders, to remain in power, have done great economic damage to their countries.
There’s no doubt about the doctrinaire, rigid, anti‐modern, anti‐media and anti‐communications beliefs of the APR mullahs. PRS leaders have no insight into how similar their actions and policies are to dictatorships which regularly frustrate, imprison and murder journalists.
Those charges are answered above in the section on few blacks serving on the board of the Society.
e) In the articles excerpted below, you refer to PRSA’s Chapter, Section and District leaders as “cronies” and infer that the PRSA Leadership Rally is an attempt to “buy” their loyalty.
(Source: O’Dwyer, Jack, “’Cronies' Discuss PRSA Dues Hike Twice Today,” Wednesday, July 27, 2011, www.odwyerpr.com.)
(Source: O’Dwyer, Jack, “Only a Brief Period to Make Mark for (PRSA president and CEO),” Feb. 2, 2006, www.odwyerpr.com.)
f) In the article excerpted below, you characterize PRSA as a “dictatorship” and infer that PRSA has bribed members as a way of stifling dissenting opinions.
(Source: O’Dwyer, Jack, “Cronies Keep Dictatorships in Power (e.g., PRSA),” June 13, 2011, available at www.odwyerpr.com.)
g) In the article excerpted below, you characterize the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credentialing process as being akin to murders committed by organized crime.
(Source: O’Dwyer, Jack, “Worried PRSA Leaders Summon Calvary,” August 22, 2011, available at www.odwyerpr.com.)
Many of the delegates are fresh from the June weekend in New York where each got at least $750 in meals and cash from national for the “Leadership Rally” that is really a “Loyalty Rally.”
What's involved is a conspiracy against the rank‐and‐file members ..No. 11 is the blatant bribery of 110 chapter presidents‐elect with a ‘weekend in June in New York’ so they can learn how to be presidents (they’re given with [sic] $500 each in walking around money).
Dictatorships are able to remain in power because they surround themselves with a cadre of "cronies" who are paid off one way or another and block the "people" from organizing, said an op‐ed piece in the June 10 New York Times by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith, Professors at New York University.
However, if the dictators run out of money they are apt to lose support of their cronies and face rebellion, said the professors, who have authored "The Dictator's Handbook."
This is now happening at PR Society of America ..PRS says it’s dedicated to truth‐telling but its website fails to tell member prospects that they will be second‐class citizens.”
The “Leadership Rally,” a function begun in 1999 that initially hosted the more than 100 chapter presidents but which was expanded to include section and district chairs, costs the Society between $80,000 and $115,000, according to a statement by CFO John Colletti.
The “Rally” should really be the Spring Assembly, which was discontinued in 1988 because of its allegedly high cost! Attendees, as of 2013, were receiving $550 in cash to offset their expenses. Can anyone be blamed for considering this an Assembly that is “bought” by the Society? Every other major professional association has at least two meetings of its legislative bodies per year. The Society can no longer said it can’t afford a Spring Assembly when it currently has at least $5 million in cash and investments.
The attendees also get five free meals including a dinner at a Class A restaurant on Friday night. The 2014 “Leadership Rally” is set for June 13-14 at the New York Marriott down following the awarding of Silver Anvils the previous night.
8. Used anonymous sources to create an appearance of widespread dissention and controversy within PRSA.
a) PRSA received no complaints about the work of its 2008 Nominating Committee. Despite having been told this in the e‐mail exchange excerpted below, you or another writer for your organization published an article to the contrary, also excerpted below.
(Source: Oct. 17, 2008, e‐mail from Jack O’Dwyer to PRSA’s vice president, public relations.)
(Source: Oct. 17, 2008, e‐mail to Jack O’Dwyer from PRSA vice president, public relations.)
(Source: Author unknown, “Complaints Surface About 2008 PRS NomCom,” Oct. 20, 2008, www.odwyerpr.com.)
b) In the e‐mail excerpted below, a PRSA past president alleges that you fabricated a quote and attributed it to her. To our knowledge, a retraction was never published.
I hear formal written complaints about the nominating process have been made to (PRSA COO), (PRSA chair), (PRSA immediate past chair) and (PRSA chair‐elect) involving people on the nomcom who did not have their dues paid up to date and other issues.
Do you confirm that formal written complaints have been made about the 2008 nomcom?
The answer is no. No formal written complaints have been filed about the nomcom.
Complaints about the nominating process have been sent to leadership via e‐mails and phone calls.
Among them are that at least one person on the nomcom had a lapsed PRS membership, that allegedly “inappropriate questions” were asked of some candidates, and that some candidates knew the questions that were going to be asked.
After reading your editorial, I felt compelled to let you know that you ... incorrectly quoted ... me.
To set the record straight, I never said anything derogatory about (PRSA president‐elect) or her leadership role in PRSA. ... The abilities of the leaders (EC, Board and etc.) was never called into question at any time.
Why on earth did you make up that quote? Or, did someone make it up for you? I never mentioned (PRSA president‐elect’s) name, but you know that. If you were on the call or whoever taped it for you must have known that (PRSA president‐elect) led the call. Considering you got all of the other information I said correct, almost verbatim, I can’t understand why you had to
make‐up a quote from me that was false to make your point.
Jack, we can agree to disagree, but don’t print lies and attach my name to them. It is not necessary and it’s disrespectful. ... After all of these years, I am offended that you would insult me and my name because you don’t agree with a proposal to by‐law. Get real!!!
I expect a retraction, or at least a personal apology to me and to (incoming PRSA president).
Please make it happen.
A sketchy “preliminary” [Assembly] agenda mentions an “Assembly Think Tank discussion” during the lunch break ... sources say this really means: “No press allowed.”
The Society’s nominating process is so unfair and undemocratic that 1987 president Jack Felton headed a committee in 2000 that investigated charges of impropriety and demanded that directors stop trying to influence who got on the board. The nominating committee, and not the board, is supposed to pick the directors, said the Felton committee. But even that argument had flaws because usually more than 15 of the 20 nomcom members are APR when only 18% of the members are and therefore only two or three of the nomcom members should be APR. No wonder that the only members nominated are those that favor keeping national board posts as the exclusive preserve of the APRs.
In 2004, the Board of Ethics and Professional Standards twice pleaded with the national board to investigate alleged wrongdoing by the nomcom and twice it was turned down. The two top people on BEPS, Chuck Wood and Vivian Hamilton, quit BEPS.
Director Sherry Treco-Jones worked many hours with other board members on nomcom reforms in 2004 only to have them lose in an 8-6 vote of the board. She quit the next day, becoming the only sitting board member ever to resign mid-term.
A blatant violation of the rule against directors picking officers or fellow directors took place in 2000.
APRs twice over-ruled attempts by the nominating committee to place New Yorkers on the board who wanted the APR rule removed from the bylaws.
The APRs’ candidate for treasurer, Joann Killeen of Los Angeles, defeated official candidate Michael McDermott of Riverside, Conn., at the 1999 Assembly. Killeen had some financial background but McDermott was a financial specialist who lived about an hour from Society h.q.
The parliamentarian, noting that delegates were using electronic voting devices for the first time and many had not voted, called for a second vote on Killeen/McDermott but was over-ruled by Arthur Abelman, the Society’s lawyer. Robert’s Rules are actually advice and can be disregarded by an organization professing to follow them.
Killeen, again as a write-in candidate in 2000, defeated Art Stevens of New York who was the official candidate for chair-elect.
Stevens, an ardent foe of the APR rule who wanted Assembly delegates to be reachable via a single e-mail and for annual conferences to be in New York every second or third year, claimed “foul” since Killeen had the public support of nine sitting directors.
Joining him in the same criticism were 1987 president Jack Felton whose committee on nomcom reform said directors were not to elect fellow directors, and Mary Cusick, 1998 president and chair of the 2000 nomcom.
9. Mischaracterized PRSA’s relationship with the media generally, and the J.R. O’Dwyer organization specifically.
(Source: Excerpts of Nov. 2, 2006, e‐mail from PRSA past president to Jack O’Dwyer.)
a) In the article excerpted below, you claim — based on anonymous sources — that PRSA was planning to bar media coverage of its Leadership Assembly, when press credentials for you and a second attendee were granted upon receipt of your request.
(Source: O’Dwyer, Jack, “Board Drops Ball on Bylaw Reform,” Oct. 8, 2008, www.odwyerpr.com.)
b) PRSA regularly engages with traditional and social media of all types, and frequently posts the results of these interactions in our online Newsroom. As a matter of course, the J.R. O’Dwyer organization receives copies of all PRSA press releases and may access the PRSA online Newsroom at any time. In the articles excerpted below, you characterize PRSA’s media policy as a media “boycott,” and accuse PRSA of “blackballing” or “blacklisting” your organization.
(Source: O’Dwyer, Jack, “PR Opinion/Items,” Jack O’Dwyer’s Newsletter, Internet edition, July 16, 2008, www.odwyerpr.com.)
(Source: Author unknown, “’Blue Ribbon’ Panel on Certification,” Aug. 3, 2007, www.odwyerpr.com.)
(Source: O’Dwyer, Jack, “Blacklisting PRSA Condemns Blacklisting,” June 21, 2011, www.odwyerpr.com.)
We don’t know how the nine educators who are seeking national office at PRS can associate their institutions of learning with the formal press boycott that has been passed by the PRS board. We doubt their school officials would allow this.
PRS has a formal boycott against the press in which board members, officers and staff are forbidden to answer questions from the press. CEO (PRSA chair and CEO) is the only authorized spokesperson for the Society.
PR Society of America, which has blacklisted this reporter for years, including an hour‐long delivery of that policy by chair Gary McCormick and COO Bill Murray on March 19, 2010 in my own office, has condemned blacklisting of reporters as “unethical.”
For years Jack O’Dwyer has, in PRSA’s view, subjected PRSA’s leadership and volunteers to innuendo and personal attacks in his print and Internet publications. But it’s not just his writings.
He has also pursued these attacks on PRSA volunteers through calls to employers, associates and the hometown media of volunteer leaders who agreed to serve PRSA on the national, regional and local levels, calling into question their ethics or professional standards in choosing to associate with PRSA.
... calling associates, supervisors, local media and others to criticize PRSA is all too common, and has occurred repeatedly. He has even called reporters in host cities for PRSA International Conferences, again delivering his attacks on PRSA. In our view, it is not the normal role of an objective reporter, nor a part of respectful discourse, to rally other media to an attack campaign or to call a PRSA volunteer’s business associates to challenge a co‐worker’s service to the profession. The ongoing lack of respect for PRSA volunteers and staff has made any attempts at dialogue unproductive for the Society, which is why PRSA has decided to limit its contact with O’Dwyer.
At PRSA, we think it is our responsibility to live up to our Member Code of Ethics by working with those who are committed to advancing the free flow of accurate and truthful information.
(Source: Excerpts of April 9, 2008, letter from PRSA Board of Directors to PRSA leadership.)
(Source: Excerpt from PRSA media policy, available at http://media.prsa.org/prsamediapolicy.)
10. Approached PRSA leaders to advocate your personal opinions and beliefs toward PRSA.
a) In the article and e‐mail excerpted below, you state that you have e‐mailed an individual member and the presidents of nearly every local PRSA Chapters to express your opinions on the proposed 2012 PRSA dues increase.
(Source: O’Dwyer, Jack, “30 Ex‐PRSA Chairs Could Vote in Assembly,” Aug. 19, 2011, available at www.odwyerpr.com)
Dissemination of Media Information
PRSA distributes press materials to all legitimate and relevant consumer and industry media equally and without prejudice, except in cases, as determined from time to time, in which media exclusivity has been requested or offered and subsequently granted.
(PRSA Member) was sent an e‐mail noting the Society lost $2.9 million on APR from 1986‐2002 and deprived itself of millions of income by only having the national conference in New York once (2004) since 1990. More than $1 million has been spent on “Leadership Rallies” since 1999 for chapter, section and district leaders supposedly to instruct them on how to retain and attract members.
This website [also] has e‐mailed the presidents of nearly all of the 110 chapters asking if chapter members will be allowed to vote on the dues hike.
This is reporter Jack O’Dwyer writing to you in your role as a director of the (State) chapter of PRSA.
I hope you will “lend me your ear.”
In the past few weeks I have sent more than 300 e‐mails to presidents of the 50 largest chapters talking about the Society’s mismanagement of its money, leadership’s near stranglehold on the Assembly (only one of the 110 chapters supported the bid last year to let non‐APRs run for national office), and the choking off of many sources of information about the Society.
Only a few presidents are talking to me but most are at least listening.
I want you to study these materials and call up and/or e‐mail (PRSA Chair and CEO) (contact information) and (PRSA COO) (contact information) and register your protest against Society policies that block information flow and threaten members with prosecution if they forward.
(Source: Aug. 30, 2011 e‐mail from Jack O’Dwyer to the president of a PRSA Chapter.)
b) In the eGroup comment excerpted below, a PRSA Chapter President describes her reaction to receiving your e‐mails.
(Source: Comment posted to a PRSA eGroup discussion board by a PRSA Chapter President on Aug. 4, 2011.)
c) In the e‐mail excerpted below, you suggest that PRSA’s Chapter Presidents should organize in opposition to PRSA “national” and its Board of Directors.
(Source: Aug. 3, 2011 e‐mail from Jack O’Dwyer to the president of a PRSA Chapter.)
11. Approached other journalists to advocate negative coverage of PRSA.
a) You encouraged Brian Tierney and Tony Gnoffo of the Philadelphia Inquirer to write negative stories about PRSA, to coincide with the PRSA International Conference, which was being held in Philadelphia.
Until this dues increase topic came up, I had never even heard of JOD ‐‐ and neither had any of my board members.
I'm hoping the chapter presidents will organize this year and institute much‐needed reforms including placing the Assembly over the board. ... Central Michigan tried this in 2006 but none of the other 109 chapters supported it. I'm aware of the tremendous control national has over the chapters and hoping this can be changed now that the Society is facing financial problems.
We were disappointed that the Philadelphia Inquirer, bought for $562M last year by former PR executive Brian Tierney and his “rich friends” (said an article in the Columbia Journalism Review), failed to provide any coverage of the PRS conference even though (he) was a featured speaker.
We sent Tierney materials for weeks with the angle that PRS, rife with undemocratic and press‐dodging policies, was meeting on its 60th anniversary in the city where America’s democracy was created. Tierney brushed us off, saying he was busy with other things.
Materials were also sent to Tony Gnoffo, business editor.
(Source: O’Dwyer, Jack, “PR Should Supply ‘Hard’ Answers,” Oct. 29, 2007, www.odwyerpr.com.)
b) You or another writer for your organization encouraged Akron Beacon‐Journal Reporter Betty Lin‐Fisher to ask your questions during an interview she had scheduled with PRSA’s Chair and CEO.
(Source: Author unknown, “(PRSA chair and CEO) Addresses PRS/Akron,” May 12, 2009, www.odwyerpr.com.)
c) You sent an e‐mail, excerpted below, to three reporters at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, in advance of PRSA’s President and COO speaking to the PRSA Minnesota Chapter.
(Source: June 15, 2011 e‐mail from Jack O’Dwyer to the executive committee of the Minnesota PRSA Chapter and three Minneapolis Star Tribune reporters.)
Efforts to hire a reporter to cover (PRSA chair and CEO) from the University of Akron or nearby Kent State, or from within the chapter membership, have been unsuccessful so far.
A posting on Twitter has offered $200 to anyone who will cover the (PRSA chair and CEO) visit to the chapter including taking pictures.
Betty Lin‐Fisher, business writer for the Akron Beacon‐Journal, will interview (PRSA chair and CEO) in the newspaper’s offices. Lin‐Fisher has also been sent the ten questions listed below. She has not indicated she will give them to (PRSA chair and CEO), noting she has her own assignment on this story.
I still (sic) interested in the appearance of (PRSA President and COO) next Thursday since it's such a rarity and there is so much news about the Society these days.
... members should have the right to ask any questions they wish and to have these answers publicized so other members can scrutinze (sic) them. Anyone with the title of "president" should cooperate.
I'm surprised this is not a lunch or a dinner and that it's being held at an inconvenient time such as 7:30 a.m. It doesn't seem like maximum attendance is being sought.
Newsworthy is whether (PRSA President and COO) is getting a new contract since the current one is up Jan. 22, 2012. The Society is in the habit of concealing the terms of his contract until they are published in IRS Form 990 which is not given to the members until late the following year.
Having a sequestered meeting like this involving the president of the Society does not live up to the Society Code which promises "free flow of accurate and truthful information" as needed for "informed decision making in a democratic society."
There is nothing wrong with trying to hire local reporters to cover visits by Society leaders to the chapters.
12. Disregarded established PRSA media policies.
a) In the e‐mails excerpted below, you were notified in advance of the media policies in effect for PRSA’s 2010 Leadership Assembly, and notified afterward that you had violated several of the stated policies.
(Source: Oct. 1, 2010, e‐mail from PRSA’s vice president of public relations to Jack O’Dwyer.)
We look forward to having you attend the PRSA National Assembly on Oct. 16, in Washington, D.C. Because this is a working meeting of elected PRSA representatives, please note that the following press policies will be in effect for that day:
(1) Only credentialed media will be permitted in the International Ballroom, where the National Assembly will take place.
(2) Audio recording of the assembly is not permitted.
(3) Photography of the assembly is not permitted; however, PRSA will have a photographer on site, and we will be happy to supply you with Assembly photos, upon request.
(4) There will be a designated seating area for the press; we ask that you please remain within the designated media area while the meeting is taking place.
(5) Interviews with assembly delegates are not permitted between the meeting hours of 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1:30 to 5:30 p.m.
(6) When interviewing assembly delegates, please keep in mind that they are choosing to speak on their own behalf; their comments may or may not represent official PRSA policies or positions.
(7) A lunch break is scheduled from 12 – 1:30 p.m.; your press credentials do not provide for admittance to the luncheon.
Please respect these policies. Any member of the media who breeches these policies will be denied access to future PRSA National Assemblies.
You were dozing right in the middle of the afternoon session, which is extremely embarrassing to me personally: to have a reporter, to whom I granted press credentials, sleeping in front of 400 members and 17 Board members, all of whom I serve.
[I suppose I closed my eyes for a few moments in the afternoon. But I was wide awake all morning when the Assembly turned down the bid of the Committee for a Democratic PRSA for the right of non-APRs to run for office. The criticism blows out of proportion the fact that I closed my eyes and may even have slept. Who wouldn’t take a nap at an eight-hour Assembly?]
... I’d like to bring a few other behavioral items to your attention:
• A tape recorder went off in your bag — even though I told you weeks in advance that recording the Assembly proceedings was not permitted — causing at least three delegates to get up from their seats to ask you to shut it off.
[Forbidding tape recording! What’s wrong with that? I had taped parts of the Assembly for years; the Society made available a transcript of the Assembly—300+ pages—up until 2005. Also, I wasn’t recording anything; by accident I hit the “play” button which is why people heard it; they would not have known if I were recording anything, which I didn’t].
• You starting taking pictures when you arrived — even though I told you weeks in advance that you weren’t permitted to take pictures — until one of the members of my staff asked you to stop.
[There was never any bar to taking pictures during the Assembly until 2010. Yann said I couldn’t even take a picture of the room before the Assembly started. He was being as hostile to me as any human being can be to another.]
• You tried to sneak into the luncheon — even though I told you weeks in advance that you weren’t allowed to attend the luncheon.
[I did not try to sneak into the Assembly luncheon (which I had attended for nearly 40 years) but presented myself at the door to the dining room and pleaded with board member Lynn Appelbaum and past chair Judith Phair to let me into the lunch. They both pleaded lack of authority, a raw display of staff domination and weakness of elected leaders.]
• and then you verbally assaulted (a PRSA past‐President) and other delegates about the policy.
[This refers to me asking Appelbaum and Phair to over-rule Yann about the lunch; they caved]
• Following the Assembly, you got into a verbal (and by some accounts, physical) altercation with an Assembly Delegate, which was observed by a Board member and other conference attendees. [They were observing this through the hotel lobby window—Jack]
[This is particularly rich! As I waited outside the hotel to be picked up by son John (who was barred from helping me at the Assembly because he also sells ads—which I do), a large male with a blonde crewcut charged at me and yelled obscenities at me from within an inch of my face. I know who it is but I guess I can’t prove it. Yann describes this unprovoked assault on me as a “altercation.” I reported the entire thing to the D.C. Police who said that since I wasn’t touched I couldn’t prefer charges. But I was in fear of bodily harm and this person would have been arrested if we were in NYC. A full description of this is at: http://bit.ly/f452MH].
(Source: Oct. 22, 2010, e‐mail from PRSA’s vice president of public relations to Jack O’Dwyer.)
Mr. O’Dwyer, we trust this fully satisfies your request for the reasons why PRSA has not, and will not, provide the J.R. O’Dwyer Company with more liberal access to our news, events, staff and volunteers.
These reasons also are why we are denying your request (and that of any other J.R. O’Dwyer Company employee or assign) for media credentials to attend PRSA’s Leadership Assembly and International Conference for 2011.
The Public Relations Society of America
Rosanna M. Fiske, APR, CAE Chair and CEO
William M. Murray, President and COO
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