Member opposition yesterday stopped PRSA bylaw proposals that would have greatly increased board power to amend bylaws and which would have eliminated district representation on the board.

Mary Beth WestMary Beth West

Leading the battle against the proposals was 2001 national director Mary Beth West of Knoxville, Tenn. She and others also got the board to restore minutes of the board meetings that had been removed. The bid for more board power was removed at the last minute. The district rep proposal was defeated.

She wrote on her website Aug. 18 that members should “question seriously the intent and judgment of any PRSA national leadership body that would engage in a manner of behavior to expand and leverage its own power at the expense of not only democracy within the Society’s governance structure but also our organizational transparency, credibility and brand reputation, both internally and externally.”

Ethics Getting Side-Tracked

PRSA’s ideal for ethics and professional excellence “drives the core of why people choose membership affiliation — and that ideal is far larger and further rooted than the presence of any specific leader or group of leaders,” she said.

“However, when the stewardship of PRSA’s brand identity/ideal falls into poor leadership decision-making, the impact is felt by all and poses danger to the foundation of the Society — particularly if left unchecked,” she added.

Said West: “The board is appearing to seek . . . quite unabashedly . . . a new role as the near-alpha and omega of Society bylaw creation, interpretation and enforcement, while the PRSA Assembly delegation and members at-large are left completely in the dark as to board goings-on, hidden from prying eyes that would otherwise stand equipped to demand accountability.”

Board proposals “fly in the face of multiple Code provisions” that “protect and advance the free flow of accurate and truthful information,” she said.

New Website Rapped; Membership Dips

The re-engineered PRSA website was rapped by West who said, “I have yet to speak to a PRSA colleague who has had any form of positive user experience” with it.

She noted that membership had dropped to 21,201 as of March 31 vs. 21,905 at the end of 2015. That’s a loss of about $179K in revenues, she noted.

Governance Proposals “Alarming”

Among seven items proposed to the 2017 Assembly was a rule that a two-thirds majority of the Assembly would be needed to overturn a board proposal as opposed to the current two-thirds vote of the Assembly being needed to adopt a board recommended bylaw.

West called the governance proposals “more than a bit alarming.”

The title of CEO of PRSA was given to William Murray on Oct. 20, 2013, ending more than 60 years when the title was with an elected officer. Joseph Truncale currently holds the title at the Society.

Board Control from Women to Men

PRSA, which had a board with 12 women and five men in 2016, switched to a board with nine men and eight women in 2017 after a woman who was elected to the 2017 board was replaced by a man.

Joyce Lofstrom of HIMSS Chicago, major healthcare organization, announced as a member of the 2017 board, was replaced by Kevin Waetke of the National Pork Board, Clive, Iowa, giving men the majority of posts on the board.

Male domination of the board will continue in 2018 since the Assembly yesterday elected nine men and eight women to the board.

Upwards of 80% of Society members are women.

There has been no explanation of the sudden replacement of Lofstrom with Waetke. Emails to chair Jane Dvorak, CEO Joe Truncale and PR staffers Laura Kane and Laurent Lawrence were not returned.

Woman Had Control of 2016 Board

The O’Dwyer Co. had been asking the women on the board to assert their large majority and initiate many needed reforms including ending the boycott against the O’Dwyer Co. which is not allowed to exhibit its five info products at national conferences and not even allowed to enter the exhibit hall.

Members are kept in the dark about many things including the signing of a 10 or 15-year lease at 120 Wall St. without placing that decision before the Assembly, a deal worth at least $6 million. No details are available.

If Joyce were to be replaced, it should have been a woman.

Males have the top three paychecks at PRSA: Truncale with $413,602; CFO Phil Bonaventura with $281,832, and VP John Robinson with $$221,724. Those are the 2015 figures. They are probably higher for 2016.

Below is the 2016 Board of PRSA that had 12 women and five men.

Mark McClennan, MSL/Publicis, chair

• Treasurer: Jane E. Dvorak, APR, Fellow PRSA, president, JKD & Company, Inc., Lakewood, Colo.

• Secretary: Marisa Vallbona, APR, Fellow PRSA, president, CIM Incorporated, San Diego.

District representatives

• Director, East Central District: Sonja Popp-Stahly, APR, director, digital media communications, Eli Lilly and Company, Indianapolis.

• Director, Mid-Atlantic District: Janet E. Kacskos, APR, Fellow PRSA, director of communications, Millersville University of Pennsylvania, Millersville, Pa.

• Director, Northeast District: JoAnn S. LeSage Nelson, APR, vice president, client services, Pierce Communications, Albany, N.Y.

• Director, Tri-State District: Lea-Ann O’Hare Germinder, APR, Fellow PRSA, president, Germinder & Associates, Inc., New York

• Director, Western District: Todd A. Cooley, APR, principal, The Todd Cooley Company, Santa Ana, Calif.


T. Garland Stansell, APR, chief communications officer, Children’s of Alabama, Birmingham, Ala.

They join the current Board of Directors returning for 2015, including:


• Chair: Kathy Barbour, APR, corporate director, public relations and marketing, Baptist Health South Florida, Miami

• Immediate-Past Chair: Joe Cohen, APR, senior vice president of communications, KIND Healthy Snacks, New York.

District representatives

• Director, Midwest District: Brian N. Lee, APR, president, Revelation PR, Advertising & Social Media, Madison, Wis.

• Director, North Pacific District: Ronele M. Dotson, APR, president, RKPR Inc., Reno, Nev.

• Director, Sunshine District: Bonnie P. Upright, APR, development director/principal, The Boselli Foundation/Upright Public Relations, LLC, Orange Park, Fla.


Kathleen Donohue Rennie, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA, assistant professor/partner, Seton Hall University/The McGraw Group, Union, N.J.

Tracy A. Schario, APR, communications officer, The Pew Charitable Trusts, White Stone, Va.

Deborah A. Silverman, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA, associate professor of communication, SUNY Buffalo State, Buffalo, N.Y.

2017 Board of Nine Men, Eight Women

• Jane Dvorak, chair

• Anthony D’Angelo, chair-elect

• Mark McClennan, past chair

• Debra Peterson, treasurer

• Andrew McCaskill, Tri-state

• Richard Batyko, East Central

• Michelle Olson, Western

• Jo Ann LeSage Nelson, Northeast

• Samantha Villegas, Mid-Atlantic

• Robert Hastings, at-large

• Mark McClennan, past chair

• Amy Coward, district rep

• Bonnie Upright, district rep

• Don Hale, district rep

• Ronele Dotson, district rep

• Sam Sims, district rep

• Kevin Waetke, district rep