By Jack O’Dwyer, New York
The one elected officer of PR Society of America who stood up against the false bookkeeping of the board/staff was 2000 chair Steve Pisinski, who had major posts with Ogilvy PR, Burson-Marsteller and Ketchum before opening his own firm in San Francisco.
Pisinski, who died in 2002, was PRS treasurer in 1998. He was fed up with the “dime store” accounting of the Society that misled members.
He wrote the entire membership on July 25, 2000 that the Society henceforth would “be in compliance with the method used by the American Society of Assn. Executives” and that new computer software would “calculate dues income as earned.”
Pisinski’s honesty and courage are needed by PRS now because of all the abuses perpetrated by current elected leaders and staff, the worst by far is false, misleading, non-existent and late financial reporting.
The U.S. is on its financial knees because the public did not get the right figures in enough time.
New York Times accounting columnist Floyd Norris put the entire blame for the financial mess on CPAs who allowed off-balance sheet entries and other abusive practices.
He wrote many columns on this theme including one on March 12, 2009 headlined, “Blame the Accountants.”
The Financial Accounting Standards Board rule 958-605-2-1 requires that dues be booked over the period covered (one year in the case of PRS).
Pisinski told auditor Deloitte & Touche to start counting dues income the correct way and the deferred dues account for 1999 was restated as $425,309 (from $198,746) and the 2000 DD account soared to $813,116. PRS was on the road to honesty. With dues income of $3.1M in 2000, the DD account should have been closer to $1.5M.
PRS had a DD account of $904,767 on dues of $2.1M in 1991but this was drawn down to $169,530 by 1995 to goose the net assets figure.
The ASAE, with $5.1M in 2000 dues, set aside $2.74M in DD. IABC, a group very close to PRS in membership and programs, the American Medical Assn., American Bar Assn., and AICPA all put at least half of dues in DD.
Next Boards Flopped
The Pisinski reforms lasted one year.
Deloitte & Touche was canned and the new auditor as of 2001 was the CPA firm of Sobel & Co., Livingston, N.J.
Instead of going up, the DD headed down again. It went to $566,459 in 2001 and $389,941 in 2002.
The 2010 audit, by PKF, shows only $290,948 in DD on dues of $4.4M. The DD should be about $2.2M which would reduce PRS’s net assets to about $1.2M.
We hope Society leaders and staff have stopped referring to the group’s cash/investments as “reserves” because PRS has no such thing as “reserves.”
What it has is a miniscule amount of earned cash with at least $2.2 million of the cash on hand owed for future services.
The $2.2M does not belong to PRS. It belongs to the members.
Full Airing Needed
A full airing of the Society’s finances is needed although traditionally staff/board have stood behind the “audit” as though it were an impregnable barricade.
The 2010 audit and many of its predecessors are flawed documents and get no respect from us.
The 2010 audit was prepared by treasurer Phil Bonaventura, who was paid $221K in salary/fringes in 2009. What the CPA firm does is come in, look over the figures, do a few checks here and there and approve it.
It does not plunge deeply into the finances. If it did, it would question the mere $260,816 allotted for staff time on the annual conference when ex-chairs and treasurers have assured us that large numbers of staff spend lots of time on the conference. Typically, 25-35 staffers attend the conference for periods of five to ten days.
None of the top eight staffers, including COO Bill Murray, will reveal their pay/fringes for 2010 or 2011.
That’s one of numerous other issues that need to be explored.
Pisinski Danced to Own Tune
Pisinski was a renegade chair to many of the highly conforming national leaders. Disregarding the rule that reporters could not enter the “sacred” Assembly area, he let them sit in the first row of the 2000 Assembly.
When COO Ray Gaulke wrote a letter to advertisers and leaders asking them to support with advertising and subscriptions PR Week which debuted in the U.S., in 1998, Pisinski condemned Gaulke and the board for interfering in the private marketplace.
PRS had no business supporting one of the PR trade publications, he said.
The Society’s support included letting PRW/U.S. use its membership for the initial circulation for an unknown period of months.
Mickey Nall, head of the Atlanta office of Ogilvy PR Worldwide, a major brand of the $15 billion ad/PR giant WPP Group, has been accepted as a candidate for chair-elect of PR Society of America, raising our hopes of fairness and rationality returning to the Society.
He has promised in his application (PDF) to “ask questions, play the devil’s advocate…I’m not with a go-with-the-flow guy.”
Current Leadership is Worst Ever
Well, the first question he can ask is whether COO Bill Murray has or is about to get a new two-year contract as of Jan. 22, 2012. He can also ask Murray’s pay package, last seen at $373K in 2009.
A new contract would mean a $2.1 million commitment to the top three h.q. staffers at a time when the Society is pleading poverty and seeking a $30 dues hike.
Murray’s two principal appointments, CFO Phil Bonaventura and VP-PR Art Yann, made $221K and $137K, respectively, in 2009 (total of $731K for all three execs).
Society practice is to give a year’s severance to departing executives. Nall’s pitch for chair-elect (PDF) avoids concrete topics such as allowing non-APRs to run for office, providing a PDF of the members’ list, exploring the high cost of New York h.q., etc. He can be opposed by other candidates who might take up real issues until Sept. 15.
The current PRSA leadership, including elected officers and the powerful staff, is the worst we have ever seen. It blocks at almost every turn information flow in an age of information deluge.
Members can’t get the complete list of Assembly delegates and have lost the transcript of what delegates say since 2005. Their beloved members’ directory was taken from them in 2006 without a word to the Assembly. Ditto for New York h.q. which fled downtown in 2004, turning its back on midtown, where the communications industry is concentrated.
Members who participate in PRS e-groups are warned they face prosecution if they forward any e-mail or print more than one copy. The list of information blockages is almost endless and includes the removal of the single list of 110 chapter presidents.
What Has WPP Got to Gain?
We wonder what WPP CEO Martin Sorrell will think of Nall’s candidacy?
Why would WPP associate its name and that of its precious Ogilvy brand with a group that tramples on its own bylaws, Robert’s Rules, its own Code of Ethics and simple logic?
Gary McCormick (who had quit the 2006 board), took the 2010 chair partly to publicize HGTV. Rosanna Fiske, 2011 chair, is pursuing an “Hispanicize” agenda partly in behalf of Florida Int’l University, which is 65% Hispanic. She is on her fourth trip to the board and is the second PRS elected head from FIU (Debra Miller being the first in 1997).
WPP does not need any publicity that PRS could give it.
Ogilvy, which does about $300 million in PR via 65 worldwide offices (exact figures have been withheld for conglomerate units since 2001), is not only a leading PR brand of WPP but a leading advertising brand. Hill & Knowton, Burson-Marsteller and the other PR brands of WPP grew 3.7% in 2010.
Sorrell’s publicly-owned company must adhere to strict financial accounting standards and practice full disclosure. PRS for decades has flouted the FASB rule that demands that dues be booked over a year’s time as earned. This bloats its “net assets” figure.
I doubt Sorrell will approve of PRS blocking journalists from seeing the Society’s audit and quarterly reports and its refusal to answer questions about its finances.
McCormick, Fiske Were Disappointments
McCormick made a good start in 2009 by promising to put African-Americans and reporters on his Strategic Planning Committee. But he caved to board pressure and no such thing happened.
Defying a request by the 2009 Assembly to investigate e-mail voting, McCormick declared in mid-2010 that direct elections of board/officers was too difficult and too expensive (in spite of a Cornell University free and secure e-mail voting service that has been used 60,000 times by organizations).
Our opinion of him sank further when he and Murray delivered a blackball to the O’Dwyer Co. on March 19, 2010, in our offices. They came to deepen wounds, not to heal them.
Fiske disappoints in trying to push a dues increase without scheduling an appearance before any chapter membership. She has talked to only one chapter membership in her first six months (her own in Miami) based on available records.
2011 Nomcom Is Disaster
Also on Fiske’s head is the disastrous performance of the 2011 nomcom headed by 2009 chair Mike Cherenson. A member of the committee is Art Stevens, who spearheaded last year’s unsuccessful “Committee for a Democratic PR Society.”
Failing to round up candidates for three districts, the nomcom has decided to declare three new at-large seats. This defies Section V of the bylaws which say, “Each district shall be represented by at least one director” (Article V, Section 1). However, there is another part of the ill-conceived new bylaws (Article VII) that says the nomcom can convert a district director to an at-large director if no candidate shows up for the district.
Robin Perrin of the Pinkerton Academy, was named to represent the Northeast district in the 1990s when no one showed up for that district. The Cherenson committee just did not look hard enough. There are about 400 APRs in each district and one can be appointed in the absence of any candidates.
Staff Has Too Much Power
Doug Spong, co-chair of the 2011 conference, asked to assure that this reporter will be “credentialed” for the meeting, said, “It’s not my right or responsibility to grant press access.” His two other co-chairs, Andrea Finger of Walt Disney World and counselor Bonnie Upright of Orange Park, Fla., didn’t respond to our e-mails.
The same thing happened in 2010 when I asked co-chairs Torod Neptune of Verizon and Robert Hastings of Bell Helicopter to get me press admittance to the conference after Yann said I had to pay $1,275 (although other reporters went free). Neptune and Hastings not only would not talk to me, they put blocks on any e-mails I tried to send them.
The 2009 Assembly, ignoring Robert’s Rules although citing RR as its “parliamentary authority,” used 56 proxies to vote in the use of proxies.
This is like a baseball team voting to score touchdowns or a football team seeking to score home runs.
The adoption of RR “automatically” satisfies any state demand for a specific rule about proxies, says RR. RR further says “proxy voting is incompatible with the essential characteristics of a deliberative body.”
Another major RR rule that was trashed is the one that says a board of a group is “subordinate” to an “assembly,” if such a body exists. PRS lawyers warn repeatedly that the Assembly must never tell the board what to do.
The 2009 Assembly broke the rule that all articles in a re-write must be presented one-by-one for discussion and vote. Only a few of them were as picked by the board.
RR also advises never doing a re-write at a regular annual meeting but doing that job in a series of special meetings. The 2009 Assembly took up the re-write at the annual Assembly and after leaders had wasted the first hour of the meeting on gratuitous speeches that should have been provided in hard copy a week before the meeting.
The 11-member APR committee — 10 of the 11 members were APR and all of whom were volunteers — violated RR’s advice that the committee be “large with many views represented.” Only 19% of members were APR in 2009, meaning the committee was unrepresentative of the vast majority of members.
Sharpe Quit in Protest
Committee member Cynthia Sharpe, former chair of the Sunshine district (seven Florida chapters), quit (link, sub req’d) [Free user/pass are june & summer) because the bylaws discussion was being conducted “mostly via e-mails, phone calls and blog posts.” She said national political leaders would not “debate and decide laws mostly via electronic means of communication.”
Other attempted bylaw atrocities in 2009 were ridding the Assembly of its power to elect board/officers and replacing this with an undefined direct election process, and an attempt to further “pack” the Assembly by adding about 30 appointed committee chairs as voting delegates. The Assembly already has 44 leadership delegates who don’t belong there (17 national directors, 17 section chairs, ten district chairs).
A horror that did pass was allowing directors to serve four years in a row, skip a year and then come back for four more years. The stranglehold of the APRs on PRS was strengthened and the wisdom of the founders ignored. They had barred any director from coming back on the board.
Rickey Opposes Nall
Chairing the bylaws revision committee was none other than Dave Rickey, who is now vying with Nall for chair-elect. Rickey and 2009 chair Mike Cherenson ran the debate on the bylaws revision for nearly nine-months without either of them ever facing a live in-person audience.
It was all done by e-mails and teleconferences and Rickey at one point admitted this was a “klunky” way to carry on a debate. This same method is being used for the proposed $30 dues hike.
Conference calls for Assembly delegates will take place Wednesday, July 27 at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. EDT. he general membership and the press are blocked out of these calls.
A 2009 group of about 50 members, calling themselves “The True Friends of the Society,” listed 11 objections (link, sub req’d) to the way the revision was being conducted and asked, “How can a member abide by the Society’s bylaws, policies and procedures when P&P are not made available to them?”
Nall Is “In Residence” at Univ. of Oregon
Nall has become the first “PR Executive in Residence” at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, giving a talk May 4 titled “Tradigital is the Future of PR: Trends Tomorrow’s Professionals Need to Know Now.”
“Tradigital” refers to art including animation that combines traditional and computer-based techniques to implicate an image.” It’s related to digital art, new media art, interactive art and internet art.
The “PR Executive in Residence” could be something funded by Lorry Lokey, who founded BusinessWire with his wife Eva in 1961. BW generated what Lokey called “obscene” profits. He set up a trust that gave away more than $433 million including $132M to UofO (link, sub req’d).
He was a 1949 graduate of Stanford University but included UofO in his gift-giving because George Turnbull, one of his Stanford profs, who was dean of the UofO J School from 1944-48, gave Lokey his first job with United Press.
PERI Software Solutions Inc. spotlighted in upcoming 20thAnniversary issue of Business Life Magazine
“After servicing clients in California and on the West Coast, we realized it was vital to bring our services closer to a rapidly growing technology market.,” Sarav Periasamy, PERI Software told Business Life Mag.
Los Angeles, CA – PERI Software Solutions Inc., a global business solutions company will be featured in this month’s (June) 20th Anniversary issue ofBusiness Life Magazine. The monthly publication is based in Glendale California covering national, regional and business trends and news in tourism, manufacturing, entertainment, international trade, financial services, technology and state politics.
“When I founded PERI Software, I knew in my heart that it was going to be a successful business enterprise,” President and CEO Sarav Periasamy, PERI Software Solutions Inc. told Business Life Magazine. “I love it when my team of engineers can provide solutions to help business streamline their costs of operations.”
PERI, a global business solutions company, headquartered in Newark, New Jersey. Earlier this year PERI opened offices in the Wells Fargo Tower in the business district of downtown Los Angeles. Additionally, the worldwide company has offices in San Jose and Chennai, India. “PERI started as me becoming a consultant and gradually adding team members,” he said. “PERI has grown to more than 700 employees and has earned more than $50 million since I started it in 1999.”
“After servicing clients in California and on the West Coast, we realized it was vital to bring our services closer to a rapidly growing technology market. We have just opened an office here, because we believe Los Angeles leads the Pacific Rim in just about every industry and we want to help business grow to meet the technology needs of regional and international markets.”
A recent LAEDC SoCal economic forecast finds that technology, tourism, entertainment and international trade will be leading industries to the economic recovery. Research reveals that the business demand for technology products was very weak in the first three quarters of 2009, when businesses were reducing costs drastically in order to survive the recession. But, demand picked up noticeably during the fourth quarter and sales of technology products held up better on the consumer side.
Periasamy was asked “what’s the next hot new technology coming up for business in SoCal?”
“Smart Grid technology, mainly used by utilities, and thanks the Obama Administration will be more affordable to customers and consumers,” he said. “A Research show that 60 percent of the electricity generated in this country is lost to inefficiencies, and the fact that smart grid technology is green and does not cost more, customers will feel good about saving energy and the environment.”
PERI has been offering Smart Grid technology after testing and measuring successful cost saving results over the last two years. “We are the Asian Business Owned Smart Grid Technology leader in this space providing end-to-end smart grid business solutions,” he said.
Periasamy is scheduled to speak at the California Utilities Diversity Council’s 2010 Green Diversity Summit later this month. The June 28, 2010 Energy Summit takes place at the Sacramento Convention Center. He’ll speak about how he grew his successful company from a small startup to global business.
About PERI :
Founded in 1999, PERI is a global business solutions company, which has grown to more than 700 plus employees and delivers high value-cost effective technology based business solutions. PERI draws on deep industry expertise and a portfolio of interrelated consulting, business processes, application development along with smart-intelligent hardware and software products. PERI blends strategic design, proven technology, and timely delivery of solutions that maximize customers return on IT investment. Be sure to visit PERI’s blog for company updates and developments
[Editors: For images and advanced media interviews with PERI Founder and President Sarav Periasamy, please call: Aida Mayo or George McQuade at 818-340-5300 or 818-618-9229 or emailPublicity@MayoCommunications.com.]
Club condemns the actions of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in violating a reporter’s right under state law to maintain confidential sources in the case involving website TMZ’s Harvey Levin. The department obtained a search warrant to examine Levin’s private telephone records thereby identifying the reporter’s confidential sources, a direct assault on freedom of the press.
Harvey Levin is the founder and editor of TMZ.com, a Hollywood celebrity website. According to records examined by the Los Angeles Times, a now identified Sheriff’s deputy, who believed he was acting as a confidential source and a whistleblower, leaked the story behind actor Mel Gibson’s drunk-driving arrest in 2006.
Levin says the department is seeking “revenge” for his publishing the story that charged the arresting deputy was ordered by superiors to suppress the details of Gibson’s abusive language and behavior and anti-Semitic remarks.
Levin says he only found out about the warrant that authorized the sheriff’s department to see his home telephone records when he read about it in the Los Angeles Times. “We share Mr. Levin’s outrage as well as the deep concern of the executive director of The Reporter’s Committee for the Freedom of the Press,” said Los Angeles Press Club President Chris Woodyard, a reporter for USA Today.
“The tradition of protecting a reporter’s sources is key to the media’s role as watchdog-that’s why the California Shield Law was enacted. And that’s why there is a federal shield law winding its way through Congress. This assault on the First Amendment should not be tolerated in a free society.”
Woodyard will have press availability to discuss this issue. Please contact Press Club publicist, Edward Headington, at number or email above to arrange for an interview.
The Los Angeles Press Club stands as an organization devoted to improving the spirit of journalism and journalists, raising the industry’s standards, strengthening its integrity and improving its reputation all for the benefit of the community at large. Serving the Southland since 1913, it is the only Southern California journalism group that speaks for all journalists working for daily and weekly newspapers, radio & TV, magazines, documentary films and online. For more information, go to http://www.lapressclub.org/.
PR Newswire, co-sponsor for all Los Angeles Press Club events, is the global leader in news and information distribution services for professional communicators. For more information, go tohttp://www.prnewswire.com/.
Headington Media Group is a boutique communications firm dedicated to promoting public affairs in Southern California, specializing in image management, branding, messaging and public relations. For more information, go tohttp://headingtonmedia.com/ and/or visithttp://headingtonmediacenter.org/.
The Los Angeles Press Club stands as an organization devoted to improving the spirit of journalism and journalists, raising the industry’s standards, strengthening its integrity and improving its reputation all for the benefit of the community at large. Serving the Southland since 1913, it is the only Southern California journalism group that speaks for all journalists working for daily and weekly newspapers, radio & TV, magazines, documentary films and online.
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