The Public Relations Society of America and its Board of Ethical and Professional Standards (BEPS) issued this statement on the Meijer/SST case yesterday, May 16:
PRSA/BEPS Statement on Meijer Case
Involving Michigan Campaign Finance Act
NEW YORK (May 16, 2008) – The Public Relations Society of America’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards is continuing to review the facts surrounding the Meijer/Acme Township Conciliation Agreement with the Michigan Secretary of State and the role public relations professionals may have played in the events and actions leading up to this agreement.
While the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS) has no authority to issue sanctions or penalties against a member of the Society, it is important to draw members’ attention to real-world situations that can be used as ethical learning experiences. The facts, stated in the Meijer Conciliation Agreement and the local media, indicate that some professional actions were clearly contrary to the spirit of the PRSA Code of Ethics’ professed values of transparency, openness and honesty. It would appear that the intent was not to educate the public to help make an informed decision but rather influence the voters in an undisclosed and unethical fashion.
As “ethical practice is the most important obligation of a PRSA member,” we should affirm that the best course of action for an ethical practitioner is to counsel against activities such as undisclosed front groups and remind clients that honesty and transparency are fundamental to ethical business practices. BEPS has affirmed this counsel to members in its Practice Standards Advisories PSA #3 and PSA #7.
Currently, there have been no findings of criminal or civil wrongdoing by anyone involved in the Meijer case. PRSA members understand however that “those who have been or are sanctioned by a government agency or convicted in a court of law of an action that is in opposition to the PRSA Code of Ethics may be barred from membership or expelled from the Society.” (PRSA Code of Ethics Member Pledge)