Traction Communications founder Kirsten Hamling has settled a lawsuit filed against her by Colorado state prosecutors. The suit accused Hamling of diverting money intended for charity through her Fired Up for Kids organization and spending the “money on personal items including services at hair and nail salons, a gym membership and a vacation.”
Under the terms of the deal, Hamling has agreed that Fired Up For Kids will “move all its assets to Colorado Firefighter Calendar Inc., an unrelated non-profit company,” according to David Migoya at The Denver Post. The article notes that Hamling has not “admitted any wrongdoing in agreeing to the settlement” and that her attorneys maintain that she simply was owner of a for-profit business who “graciously donated money” to charity.
7News, however, has reported that Hamling’s organization registered with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office as a non-profit and that its website and news releases claimed that “all calendar proceeds benefit” charity.
Better get home early, get a good night’s sleep and prepare to be on your best behavior because “Ethics Month” for public relations practitioners starts tomorrow.
If you hate the stereotype that public relations people are soul-less, amoral drones who will say anything about anyone if a client or boss tells them to, you probably are not going to like Sue Skiffington-Blumberg (even if the Colorado Springs Gazette inexplicably does). According to a Gazette editorial, Skiffington-Blumberg and her public relations team at the City of Colorado Springs have spent the past several years publicly badmouthing their own city at the direction of her bosses in an effort to get a tax increase passed. As the Gazette noted, “The campaign may have cost our city countless tourists and jobs.”
So how did Skiffington-Blumberg justify her actions:
“Our strategic plan was to paint a picture of the dire straits of our city budget. If we could not do so locally, we would do so in the regional and national press … . I hated it. I grew up here. My family has been in this community since 1892. But when given a task, it is my obligation to get on board. If you give me a task, don’t expect me not to succeed.”
That quote is just chilling. And perhaps not just to me. Skiffington-Blumberg was forced by the city manager to resign yesterday (two days after the Gazette editorial appeared).
Are ethically challenged former journalists corrupting us virtuous public relations practitioners? And are political campaign-style dirty tricks becoming more commonplace in corporate public relations campaigns? Journalist Tom Foremski
investigates scratches the surface.
UPDATE: GroundFloor Media’s Gil Rudawsky, a former Rocky Mountain News editor, argues that “all of us in PR will pay for (the Facebook/Google/Burson debacle) with a sustained black eye and a loss of credibility.”