CIPR quizzed on ethics after granting 'Sweatygate' agency boss membership

A prominent fellow of the PRCA has questioned the CIPR for granting membership to the agency boss of the notorious 'Sweatygate' ethics scandal, despite the CIPR's president saying last week the sector must learn lessons from it.

Sweatygate: Fuel PR breached the PRCA’s professional charter for its actions
Sweatygate: Fuel PR breached the PRCA’s professional charter for its actions

It follows the case earlier this month of the MailOnline removing a case study from Bland PR after learning the column had been used to promote the agency's client, sweets manufacturer Boka.

Writing in PRWeek in response, CIPR president Emma Leech alluded to Sweatygate, the 2015 incident where a Fuel PR employee posed as a member of the public to promote a product dealing with excessive sweat.

Leech said Sweatygate "was supposed to teach us all a lesson about the dangers of unethical PR practice".

In a letter to CIPR CEO Alastair McCapra in response to Leech's comment, PRCA fellow Richard Houghton said he was "surprised" to realise Fuel PR MD Gillian Waddell is currently a CIPR member.

Houghton, who is PRWeek’s ‘Agency Doctor’, said Fuel PR’s expulsion from the PRCA and the revocation of Waddell’s PRCA membership "cannot have been actions missed by the CIPR".

He asked when Waddell was admitted to the CIPR. Houghton questioned whether, if she was admitted before the PRCA’s actions, why the CIPR did not undertake its own investigations; and if she was admitted after, why it approved her membership.

Houghton also questioned what actions the CIPR would be taking now.

Responding to Houghton, McCapra said Waddell had been a CIPR member for "a number of years" before resigning membership in 2014 and being readmitted in 2016.

"Under our rules, a member seeking readmission within two years is exempt from the need to make a full application, together with the accompanying declarations," McCapra wrote. "You will note that these dates confirm she was not in membership at the time of the PRCA’s disciplinary action.

"Once I was able to confirm that Ms Waddell is a current member, I raised the matter with the CIPR’s board of directors. CIPR membership is governed by our regulations, and we will be following these in order to determine what action may be appropriate in relation to this matter."

The CIPR's Code of Conduct commits members to "deal honestly and fairly in business with employers, employees, clients, fellow professionals, other professions and the public". It also commits them to "maintain the highest standards of professional endeavour, integrity, confidentiality, financial propriety and personal conduct".

A number of sanctions can be applied to members who breach the code, including reprimands and suspensions/terminations of membership.

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