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Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 131 Feb. 2007

Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 131  Feb. 2007
Answers to your Parliamentary Questions

"Dear Parliamentarian" is written by the author of Parliamentary Procedures Made Simple: The Basics, an 80 minute video that tells how to have better meetings.

Dear Parliamentarian,

I'm having trouble finding an answer to a very basic question.  

When homeowners associations send out proxy ballots for the annual election

of board members and officers, does the proxy have to specifically list the

names of members running for those positions? If not, I feel that Joe

Homeowner who can't make it to the annual meeting may be giving up his/her

vote to the Board and works to his/her disadvantage. Is there an RCW in the

state of Washington that outlines this specifically?

In the past my homeowners association Board members have used proxy votes to

elect candidates of their choice and liking. Thus, land sliding any other

candidates who may volunteer for the Board at the annual meeting. Obviously

they (the Board) are controlling the election at that point and working it

to their favor. I personally find this a conflict of interest and am looking

for "ammunition" to fight back and make the Board play fair.

Any help or advice will be greatly appreciated.


Discouraged In Renton

P.S. Feel free to post this on your website but I prefer to remain anonymous

for fear of retribution. Please do not print my name that comes with the

email. Discouraged in Renton will be fine.


Dear  Friend,
    The RCW's do not address this issue.  Your bylaws should address the issue.  Proxies are a definite problem concerning the election of officers and board members because if the names nominated by the nominating committee go out on the proxies any one nominated at the meeting usually does not win.  It is a good idea to have the names on the proxies because people at least know who is being nominated.  If you don't have the names on the proxies, then it would be a general proxy and the proxy holder could vote for whomever.  This approach may be good or bad.  However, this approach would give those nominated at the meeting a better opportunity of winning.
    The solution to this is to go door to door asking HOA members to have a write  in campaign on their proxy or to attend the meetings.  Usually boards pick a nominating committee of people that they know and the committee then goes around and asks who wants to be on the board. If I were you, I would find out when the board meetings are and start attending. That way people know that you are interested in the government of the organization.  It may be your way to get on the board and then make some very valuable changes.
    The only way to get boards to play fair is to get others behind you and insist that they do so.  Also see what your bylaws and other rules state about how elections should be handled.  If they are vague, then at the annual meeting you could propose a set of nomination and election rules for those present at the meeting to adopt.  It could alter the following year's election.

The Parliamentarian


gailgarn PEACOCK wrote:

The Parliamentarian, thanks for yours of the 17th last. Now I have another simple question.

As I've mentioned before we have a small non-profit association that looks after the social functions for the residents of our camp ground with every thing being non-formal. Our election of officers, president, vice-pres., secretary and treasurer, is coming up in March. We have no by-laws stating the specific duties of the nominating committee other than Roberts Rules of Order guidelines and what we have done for the past 15 years.

We have a relatively new member, who appears to have a bee in her bonnet, who states that we cannot have elections unless the nominating committee posts their nominees at least 30 days in advance of elections. Apparently she learned this while occupying a government job. This could be the reason she knows all this and we don't know Sarcastic smiley emoticon.

I have read my Roberts Rules and cannot see where this has to be done. It says the Nominating Committee presents their slate to the presiding officer and the presiding officer then calls for nominations from the floor after which the nominees are voted on.


Your input please,



Dear Garnet,
    If it's not in your bylaws, then you don't do it.  Point that out to her.  Then point out what it says in Robert's.  The usual procedure is for members to come to a meeting and hear the report of the nominating committee.  If they want to nominate others than the procedure allows for that.  In government the rules are different.  You are not a government organization so those rules do not apply to you.

The Parliamentarian

Jody Bennett wrote:

Tonight at a land use council meeting, the Chair asked a member to make a motion regarding a land use application.  The member, after about 2 minutes of silence, made the motion to approve the land use application.


The Chair asked for a second.  5 members sat in silence.  The chair said, I will approve the motion.  I think I can do that.


Question:  can the Chair approve a motion?




Dear Jody,
    No, he can't.  He should have said, "the motion is not before the assembly for lack of a second."  All a second does is get it before the assembly for discussion.  Even if the chair seconded it, it is not approved.  Only a vote of the members can do that.  If no vote was taken and he believes the motion was adopted, it is not.  You need to go back and point this out.  It looks like your chairman and board members could use our book, Webster's New World Robert's Rules of Order Simplified and Applied.

The Parliamentarian

PS.If you have our book, look on pages 33 to 35.  It will give the explanation of how to make and handle a motion.  It sounds to me like the other board members did want to consider the land application.  If no motion is coming forward then the chair should get a clue that the board doesn't want to proceed with it.


Jody Bennett wrote:

Robert.....thanks for your response.

My question was not clearly stated, here is it again....

The member made the motion to approve the application.

Does this motion need a second?  I think so.

However, after a long silence where no member second the motion that was made, the Chair said, I second the motion, I think that I can do that.

I should have said second......does that make the interpretation different?


After some discussion from each of the members (1 who abstained but spent 3-4 minutes talking about how development was going to happen; 1 sat silent; the maker of the motion, never said another word, 1 member talked about the County's need for an ordinance about putting in mega-houses; 2 members agreed that the county needed an ordinance; and the Chair told a story about a development in the town where she lived and how she was on the Town Council.)  I am serious....not a word about the merits of the land use application where the applicant is density packing 11 mega houses into  4 acres.  This was a rezoning application.)

A vote was taken and all committee members raised their hand in approval.


Dear Jody,
    Thank you for filling the details.  We can never give a correct answer unless we have all the facts.
    First, a second means that "we just want to discuss this."  If your board is under 12 members the chair has a right to second this motion.  But even if he didn't have a right to make a second, it is still valid because it took no ones rights away and no one called a point of order at the time it was happening.
    Members were given opportunity to discuss the motion.  It was the mistake of the board members not to discuss it correctly.  Again it is the duty of the members to make sure correct information is brought forward so that every one can make the correct decision.
    A vote was taken.  Members had the opportunity to vote.  They all agreed.  So the action according to Robert's Rules is a valid decision.  It may not be wise or correct or best for the community but it was done according to parliamentary law.
    Now if you want to rescind it because you think it was not wise, then that is an entirely different matter and procedure.

The Parliamentarian

Patricia A Bailey wrote:

Dear Parliamentarian,

If the maker of a motion is unable to attend the meeting when  his

motion is to be presented, what happens?  Can the motion be presented

without the maker?

Thank you.



Dear Pat,
      I don't understand what you mean.  Has this motion been made a previous meeting and carried over to the next meeting?  Is someone wanting to make a motion and not able to attend the meeting?  Has someone submitted a motion to the organization a head of time and can't be there?

The Parliamentarian

Patricia A Bailey wrote:

Dear The Parliamentarian,

Sorry I wasn't more clear.

This individual made a motion that was then moved to another meeting.  If

he can't attend the meeting that it has been moved to, what happens to

the motion?  This individual would rather present it himself   He's

hoping someone can't just say they'll present it.

Thank you.





Dear Patricia,

   Thank you that is helpful.  What happened was that it was postponed to the next meeting.  It should be taken up under "Unfinished business and General orders."  just because he is not there, this can not impede the membership from discussing and voting on the motion.  A general point to remember is this.  Once a motion is seconded and placed by the presiding officer to the assembly for discussion it no longer "belongs" to the maker of the motion but to the assembly itself.  The maker of the motion could ask someone else to make the motion to "postpone it" to the next meeting. The assembly would have to vote on it.  

    Let me say some encouraging words here.  If the members decide to vote on this motion instead of putting off to the next meeting, and it is voted down, he can present it again as a new main motion at another meeting.

The Parliamentarian

PS.  If you would like to learn more about motions, you might go to our book store, at ""  We have videos on this subject and a very helpful book in simplified language to help you understand this entire process.   Our book is Webster's New World Robert's Rules of ORder Simplified and Applied.

Eileen Piper wrote:

Dear Parliamentarian:


Our by-laws provide that amendments to the by-laws must be published in writing before our regularly scheduled meetings.  Assuming that this is the only requirement which speaks to the matter, and that the written publication requirement is met…


If a proposed by-law needs amending at the meeting, can it be done by motion, or is it necessary to adjourn and re-publish the proposed by-law before our next meeting.


Thanks –


Eileen Piper


Dear Eileen,

    A proposed bylaw amendment may be amended.  There are certain rules for doing so.  The proposed amendment must be within the scope of the notice.  For example,  let's say you a raising dues.  If your current dues are $20.00 and the bylaw proposes to raise them to $35.00.  An amendment between 20 and 35 would be in order.  An amendment under 20 and over 35 is not in order because it is not within the scope of the notice.

    I hope that helps.

The Parliamentarian


Holmes, Gail E wrote:

Can you help!

We have an organization with bylaws and policy and procedures - we are


governed by Roberts Rules.

Problems:  Leadership ignores email questions that they get from the

general body.  Sometimes it takes them 3 - 4 weeks to respond to

simple email questions while other questions they respond to right


The emails are being sent directly to the individual leader who is

accountable for the area that the question is being asked.

Also we have a President who keeps sending out letter and emails to

major supporters and her grammar is horrible. We have tried to tell

her time and time again - to have someone review the letters.

She also sets up meetings with major donors without consulting the

Exec Committee and tries to go it alone - this is against our


Our organization is Professional Organization of Women, Inc (POW).  

Website _www.powinc.org_ <file://>

Please help! We need some guidance or direction on how to deal with

Response time

President's Bad grammar - review

Individualistic attitude of leader


/Gail E. Holmes/


Dear  Gail,
    Are you a member of the executive committee or in a position to "be
heard?"  If you are not, how many membership meetings are there a year
where these issues could be addressed?  Do you have rules about
responding to inquiries?

The Parliamentarian



Holmes, Gail E wrote:

I am a charter member of the organization. Formerly President,
Secretary, Parliamentarian, and VP.  I also received a call from the
current Exec Committee members (Parliamentarian and Immediate Past
President) for help.

There are 12 general body meetings per year with the total membership.
the one in December is the annual Christmas party - given by the Board
and all of the general body and board members are invited.
12 leadership meetings with the Executive and committee chairs
The Executive and general body has 1 annual retreat

Our board has their own separate Board meetings
The Board has 1 annual retreat

Let me know if there is any additional info I can provide.


Dear Gail,
    From what you have told me, if I understand the way your organization is set up, the lack of communications can be handled at your general monthly meetings.  Officers should give monthly reports and allow the members to ask questions and then give answers.  This also holds true for committees and the board.  If members can't attend the monthly meetings then a newsletter should go out to all so that they can know what happened and the information conveyed at the meeting.
    Now about the president and letters.  The board need to take responsibility to reign her in and to set a policy to review her letters.  If the board doesn't do this, then the members can a set a policy concerning this.  If this isn't what you needed then let's talk on the phone.  We are in the state of Washington and on Pacific time.  You can e-mail to set the time for a telephone call.

The Parliamentarian


gailgarn PEACOCK wrote:

Thanks, The Parliamentarian. I bought the updated version. Now, if I may, I have another question.

I must have got wrong information in my past as I've thought that if, during elections, only one name was submitted for a position, by the nomination committee, and there are no nominations from the floor, the presiding officer could declare that person "your new president", for instance, by acclamation. In looking up the meaning of "acclamation" in the dictionary, this is not the proper use of this word. What is the proper way to do this without a vote or is a vote still necessary?




Dear Garnet,
    Here is the procedure for "acclamation."  It is a usual method of electing officers.  After the slate is presented, "a member must make a motion to take the vote by acclamation."  It needs a second.  It is not debatable.  If made and seconded the chair states, "It is moved and seconded to take the vote by acclamation.  All those in favor, say "aye".  All those opposed say "no."  If adopted the chair states, "The ayes have it and the motion is carried."  He then starts clapping and then congratulates the new officers.  If the motion is lost, the members will have to vote by a voice vote or some other means.  To me it is just easier for the presiding officer to present the slate of candidates and that one vote by voice.  "All those in favor of the slate of candidates,  say  "aye."  Those opposed say "no."  The ayes have and the slate is elected."  If you would like to see all this in action, plus the nominating and other election procedures, we have a very helpful video (DVD) called Nominations and Elections for sale on our web site  or look in the very back of your book to find information about it.

The Parliamentarian


Patricia A Bailey wrote:

Can the maker of a motion ask that their own motion be postponed to the

next meeting for consideration?

Thank you.


Yes.  The maker must make the motion to postpone to the next meeting.  It needs a second, is debatable, and must be voted on.  If a majority vote to postpone, then it is put off to the next meeting.

The Parliamentarian



Patricia A Bailey wrote:

Dear The Parliamentarian,

Thank you.

Can the motion be withdrawn if the decision is to not postpone?

Does it need a second etc.?

Thank you.


Dear Patricia,

    A motion can be withdrawn even if postponed.  The maker of the motion must rise and request permission to withdraw the motion.  It doesn't require a second.  Instead the presiding officer asks, "Is there any objection to withdrawing the motion?'  If there is no objection it is withdrawn. If there is an objection, the presiding officer places it to a vote of the assembly.

The Parliamentarian wrote:

Hello, I am currently the chair of an association of zoological registrars.  We are currently developing our new strategic plan, the process began in October, out next annual meeting isn't until the end of October 07.  This means that according to our Bylaws, we cannot propose amendments until that meeting and that requires a 2/3 majority vote of members in attendance.  However, at the end of our Bylaws it states that Robert's Rules of Order is the governing authority.


Here's my dilemma one of the proposed amendments is to allow for amendments to be approved by a 2/3 majority vote by mail or email as opposed to having to be at the annual meeting.  Can we default to Robert's Rules on this in order to be able to ask for amendments by mail or email that will allow the amendments to be voted on now as opposed to waiting?  It's a loop hole used in reverse but it's non-productive to develop a strategic plan and then wait 6 months to implement it because the current Bylaws were poorly written.


Any advice would be appreciated.




Dear Rae,
    Thank you for writing and being willing to find a correct answer to this problem.  If you default to Robert's Rules, it says that a motion to amend bylaws is a main motion and subject to the rules concerning main motions.  The following is a very important rule:
    "No main motion is in order that conflicts with the bylaws (or constitution) or rules of the organization or assembly, and to the extent that procedural rules applicable to the organization or assembly are prescribed by federal, state, or local law, no main motion is in order which conflicts with such rules."   This is from page 106 of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised10th edition.  So there is no way legally to amend your bylaws until your fall meeting.
    The problem of amending bylaws by mail or e-mail is that it does not allow for face to face discussion.  Your bylaws are the most important document that you have.  Since it is the foundation of all that your organization does, it is important to have the members present to discuss these important changes.

The Parliamentarian wrote:

We have a forum and a listserv where information can be provided for months and all kinds of discussion can pursue with a lengthy timeline.  We have 2 hours at the annual business meeting for things such as amendments.  How about the Suspension of Rules, could that be used to suspend the rule requiring the amendment be done by 2/3 majority vote at the annual business meeting.  At which point do you introduce the new procedure?




Dear Rae,
    You can't suspend the bylaw provision to adopt by a two thirds vote. You would have to amend the bylaws to have it taken by another vote.   Is there a bylaw committee in your organization that you can submit bylaw changes to?  Normally, this committee is given a place on the agenda to propose bylaw amendments.  What is the new procedure that you want to present?

The Parliamentarian

Abe Snobar wrote:


I have recently purchased your book "Webster’s New World – Robert’s Rules of Order".  I have an amendment to the by-law that I would like to change and that is very time sensitive.  I would like to have this by-law change be in effect before an AGM.  If the by-law amendment passes by the board, can we consider it in effect until the AGM or does every by-law amendment have to be passed by the membership as well before it can be considered in effect?

Please reply to my email as it is very important, and I am sorry if these types of questions aren't meant to be sent to this email.


Abe Snobar

Dear Abe,
    Thank you for writing and buying our book.  You have to follow the procedure set out in your bylaws that tells how to amend them. If it says the members must vote on any bylaw provisions then that is what has to be done. No exceptions.  Bylaws are never in effect until adopted by the body of members stated in each organizations bylaws.

The Parliamentarian


Mildred E. Hightower wrote:

Can a failed motion in Executive Board Meeting be brought up by the President in General Meeting?  If so, should the failed motion be for information only or could it be brought to the body to be voted on for ratification to over rule the Board?


Thanks for your help.




Dear Mildred
    A failed motion means it was never enacted. It can be brought up again and again until it is adopted.   So if the members want to bring it up at a general meeting they would do so under new business.  However, it would not be appropriate for the president to make the motion.  He should get someone who agrees with him to make the motion.  He also can't discuss it unless he leaves the chair.

The Parliamentarian

Michael Wilson wrote:

I am an executive board member of a statewide fire fighters union and I have been asked by one of our affiliate locals how they can address the chronic lack of a quorum at their regular meetings.  


I seem to recall that one method is to introduce language into the Constitution and Bi Laws that provides for issues before a regular meeting without a quorum to be postponed to either the next regular meeting or a special meeting and be acted upon at that meeting regardless of whether there is a quorum present.  There are notification requirements and the meeting is limited in that they are only able to address those issues that were presented at the first meeting and were communicated to the members between meetings.  


Are you aware of this procedure and if so, could you direct me to "model" language I could suggest.






Dear Mike,
    First, please tell me what a quorum is and then how many people usually show up?  Is the reason for lack of a quorum because of the shifts the fire fighters work?  Also what is your parliamentary authority?

The Parliamentarian

Michael Wilson wrote:


Essentially apathy and complacency is paralyzing this local.  They need a method to break out of this.  They will have to put forth any constitutional amendment before the body for two thirds approval.  They do this through mail in referendum ballots.




Dear Mike,

   Please tell me what the quorum number is and how many usually attend.


The Parliamentarian



Michael Wilson wrote:

198 person local 10% is a quorum and 2 or 3 usually besides the 6 member E-Board. Total less than 10.





Dear Michael,
    Yes, you do have a problem.  I was going to suggest that you lower your quorum number, but 10% is already low.  One of things parliamentary procedure insists on is that the rules don't tie the hands the organization to do business.  If the members do not want to attend meetings then perhaps it is time for structural change where the board does the business and makes the decisions.
    What I would recommend is that the board compose a letter stating the dire situation of the organization.  By lack of interest you are having a very ineffective union.  Do a poll of the members to see if days or times need to be changed.  Ask for suggestion to get the members to the meetings.  If none is coming forward then send out another letter stating a bylaw change that puts the government of the union into the hands of the board.  But explain to them that by doing this they are giving their right of self-government away which may in the future really affect them negatively.  In the mean time try to get the ten members who come regularly to bring another person.  That will make a quorum.  If you continually have no quorum then you have no choice but to do business.  The other possibility is to lower the quorum to 5% or find a way to mail out ballots on important issues.  In that case, however many ballots are returned determine the action of the assembly.  No quorum is needed for this kind of vote.  At least you will have tried.

The Parliamentarian

PS.    About your question and the procedure you describe, Robert's Rules has nothing about this.  Is your parliamentary authority "Attwood."  If it is let me know and I will do some research on it.







Pat Johnson wrote:

I read your article on-line regarding Arizona's new (Aug 2005) laws regarding absentee ballots.    You mention on your website that you might not charge for simple problems... so I am asking this question in hopes that it has a 'simple' answer.


 I am a member of an HOA, and am on the board.  I have been arguing with fellow board members regarding rules on write-ins on absentee ballots. We just sent out a 3rd attempt at a ballot for our annual meeting.. the first 2 were definitely bad.


I am questioning one thing on this 3rd ballot.  It states:  There are 3 open positions available on the Associations Board of Directors.  These positions will be elected at the Feb 17th, 2007 special meeting.  The following 4 candidates have expressed an interest in running for the Board.  Please vote for 3 candidates from the list below by placing an 'X' to the left of each name.


   ...  and listed below were the 4 nominees


I don't want to vote for 3 from this list.. but there is no way for me to write in a nominee... and the instructions definitely state 'from the list below'.  My question is... this does not allow for any write in names... is this a legal ballot?  Or is the law vague on this - based on your article online, I got that impression.


If you can't answer this, can you direct me to someone in the state who can answer this?


I really appreciate any guidance you might have.


Thank you,


Pat Johnson


Dear Pat,
    Yes, we can answer it.  If there is no place for a write in, just write the name on the ballot and put an "X" in front of the name.  If you don't put an "X" in front of the name then it won't be considered a vote.  The problem with all HOA boards is that they don't know basic parliamentary procedure.  If they did these over sites would not happen.  May I suggest that you go back to our web site and go to our book store.  There are very helpful videos and books on this subject.  By the way, we will be revising our book Robert's Rules of Order Simplified and Applied this year.  We are including a chapter for HOA's.
Thanks for writing.

The Parliamentarian