Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 3 March '96
Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 3 March '96
Answers to your Parliamentary Questions
"Dear Parlimentarian" is written by the author of Parliamentary Procedures Made Simple: The Basics, an 80 minute video that tells how to have better meetings.
At a recent meeting of a Provincial Association's Special General Meeting called to amend several Bylaws relating to the number of Board Members a member of the Association tried to amend the bylaw further by restricting the number of years a director may serve.
It was ruled that since the actual number of directors (Board members) was the nature of the amendments being presented not the length of term - the motion was out of order. The member accepted the decision - but insisted it was wrong. The member insisted that since the bylaw was before the assembly - any part could be amended.
Who was right.
The answer to your question depends on what was stated in the “notice” given to the members concerning the bylaws changes. If the notice said, “it is proposed to amend, Article __, Sec. ___, A. by striking out “6” (board members) and inserting “4”. Then that is all that can be amended. The chair would be correct. ROBERT’S RULES NEWLY REVISED, 1990 ed., page 586 states, “ The text of the substitute should then be given with the notice of the proposed amendment, or the notice should delineate each of the actual changes, and only changes within the scope of those contained in the substitute can be considered. Portions of the substitute which remain as in the existing version cannot be amended, since they involve areas for which no notice of proposed change was given.” For further explanation concerning amending bylaws, see pages 585 to 590.
If the notice said “these bylaw sections are up for amendment (which is a highly unusual procedure) then the member would be correct. So the answer to your question, is what did the notice sent to the membership concerning these bylaw changes state?
In our organization a founding member of the parent organization is trying to make extensive changes in our Chapter although she has no status in our chapter other than member. In February at the Executive Board meeting, her friend resigned as VP, too late for a 30 day notice required to have an election at the next membership meeting. Along with her resignation she dropped a "bomb" -- according to her, when she was President in 1987, the Bylaws we have been following all these years since were not officially adopted. She introduced a supposedly "clean" copy of these bylaws that actually contained many changes not recommended by the Bylaw committee in 1987. One of these changes takes a cap off the number of Executive members any particular sub-organization can have on the board. The only sub-organization affected by this change is one which the founding member is affiliated with. It would go from a maximum of 5 members to 12, with the nearest sub-org. having 3 members. The parent org. has a cap of 6.
At the next membership meeting, the founding member made a motion to have a meeting in May ( our next meeting was not scheduled till June -- by 1987 Bylaws) to vote on the Bylaw changes and have an election for the VP slot. Our Bylaws Committee has only met once and does not feel it is ready to have a vote on the bylaws, especially since so many new amendments have been introduced. When a vote was taken, the result was 10 - 10 (it was an election night and many of our regular members were absent) because I (as Treasurer and "keeper" of the membership lists) ruled that two members who had let their membership lapse and just renewed that night were ineligible to vote. Our Bylaws state that "any regular member two months or more delinquent in dues shall no longer be a regular member in good standing". The founding member overruled me and the President who was chairing the meeting and said they should be able to vote since the bylaws were silent on that issue. (We do have language that they have to be a member for 90 days to run for office).
Robert's Rules of Order (1990 ed) state that: "A member of a society who is in arrears in payment of his dues, but who has not been formally dropped from the membership rolls and is not under a disciplinary suspension, retains the full rights of a voting member and is legally entitled to vote except as the bylaws may otherwise provide". Were those two members entitled to vote? Shouldn't the ruling of the chair hold, rather than a member no matter who she may be?
My other question is on the authority of the bylaw committee itself. Can we as a committee disapprove of certain submitted bylaws or can we just rule as to whether they don't conflict with the bylaws of the parent org. and of the bylaws of our chapter? I am also Chair of the Bylaws committee and I wanted to have the Committee vote on whether to recommend or not the removal of the cap.
Since these changes are an extensive revision of the 1981 Bylaws, shouldn't the bylaw committee have time to go over them and decide ourselves when they should be voted on rather than have a motion by the membership force a vote before they are really out of committee?
Thank you for your help,
Coalition of Labor Union Women
Can you go back to the minutes of 1987 to see if anything was recorded about a bylaw revision being presented to the members? A special meeting can be called only if the bylaws provide for it. Even though a vote was never recorded in the minutes, the fact that your organization has been abiding by them for nine years gives them validity. One member can’t declare them null and void. You have every right to point this out to the membership. There are two books that can help you prove this point. The first is “Demeter’s Manual of Parliamentary Law and Procedure, Blue Book Edition,” p 243 states:
“The force of custom. Custom has the force of laws in voting procedure as in other areas, until it is ordered stopped by action of the body. To be adopted, motion to discontinue an established custom requires 2/3 vote without notice or a majority vote with notice.”
He then gives an example that could apply to your situation concerning bylaws. If you can’t find this book in your library, let me know and I will send you a copy of the page. Another helpful book is “Parliamentary Law” by Henry M. Robert. He addresses a question similar to your situation on page 440, question 79. If you can’t find a copy in your library let me know and I will send you a copy of that question.
Now your organization has been operating under the 1987 bylaws for NINE years!!!! that certainly establishes a custom, a precedence and tradition which in my opinion would be held up in a court of law. A presiding officer (in fact a resigning presiding officer) can’t just declare them null and void. If the bylaws were not voted on, someone should have pointed it out at the time and not waited NINE years. You and the members have every right to point this out. Remember those who speak with authority usually intimidate others. If you are in doubt about something, you can always appeal the decision of the chair. Become well informed about these matters yourself so that you can speak up for the rights of the membership.
Now about amending your bylaws: Since the 1987 bylaws are still enforce, you should be amending them according to the provisions provided in those bylaws for amendment.
About the vote to have a special meeting, many bylaws provide for this provision to call a special meeting, or for the members to vote to have a special meeting. Even if your bylaws don’t provide for that it is possible for the members to vote to have a special meeting to discuss certain issues. It is a good idea to have a special meeting to consider bylaw changes.
About the 10 to 10 vote (a tie) the motion fails -- did the presiding officer vote?
Concerning the members being ineligible to vote, do new members have the right to vote immediately? or do they have to wait for a period before they vote? What is the difference between “renewing” a membership and a “new” member?
Do your bylaws define what “ is a member in good standing” and what rights and duties the members have? Do your bylaws make a distinction between a member in good standing and someone who hasn’t paid her dues and then renews her membership by paying her dues? Not knowing what is in your bylaws, I would say that if a person pays her dues that gives her full privileges of membership. I would have to see your bylaws to know how to advise about the two members right to vote.
About the ruling of the chair, it stands until the membership either upholds it or overturns it. One member can’t do that. If a member is unhappy with the ruling of the chair, that member should make the motion to “appeal the decision of the chair”. It needs a second, and is debatable if the ruling it appeals is debatable. After debate, (it can be debated by all members) the chair puts the appeal to a vote, by saying, “Shall the decision of the chair be sustained? All those in favor of sustaining the decision of the chair say ‘aye’. (aye) Those opposed say ‘no’. (no) “ Then the chair announces the vote. “The ayes have it and the decision of the chair is sustained”, and announces what that does.” or “The noes have it and the decision of the chair is not sustained”, and announce what happens. When there is a question, let the membership decide.
Now, what to do next. At the special meeting called for the purpose of amending bylaws, you could report to the membership that the committee has not had time to carefully review the bylaws, and move to postpone them to another meeting. If the members vote in the affirmative that will give you more time to consider them. If the members vote against postponing, and want to vote on them at that meeting, you have every right to recommend that the members vote against the proposed changes.
Since the 1987 bylaws are in effect and not the 1981 bylaws, are the changes still an extensive revision? If they are, then move that these be consider a revision and sent back to the bylaw committee to present them in the correct form. The difference between amending bylaws is that only the amendments presented are under consideration, but in a revision the entire document is open for consideration. Both Robert and Demeter have comprehensive explanations about writing, revising and amending bylaws. I would recommend studying both parliamentary authorities for direction.
If I can be of further help, you can call me at 317-282-9845 .
I have a question regarding Constitutional Law.
At the University of North Texas, the Student Association(Student Government) has a Constitution, a set of By-Laws, and an Election Code. In the Constitution it is quoted under Article III, Section 3,
"The President of the Association will be elected in a University-wide election on a ticket with a Vice-President in the Spring of each year by a majority vote of those students voting. The President must have attained at least Junior standing at the time of his/her assuming office and neither be on academic nor on disciplinary probation."
The Election Code adds additional requirements to this under Chapter IV. Elections, Section 4.3,
"The qualifications for filling and filling these offices are as follows:
(a) President - a 2.75 UNT CGPA and must not be on academic or disciplinary probation. And must have been an assembly member for two long semesters or sat on the executive board for one long semester and can not have ever been removed from such a position due to grades or lack of attendance.
(b) Vice-President - A 2.5 UNT CGPA and must not be on academic or disciplinary probation. And must have been an assembly member for two long semesters, or sat on the executive board for one long semester; and can not have been ever removed from such a position due to grades or lack of attendence.
QUESTION: Can the Election Code add additional qualifications to the Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates? From my personal knowledge the Election Code can add restrictions as long as they do not conflict with the constitution. This would make the qualifications for BOTH candidates a 2.75 GPA, Junior standing, not be on academic or disciplinary probation, and either 2 long semesters in the assembly or one ling semester on the executive board.
Thank you for your help.
Does the Election Code state that whoever administers the election or determines the eligibility of those to be elected can add extra qualifications? Or do your bylaws or standing rules allow for your Election Code (Committee?) to add extra qualifications? It seems to me that before this could be done it would have to state somewhere in either the Bylaws or Election Code that this could be done. Does the Election Code provide for its own rules of being amended or the rules being suspended?
If a quorum is not present, but the members present choose to discuss issues that do not require any formal motions, is it necessary to record any part or all of the session and produce minutes for the next meeting?
Can you give me an example of the issues discussed that do not require “any formal motions”? Did the chair stay and preside? Did the secretary stay and take minutes? Was the meeting adjourned after all the discussion? Or was it called to order, announced that there was no quorum, and adjourned? Was anything discussed that might determine the outcome of business transacted at a future meeting? If you will answer these questions, then I can give you an answer.
I apologise for the vagueness of my question. Thank you for such a quick response. In answer to your questions, I offer the following chronology:
First, I should explain that this body is an Alcohol and Drug Program advisory board appointed by the County Board of Supervisors.
The chair was aware that there was no quorum but chose to convene the meeting to announce that there was no quorum and that no business on the agenda could be discussed; however, there were two invited speakers present who were on the agenda and out of courtesy to them showing up, allowed them to speak. Discussion of the topics/issues presented (these are the issues that I refered to in my first letter) followed the presentations, but none of this, in my opinion, would determine the outcome of future business. The presentations included a police commander of a local police department who educated the group on police procedures when dealing with pregnant crack abusing women, and the other presenter gave an overview of the local needle exchange program designed to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS. Following the presentations and discussions, a motion to adjourn was offered, seconded, and the ayes were unanimous. The secretary did record the proceedings in the usual manner (just in case).
I hope that I have been clear this time.
Thank you for answering my questions. This is what I would suggest in writing the minutes. Since the program was presented and then the meeting adjourned , if I were the secretary I would write them this way:
The regular meeting of (your organization’s name here) was called to order at (time ), at (place if it is not always the same) by the president. (Name of board members present, those absent) The secretary was present.
The president announced that there was no quorum and no business could be transacted. However, since the two invited speakers were present, and in courtesy to these speakers, the president introduced them and (speaker #1 ) spoke about (whatever his subject) and (speaker #2) spoke about (whatever his subject was). The meeting adjourned at (time).
If the president had adjourned the meeting, and then allowed the speakers to present their information. Then all the secretary would need to write is that the meeting was adjourned because there was no quorum. But since the president allowed the speakers to speak before adjourning then some mention of that should be in the minutes. This is my reasoning for doing it this way. Because a program is usually considered part of the agenda, and in a normal meeting where there was a quorum present, the secretary would mention that a program was presented and name the speaker and the subject of the program in the minutes. So in essence, even though, no motion was made or acted upon, part of the agenda was carried out and the absent members should know that this was done. Now other parliamentarians may not agree with this but I feel that the absent members should know that everyone did stay and hear the program. I believe most members who were absent would assume that the program also would be postponed to the next meeting just like the other business. Therefore some mention should be made about in the minutes.
I’d like to make another point. Do you have many meetings where you don’t have a quorum? If so you might want to think about lowering your quorum so that you can transact business.
Hope this helps.
Please share with Parlimentarian my sincere appreciation for her prompt response. Although the budget was adopted at the Sunday vote (following the Wednesday discussion), it is good to know what SHOULD have happened. While the budget did pass, but I don't believe everyone was totally satisfied. Several "abstained" rather than vote no since it was a standup vote on Sunday morning. Our moderator was doing what he thought was right. He shared with me yesterday (when I asked him to show me in Robert's why he did what he did) that since the motion was presented to accept the budget 'as presented' it could not be amended. He said this is the common practice of parliamentarians (though I'm not sure who he really talked to) and the way it COULD have been amended was to "divide the question." I honestly believe he meant well and was not trying to mislead the church. But I will know next time how to respond.
I'm going to seriously consider the video (and recommend our church buy one) and I've already checked out the web site. By the way, how revised are the "newly revised" Robert's Rules of Order? Hopefully I will see something on the we page sometime addressing this.
Even though the budget was moved to adopt "as presented", it still can be amended. Let's say it was amended. When it came to the final vote, the chair would repeat the motion this way: "The question is on the adoption of the budget as AMENDED."
In fact whenever a motion is amended, that is what the chair should say: "The question is on the adoption of the motion as amended to............" This then always makes it clear to the assembly what happened and what they are voting on.
The current edition of Robert's Rules was revised in 1990. I believe they are currently working on another revision to be published in the year 2000. I think they are planning on revising it every ten years.
If we can be of any further help, please let us know.
I had some Robert’s Rules questions about a situation which occurred at a meeting of a city board on which I sit.
The board deals with zoning-related variances, has 7 members, and requires a 5-vote super-majority in order to approve any variance (simple majority required for denial, postponement, adjournment, etc.).
This is what happened:
A motion was made, seconded, and voted upon, with the result being 4-3 in favor (not enough to pass). One of those who voted in the affirmative then began to make a substitute motion. A point of order was called, asking if that should be allowed, since it amounted to a reconsideration of the issue, which would require a motion to reconsider by a board member on the 'prevailing' side. The city attorney indicated that it was not clear who the 'prevailing' side was (i.e. the 4 vote simple majority, or the 3 vote opposition which blocked the super-majority). In any case, the motion, which was to grant a different variance than the requested one as specified in the agenda item, was allowed to be made and seconded. At that point, the city attorney stated that this request needed to be re-advertised (since is was different from the original request). Then, the maker of the new motion made a motion for postponement, which was seconded and approved.
My questions are:
Should the second motion have been allowed?
Can a motion be made to grant a request which conflicts with the request as stated in the agenda item?
What constitutes 'prevailing' side when a super-majority is required?
Is a motion for postponement (or any other motion) allowed after a previous motion has failed, and, if so, who can make it?
I certainly would appreciate any light you could shed on this.
P.S. - I found your web page interesting and informative.
Thank you for your comments about our Web page.
The following answer to your problem was answered by Harold Corbin, Registered Parliamentarian. If you still have questions, please let us know and we will try to answer them. If you would like to talk to Harold directly his E-Mail address is HC5642@aol.com. He does charge a fee for his opinions.
Robert McConnell Productions
A motion was made to approve a zoning variance, six votes required to pass. The vote was four in favor with three against. The motion failed. A member attempted to offer a substitute motion. A point of order was made that the motion would amount to a motion to reconsider the vote on the motion to approve the variance, but the member voted in favor which was not on the prevailing side. Since the motion failed, those voting against voted on the prevailing side.
Procedurally, a motion to reconsider could have been made by one who voted against the motion to approve the variance. In fact, the motion to offer a substitute motion was not, and probably not intended to be, a motion to reconsider. When legal counsel advised that a motion to vote on a different zoning variance would need to go back through the system and be advertised again to bring it to the council for another vote, there was no motion pending. With no motion pending, there could be no motion to postpone that which did not exist.
To recap: A motion to reconsider the vote on the original motion to approve a zoning variance would have been in order had it been offered by a member who voted against the motion. (The prevailing side.) Since the opinion of legal council was that a substitute motion to grant a different zoning variance could not be offered at that meeting, no motion was pending and the motion to postpone was meaningless and should have not been allowed.
At a recent church business meeting, our finance committee presented a proposed budget for the new year. One section stirred much debate. However, when a motion was made recommending an amendment to that section, the moderator ruled the motion out of order claiming that according to Robert's Rules the main motion (to adopt the proposed budget) could not be amended. I have searched Robert's thoroughly and can find no reference to a non-amendable recommendation from a committee. Am I missing something?
You are not missing anything. Since to “adopt the budget” is a main motion, it is amendable. When someone, or the committee chairman, makes a motion to adopt the budget, it becomes a main motion. According to Robert this is the lowest ranking motion. It can be postponed indefinitely, amended, sent to a committee, postponed to the next meeting, and laid on the table. When the budget is before the assembly, it can be amended in a variety of ways: 1. by striking out figures, by striking out and inserting figures, and by adding figures. It sounds to me that 1. either the chair does not understand the basics of parliamentary procedure or 2. he was against the proposed amendment. In a case like this, if members know the basics they can appeal the decision of the chair. This motion needs a second and in this case would be debatable. See ROBERT’S RULES pages 254 to 259.
Did the budget get adopted? Was it to everyone’s satisfaction? If it was adopted, and the members are still unhappy with it, they can moved to amend it after it was adopted. This motion is called to “AMEND SOMETHING PREVIOUSLY ADOPTED”. If you give previous notice, it only takes a majority vote to amend it. If you don’t give previous notice, it can be amended by a two- thirds vote. The budget can only be amended under this procedure if it hasn’t been carried out, or money spent. (The part that hasn’t been carried out or money spent, can be amended.) See ROBERT’S pages 299 to 303.
I am interested in the order for which meetings should be run in a Greek organization. Could you give me some information where to look for this information.
Shane G. Allen
Pi Rho Zeta
The Greek organizations I am familiar with use ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER as their parliamentary authority. He tells the order of a business meeting. If an organization wants a different order , it should have Rules of Order that outline the order of the business meeting. If your organization does not do this, then this is the general accepted order:
1. Meeting is called to order by the presiding officer with one rap of the gavel.
2. Any ceremonies (optional but many organizations have this. It might be the pledge to the flag or special ceremonies that your organization does.)
3. The reading and approval of minutes.
4. The reports of officers, boards, and standing committees (in that order) (Officers should report in the order they are listed in the bylaws, and so should standing committees report in the order listed in the bylaws.)
5. Special Committees report
6. Unfinished Business and General orders (don’t ask for them unless business is carried over from the previous meeting).
7. New Business
8. For the Good of the Order (optional, but some organizations have this. It gives the members the opportunity to share ideas about how to improve the organization without making a motion. It’s like giving suggestions for people to think about without acting on them at that time, but they could be brought up as motions at the next meeting. )
9. Announcements (this could also come under the Good of the Order if an organization has it)
I have received the video "Parliamentary Procedure made simple" at Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School. Our Club Business Procedure Team reviewed the video and picked up pointers from it.
The questions I have today: 1) is whether or not Call for the Orders of the Day, Parliamentary Inquiry, Point of Information should be entered into the Minutes of the meeting, 2) are there any times when a motion coming from a committee needs to be seconded.
In discussing your question with my registered unit, it was the general agreement of the members that all three should be in the minutes. The detail depends upon how these affect the decision of the assembly. For example, someone shared with me that many times a parliamentary inquiry is a nice way of making a point of order.
In talking with several other parliamentarians, it was decided that the key to what goes in the minutes is what action was taken and if we had to look back a year from now, or two years from now, or if our minutes were to be used in a court case, would what has been written in the minutes answer the questions our members have, or the court would have concerning the proceedings of the meeting.
A point that was not made in the booklet about minute taking (the booklet included the basic points that were on the tape, we have a more advanced tape coming out that will have a booklet for secretaries and minute taking to go with it) is that "points of order" and "appeals" and how the chair ruled must be in the minutes.
The only time a motion coming from a committee needs a second at a business meeting is if it is a committee of ONE. When a committee chairman gives a report and a motion at the end, it should have been voted on by the other committee members. I suppose if a chairman decided to take it upon himself or herself to make a motion without first discussing with the committee, then it would need a second. But if that happened then the committee chairman should not make a motion that says, "By direction of the committee, I move......" But should end the report and state to the chair, "Madam President, I move that we do such and such..." Then that motion would need a second.
I hope this helps. If you have further questions please write.
A specific question. At a recent AGM I presented a very a motion dealing with a very contentious issue. It was seconded and I spoke to it. Immediately, a second member stood and motioned to have my motion tabled to the next AGM. The chair recognized the motion and called for a seconder. It was seconded. The chair then said that the motion to table could not be debated and immediately called the question. It was carried and my motion was tabled. Was this legal?
It seems that it couldn't be, otherwise all motions could be dealt with this way. If it wasn't handled properly, what do I do.
Thanks for any help you can give me.
Was it legal ....yes and no. If Robert’s Rules is your authority, it was not. If Sturgis is your authority, then it was legal. The following comments are based on Robert’s Rules. First, the chair and the members can get away with anything that the membership allows. Second, the motion to lay on the table should only be used in a emergency situation or to set business aside temporarily. In this case the maker wanted to delay it to the next meeting or perhaps the maker of the motion wanted to “kill it”. His motion was out of order and the presiding officer should have asked the maker of the motion for what purpose he wanted to lay it on the table (see Robert’s p. 209 item # 5). If the maker said he wanted to delay it to the next meeting so more people could be there to discuss it, then the chair should have told the maker to make the motion to Postpone to the next meeting (which is a debatable motion) or, the chair should have repeated as the motion to Postpone to the next meeting. The motion to lay on the table as you have discovered is unbeatable and that is why Robert’s has such strict rules governing its presentation. On page 207 of the 1990 edition, Robert’s states, “By adopting the motion to Lay on the Table, a majority has the power to halt consideration of a question immediately without debate. Such action violates the rights of the minority and individual members if it is for any other purpose than the one stated in the first sentence of the section. (“the motion to Lay on the Table enables the assembly to lay the pending question aside temporarily when something of immediate urgency has arisen, ...”)In ordinary assemblies, the motion To Lay on the Table is out of order if the evident intent is to kill or avoid dealing with a measure. “
If the intent of the maker of the motion was to kill the motion that you made, the maker should have made the motion to Postpone Indefinitely which is also a debatable motion. I suggest that you get the current copy of Robert’s Rules Newly Revised, 1990 Ed. and become informed about this. A paper back copy sells for $15.00. Our company sells the book and we charge a $5.00 shipping fee. Our video PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE MADE SIMPLE: THE BASICS also has a section on this motion and the motion to Postpone Indefinitely.
The only way to stop this undemocratic maneuvering is to know more about the correct procedures in a meeting.
Now, what can you do? At the next meeting move to take the motion from the table under new business. I assume that is when you made your motion. This motion needs a second and it is not debatable. If the members do not vote to take it from the table at your next meeting, then you can make the original motion again at the following meeting.
Another important technique for you to learn, is to call for a “point of order” if the chair allows a member to make a motion that is out of order. When this happens you can rise and say “Point of Order”. The chair then should ask you to state your point. You would explain why a motion is out of order. Then the chair would rule on your point. If the chair agrees with you , the chair would say “Your point is well taken and the motion is out of order”. (He should explain to the maker of the motion what motion is in order.) If the chair does not agree with you, the chair would say “Your point is not well taken, and the motion is in order.” If you believe that the chair is mistaken, then you can appeal the chair’s decision. Someone must second your appeal and then the appeal is debatable if the motion is debatable. If you had appealed the decision of the chair on allowing the motion to “table to the next meeting” the appeal would not have been debatable. The chair must submit an appeal to the assembly for a decision. This done by taking a vote. If the assembly agreed with you, they would not have upheld his decision or not have sustain the decision of the chair. See Robert’s pages 247 to 259. (Our second video which is in production right now goes into these procedures)
It is important for every member of an organization to know parliamentary procedure because each member has the duty to see that the rules are enforced.
A deliberative body acted on a motion at one meeting, with the motion failing by a 4 to 2 vote. Are there any restrictions on who may bring a motion to reconsider the a matter at a later meeting? Does a motion to reconsider have to be brought by one who voted against the motion at the prior meeting?
Dear T Solka,
First, the motion to reconsider can only be made at the meeting the motion was decided -- either adopted or rejected -- and only those who voted on the prevailing side can made the motion to reconsider.
Since this motion was defeated, and you would like to make the motion again at a later meeting, this is called “renewing” the motion. Anyone can do this unless your organization has any rules prohibiting it. See Robert’s Rules of Order, 1990 Ed. pp. 330- 336 for more information about this procedure.
I have been charged with the task of defining the duties of a parliamentarian for use at our general meetings. Is there such a list available. If you have information in this regard I would appreciate it very much. Thank you.
Reg Johnston (firstname.lastname@example.org)
First, I’d like to acquaint you with an organization that has a booklet that will help you -- The National Association for Parliamentarians (NAP) . NAP has a booklet called, “The Spotlight is on you the PARLIAMENTARIAN”. The cost is $2.00 plus shipping and handling. You can get it by calling 816-833-3892 or sending a request for information to 213 South Main St., Independence, MO 64050-3850. It completely spells out the guidelines for a parliamentarian who is also a member of the organization he/she serves.
I would like to point out some things in considering this. First, this person should be someone who has a thorough knowledge of your organizations bylaws, standing rules and other documents that govern your organization. It should be someone who is well versed in your parliamentary authority (Robert’s Rules, Demeter, Sturgis, etc.). It should be someone who can be impartial and helpful to all the members not just the governing body. And, the person must remember that they never replace the position of the presiding officer -- in other words, if the chair does not follow the advice of the parliamentarian that is the chair’s prerogative. If members are unhappy with the way the chair conducts the meeting or makes a decision, they can call a “point of order”, and can “appeal “ the decision of the chair.
Robert’s says this in the 1990 Ed. about a member who serves as parliamentarian: “ A member of an assembly who acts as its parliamentarian has the same duty as the presiding officer to maintain a position of impartiality, and therefore does not vote on any question except in the case of a ballot vote. He does not cast a deciding vote, even if his vote would affect the result, since that would interfere with the chair’s prerogative in doing so. If a member feels that he cannot properly forego his right to vote in order to serve as parliamentarian, he should not accept that position.” p. 458.
I would also like to point out that if an organization has a parliamentarian the members must be alert not to become lazy in their knowledge of parliamentary procedures or to look to that person for all the answers. All of us make mistakes. It is also the duty of the presiding officer to be informed and well versed in procedures because the chair makes the ruling of the assembly. The chair can consult with the parliamentarian but the chair still makes the ruling.
Again, I strongly suggest that you purchase the NAP booklet because it has many helpful guidelines on this subject written in very simple language.
I am a member of a local dog club in Denver and have a few queries that I am sure you could help me with. I was voted to be part of the Nominating Committee for the upcoming Board & Officers for the year 1996/1997.
Our club split many years ago as there were board members who wanted to maintain control of the club. There is a husband and wife members of both clubs, however due to events taking place (some of which 6 years ago) have caused a couple of members to be bias and therefore are not willing to agree with, or vote this couple for any position within the board, nor do they wish them to be members of our club.
Our current secretary suddenly stopped coming to meetings 4 months ago and would not return any messages from any of the members. It has since then been determined by our president (after talking with the secretary) that the other two members of the nominating committee talked her into staying on as secretary for another year and she agreed at that time.
On receiving a call from the Nominating Committee Chairman (there being a committee chairman, two members (including myself) and two alternates in the committee) asking who I thought we should recommend for the position of secretary, I recommended the wife of this couple. I was told that this would be a conflict of interest as her husband is running for president for the "other" club who are in direct competition with us for members. I was also told the same thing from the other committee member. Firstly, shouldn't my nomination be considered? And secondly, I feel no individual can make this decision on behalf of our club, especially a decision based on personal feeling. I was further informed by our vice president that because this couple are members of the "other" club all she could see is SABOTAGE. Rather strong words! I am absolutely outraged at their unreasonable decisions and am in the process of writing a strong letter to voice my opinion to the Board and will bring this subject up at the regular meeting in April. I just finished talking to the other committee member to ask if we had in fact heard from the secretary and she had not. However, the president of the club did talk to the secretary and she WILL NOT hold office for another year. I am absolutely disgusted at the outcome of this, especially from grown women! I would very much value any advice you can give me and I apologize for such a long note.
“Blessed are the peacemakers”.....May I suggest some “peacemaking”. It is matters like these that destroy an organization and prevent it from fulfilling the purpose for which it was originally created. In times and circumstances like this, some one needs to keep a level head, and I’m sure you are the one to do it!
“Come let us reason together.”....
A nominating committee’s purpose is to bring forward the best candidates, and those willing to serve. If there was no nominating committee and the only procedure was to nominate from the floor, members could be elected and then not willing to serve. Then the club would have to repeat the process. A nominating committee saves time.
First, may I suggest that when the committee meets, it looks at the duties of the officers it is trying to fill (this should be in the club’s bylaws or standing rules), and then match from the membership list those who have the qualifications to fill these offices. (This approach then focuses on the qualifications of people instead of personality or favoritism. And nominees should be selected for their abilities and not because they are well liked, of course that is helpful too .) The committee should vote on which member should be nominated to fill the office ( a majority vote determines who selected). Then the nominee should be called to see, if he is elected ,will he be able to serve? When the nominating committee contacts the member, the committee should inform him what is required if he is elected to the office. Then the member can make a wise decision about whether to be the nominee. If that person declines, then the committee would nominate someone else.
Second, if you make a motion to nominate this woman, and the committee votes against it, you can nominate this person when the chair opens nominations from the floor. (I hope your club realizes that the nominating committee is bringing forward a set of names for the club to consider, but anyone can also nominate from the floor, unless your bylaws state differently.)
I recommend you read your bylaws carefully on this subject and your parliamentary authority. If Robert’s is your authority, he has an entire chapter devoted to nominations and elections. It would be helpful for you, the committee, and the president to be familiar with this chapter.
About writing a letter.....may I suggest, instead of outrage, calmness. The way to restore order and unity to your club is to remain calm. Reason with your members, find a way to resolve this. Is the woman you want to nominate an active member in the club? Point out the good that she is doing for your club. Perhaps its time to find a way to co-operate with the other club on projects instead of seeing them as enemies.
I realize that these ideas might be consider heresy by some members but if you present it in the right way -- taking personal feelings out of it and looking objectively at the situation -- there is a way to solve these problems.
Here is something to consider , if bylaws are written to promote rotation in office and full membership participation in the business affairs of the club, then no one group or individual can dominate and control the club.
I find that there is one surefire way to create a dictatorship in an organization, and that is for members to relinquish their rights to others and to “let George do it!” If members are each willing to serve, to co-operate with other members, to follow democratic procedures in meetings, and to support majority rule even though they may not agree with the decision, a club will stay intact and reason will prevail.
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