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Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 38 April '99

Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 38  April '99
Answers to your Parliamentary Questions
drvideo@comcast.net


"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.
 


Dear Parliamentarian:

 

I am a faculty member at a university and am responsible for writing the minutes of several committees' meetings. Does Robert's Rules of Order offer any guidance about what should be said in the minutes? For example, someone stated that in the minutes you shouldn't cite who made a motion or who seconded the motion--only that the motion was offered and seconded. Do you know of a resource for information on the "record keeping" for committees if Robert's Rules doesn't address that?  Thank you for any information/assistance you can provide.

 

Kathy Treole

Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders   
East Carolina University
Greenville, North Carolina
treolek@mail.ecu.edu

 

Dear Kathy,

If you will go on our WEB Site <http://parli.com, under the internet newsletters, I believe it is August 1996 is free information about minutes. All that you need to know. Also our new book ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER SIMPLIFIED AND APPLIED, has a lot of information about minutes. You buy it here or hopefully at your local bookstore, for $8.95. (If you buy it from us we have to charge $5.00 more for shipping & handling).

Now to answer your question directly, the name of the maker of the motion is recorded in the minutes but not the name of the seconder.

In keeping recordes for committees, keep a record of the important information that can be passed to the next chairman to help understand the work of the committee. Any official reports given should be included in a file.

The Parliamentarian

 

Deaar Parliamentarian:

 

Please forgive me for my ignorance. I am looking for "free" advice. If I've clicked on the wrong link, let me know.

My question is:

Our city commission is run by Robert's Rules of Order. Do the citizens that attend constitute "members of the assembly"? Can we be limited to time limits when addressing our elected officials? I'd appreciate it if you could steer me to the right place to get these answers. I'm not interested in paying for advice. I thank you in advance.

B. Rassie

 

Dear B. Rassie,

Since your commission has "elected" official, they are considered the members of the assembly -- not the people visiting the meeting. Usually those attending the meeting are given an opportunity to give information to the elected members and to try to persuade them to vote a certian way, but the elected officials decided how they are going to vote. Just like in Congress.

Yes, the time element you speak may be limited and the commission has every right to limit the time you speak. They have a right to set the rules of their own body unless the state legislature has set other rules by passing laws concerning open meetings. If you have an open meeting law, you need to get it and see what rules govern these meetings. They take precedence over Robert's Rules.

According to Robert's Rules, members of the assembly may speak ten minutes to each motion -- that is if they don't have any other rules governing the debate.

Remember in a "representative" democracy we elect people to represent us. So we are giving these elected officials our rights to make decisions for us.

Robert McConnell Productions

 

Dear Parliamentarian:

I have two quick questions, if you will:

1. Quorum - our quorum is 1/3+1. The committee total is 8.
8 divided by 3 = 2.6.  Do I round UP and add one?

ANSWER: Anything more than "half" is considered the next number up. Any thing below is considered with the number. So the answer is 4.

Conversely, in another situation, if that number were, say, 2.4, would    I use 2.0 + 1?

ANSWER: Is 3.

 

2. Approval of minutes. I had a situation where the members present at the current meeting were approving the minutes from a meeting at which THEY WERE NOT PRESENT? I would have thought they could not approve them, that at least I needed a quorum of those who actually attended the meeting.

ANSWER: Only those members present at the meeting who were present at the previous meeting can approve the minutes. If no one was present at the previous meeting then a committee of those present at the previous meeting should be appointed to approve the minutes.

We also want you to know that we will be moving our business in early May to Gig Harbor. We give workshops or seminars on parliamentary procedure. We also train officers and work with organizations on bylaws.

If your organization would like something like this, e-mail us back and when we get settled we will contact you.

Please mail me information on the new book, etc. (Thank you!)

Brenda Campbell
Assistant to the Director
CHILDHAVEN
316 Broadway
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 624--6477 Ext. 18

We will send you the information requested.

 

The Parliamentarian

 

Dear Parliamentarian:

 

I have a problem I need help with.

Our national organization has Bylaws which state the Board of Directors may develop Bylaw amendments and then submit them to the annual meeting for ratification. The Bylaws are silent in regard to any authority of the annual meeting delegates to amend the Bylaws.

We have been told (by the Board) that the membership has no authority to change the bylaws so my questions are these.

Under these circumstances, how can our membership amend the Bylaws?

Or does Robert's Rules already give an annual meeting that authority?

Would a "Revision" be appropriate in this instance?

As you can see, we are in huge "Catch 22" and need expert help.

James Edwards, D.C.

 

Dear James,

Send me the exact quote from your bylaws about who can proposed amendments. I can then answer you better.

The Parliamentarian:

 

Dear Parliamentarian,

Just finished reading your newsletter article on revising by-laws and use of a committee. everything seemed reasonable except the statements that the committee will present the revisions, item by item, outlining the changes. The membership will discuss, amend and or accept the changes to the item BY A MAJORITY VOTE. It then says after all changes have been discussed, amended, etc., the total revised document will be voted on and accepted by a 2/3 vote. It was my understanding that all by-law amendments, whether done by a special committee before presenting the membership, or just introducing by proper notice and a motion, would require 2/3 vote to enact the change to each item.

If you allow acceptance of individual items by majority and then require 2/3 to accept the complete revised by-law and it is defeated, then all the changes accepted by majority are not effective. This could easily happen. Did I misunderstand the context or is there and error? wouldn't all amendments have to be accepted by 2/3? If not, previous wording would prevail. That way, at the end, no vote would be needed because all revised items have either been accepted or rejected. As long as your commenting on this. We are revising and amending our present by-laws. The revisions are prompted by changes in the legislation that governs our by-laws and hence we must adjust the wording of some items to be in line with the ACT. At the same time our committee is making suggestions to changes in various items. We will be putting this to our executive for their final approval after proper notification at the previous meeting. We want the items we are amending to be accepted by a majority vote of those present. Our by-laws state that amendments require a 2/3 vote and proper notification. Our by-laws also refer to Roberts as governance when not covered within our by-laws. We also have a lead item that states any Item can be suspended by a 2/3 vote. SO? How do we get these items passed by a straight majority?

Also, I had previously ordered the $5.00 booklet on amending by-laws. How do I get one? Thanks for your help.

Paul Crawford
paulc6@hotmail.com

 

Dear Paul,

First, let’s understand what a revision is:

It is a brand new document. I may include many of the same information as the current bylaws, but it is still a new document. When making the motion to adopt the revision, this is considered the motion to amend by "striking out" the current bylaws and inserting the revision. The current bylaws are not being considered at all. If the revision fails then the current document is still intact with no changes.

Since a revision is a main motion, it can be amended by a majority vote. But because it is a bylaws revision it must be adopted in it final form by a two thirds vote. This is the same procedure for any motion with a variable that requires a two thirds vote. For example, the motion to limit debate takes a two thirds vote. But this motion is amendable. The proposed amendment only takes a majority vote to adopt. But after it is amended, it must be adopted by a two thirds vote.

Because your bylaws state that a two thirds vote and previous notice is required then you must do that. It sounds to me like your really are proposing individual amendments and not a revision. A letter needs to be sent to the membership, stating what each proposed amendment change is. At the meeting each bylaw needs to be presented and explained, and then the members vote on it and it immediately takes effect.

The reason in a revision that you don’t adopt them one at a time is because they immediatley go into effect and what if article I in the revision is very different from article I in the current bylaws. You could end up having a mess. That is why a revision is considered on it own, amended on its own and then finally decided at the end if that is what the members want to replace the entire document.

It is a lot of work anytime an organization is amending or revising the bylaws.

If there is concern that members are going to reject the changes, then spend more time educating the members about why they need to change. The reason that bylaws take a two thirds vote is to protect the minority and absent members after this has been adopted. Robert’s says that governing documents should be harder to change.

The Parliamentarian

 

Dear Parliamentarian:

I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW HOW CAN THE BODY CHANGE A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT THAT WAS PASSED BY 23 VOTE BUT LATER FOUND TO BE IN CONFLICT WITH OUR NATIONAL CONTRACT. IT HAS TO DEAL WITH A EXECUTIVE BOARD POSTION THAT THE UNION MEMBER WAS VOTED IN FOR A 3 YEAR TERM. HOWEVER THE CRAFT OR GROUP OF THE BODY WAS COMBINED INTO ANOTHER CRAFT OR BODY. CAN THIS BE AMENDED OR DO WE HAVE TO WAIT AND JUST NOT INCLUDE THIS POSTION IN THE NEXT ELECTION.

Calreeve@aol.com

 

Dear Cal,

Robert's Rules of Order (Newly Revised, 1990 ed.) states that if a motion or in this case a bylaw admendment is adopted that conflicts with a higher ranking governing document, in this case, your contract, is null and void. That should be stated to the membership and tell them the bylaw is no longer in effect. If they don't understand this, then rescind it.

The Parliamentarian:

 

Dear Parliamentarian:

I need clarification. If a quorum is not present, does the executive committee conduct the business in absence of the quorum? And does it have to be later ratified by the body?

 Sadie

 

Dear Sadie,

Normally the body that is the executive committee would have to ratify any action taken without a quorum. Unless it is very, very urgent never conduct business without a quorum because it is not valid until it is adopted when a quorum is present.

The Parliamentarian

 

Dear Parliamentarian:

How does one submit questions e-mail to you for answer?  I would like a free brochure.  My question is this:  Our executive board consists of 11 members who vote on different issues. At last month's meeting I requested the chair of the board tell the body who voted to send members of the body on a "junket" at the cost to our society. he refused. I maintain that these e-board members are elected to the position and are spending our monies so the entire membership has a right to know who voted and what way? Do you agree ?

 N Morkeski

 

Dear N Morkeski,

Please tell me what kind of an organization this is -- that might make a difference about my answer.

Let me say this, normally when a vote is taken it is by voice and you can't tell and certainly don't write down who voted which way unless the vote is taken by roll call. According to Robert's Rules no one has to tell how they voted.

Perhaps you need to look at your bylaws to see how much power is given to the board and amend the bylaws so that they can't spend the organizations money in the way they are doing it. Robert's Rules states that if the bylaws do not give a specific right to the board then the members can rescind the action of the board.

The Parliamentarian

 

Dear Parliamentarian:

Help!!!!!!!!

I am currently trying to get involved in my daughters schools pto. I have investigated and found that they have been operating without any bylaws at all. The current president of the organization is running things how she sees fit and allowing the small amount of people that show up at the meeting to give their opinion and then she makes her own decisions. I am trying to find out if there are any laws that govern pto organizations. The president has written a set of bylaws herself and she is going to try to adopt them at the next meeting. At this time the only thing that I see as possible is to have a large body of people present and to stop her. Is it an automatic rule to run a meeting under Robert's Rules of Order if there are no other means? Any input that you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

Debbie

 

Dear Debbie,

Why don't you go on our WEb Site <http://parli.com> and look on the blue side bar and click on"bylaws". Print it off and have it to use at the meeting. Then point out the inadequacies in the bylaws and make a motion to refer it to a committee to work on. That will at least give a body of people to have input on the bylaws and perhaps come up with some decent bylaws.

Have you check to see if any bylaws have ever been filed with the national organization or some school official? If they haven't then it only takes a majority vote to adopt. I would really come prepared with a group of people to support referring it to a committee. And include in the motion who you want to serve on the committee and who you want to be the chairman.

The Parliamentarian

 

Dear Parliamentarian:

Could you please provide me with information concerning what information should be in the nominating committees' report? When should it be presented to the body? (meeting before the election).

What should be in the nominating committee's report is only the nominations for office. Nominations and elections usually come before unfinished business under "special orders". OUr new book ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER SIMPLIFIED AND APPLIED has an entire chapter on nominations and elections. The cost is only $8.95. Check your local bookstore or you can buy it at the book store on our website: <http://parli.com>.

The Parliamentarian

 

Dear Parliamentarian:

If someone abstains during a vote, and no one votes "nay" is the vote considered unanimous? This has come up in a student council meeting regarding the changing of by-laws where a unanimous vote was required. Also no previous notice was given to any member of the council prior to the meeting to amend the by-laws, even though this is not stated as necessary in the current by-laws we understand that it is necessary according to Robert's Rules.

A timely response would be most appreciated. Thank you.

Sean Johnston
Junior Rep
International School Eastern Seaboard

 

Dear Sean,

An abstention means I’m not voting. So in this case, since there were no "noes", it was an unanimous vote.

Your bylaws take precedence over Robert’s Rules. I would recommend that you amend your bylaws to say that any amendments must have previous notice and a two thirds vote. This is more democratic. I’m sure the writers thought that by having the vote to be unanimous with no previous notice protected the absent members.

The Parliamentarian

 

Dear Parliamentarian::

thanks for your response and referral it was helpful. you hi-lighted revisions. what is the difference in methods to handle? we may have revisions and amendments in that revisions were needed this year to conform to the latest legislation and Govt act that governs our by-laws. so, how do we handle if we are doing both at the same time???

thanks

paulc6@hotmail.com

 

Dear Paul,

You either have a revision or you have amendments. You can't have both. A revision is a complete overhaul of the bylaws. How many changes do you have to make? Manytimes you have many admendments without it being a revision. Give me some ideas and I help you better.

The Parliamentarian

 

Dear Parliamentarian

I have a parliamentary procedures competition coming up next week; I am the advisor. I am worried that I may have caused a trap for my students. In our scripted meeting we plan on having a member make a motion, and another member objects to cosideration (which doesn't pass), then tries to lay it on the table (ruled out of order), appeal the ruling of out of order, (chairs ruling is sustained). At the end of this the original maker of the motion asks and receives permission to withdraw the motion. My worry--I have told the secretary that since the motion is withdrawn that none of the motions:object to consideration, lay on table, appeal the decision of the chair is to be put in the minutes.

Is this right? I hope you have the time to give me a short answer. I am worried that I am messing up all my kids hard work. Thank you!

Cindy Paulson

 

Dear Cindy,

There are exceptions to any rule in Robert's. Look at the footnote on page 459 in Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 1990 edition. This is one of those exceptions. Since there is a point of order and an appeal of the decision of the chair those must be in the minutes. And you can't have to "lay on the table" without something to lay on the table, so it is my opinion that I would have the main motion that was made, the "lay on the table" motion which was rule out of order by the chair and the appeal and how it was decided. Then there needs to be some reference as to how the motion was disposed of, and that would be that it was withdrawn. See pages 458 to 461 about this in the official book Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 1990 edition.

The Parliamentarian

Copyright 1999 Robert McConnell Productions, all rights reserved.