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Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 60 Feb. 2001

Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 60  Feb. 2001
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.

Dear Parliamentarian:

In my reading, the only places where I find references to the use of a gavel
are in opening and adjourning a session. Are there any other times when it is appropriate to use a gavel? What about after a vote in announcing whether
a motion has passed? Are there any considerations in deciding whether or not
to use one?



Dear GHMoffat,

The only times that the gavel is used is to call a meeting to order, or when an assembly has become disorderly, to recess, and to adjourn. It should not be used when a motion is adopted. I know that FFA and some other groups do it, but it is not correct.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

I have acquired the position of President of our Parent Teacher Organization. I am completely new to the board, as are most of the members. I need to know what things need to be motioned and seconded. Are there things that my board can vote on that is not presented to the general assembly for its vote too. My board meets once a month, we have four general meetings a year. All are invited to come to the board meetings. Any suggestions?


Dear Kathy,

Here is a basic principle: Any thing that the board members want to do or the members at the meeting want to do, needs to be phrased as a main motion. "I move that we have a bake sale on Saturday, April 15th, from 10 am to 5pm at the gym, for our fund raising project." It needs a second, it is debatable and the members must vote on it.

Now in board meetings, with less than 12 members, the rules are less formal. One thing is that motions do not need a second.

May I suggest that you get our very simple book Webster's New World, Robert's Rules of Order Simplified and Applied. It costs only $8.95. Another item that would be helpful to your organization and your school is our video Parliamentary Procedure Made Simple; The Basics. These two would teach you the things that you need to know to have effective, democratic and successful meetings. The book can be bought at your local book store. The video can only be purchase through our company (the book can too.)

Thanks for the suggestion about having a search on the page. We will look into to it.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

I am using Phil Blythe's Towing screen name with permission to ask you this question. We have an elected official as a member of our organizations Business Directors. I am sure that when the time comes for them to be re-elected that they will expect the Club to give their support. I was under the impression that once an elected official was in office that they should not serve on a board because it is a conflict of interest. Am I correct, if not please advise.


Dear KB,

Please explain to me more clearly the problem. Are you asking whether an elected official can serve on your board of directors for "Business Directors"? And are you also wondering if he can ask for a Club endorsement? (Either monetary support or endorsement to say the Business Directors club is supporting his election?) Be more specific please.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

We are experiencing numerous problems in our Association. No order in any of the meetings - and it goes on and on. Our By-laws call for annual election of Board Members by the Nominating Committee procedure; however, it is done by mailing ballots to all shareholders and the ballots are turned in at the beginning of the Annual Meeting. Therefore, there is no way for anyone to make nominations from the floor because ballots have already been turned in and are being counted as the meeting is going on. In addition, no space is on the ballot for a write-in candidate. When questioned about this procedure, our President states that this "was changed." We find no Amendment to the By-Laws which would support this claim.

This is just one of many, many ongoing problems that have been taking place over recent years. If things are not going the way the President or the majority of the Board want, they can always claim State law to "get their way."

Many of us have become very frustrated and it is becoming increasingly difficult to get anyone who has a desire to run for the Board who would be doing so for the good of the membership. It is strictly a "power trip" for most of the candidates and current members.

Can you give suggestions as to what we can do? Many of the shareholders are elderly (this is an over-55 community) and resent the so-called newcomers trying to improve things for the good of all. We feel like we are batting our heads against brick walls all of the time.  Thanks for any advice you can lend.


Dear Charetta,

Thanks for writing. I certainly can empathize with your problem. I assume that you have read the section about Homeowners on page. If not, go to WEB Site <> and you will see how we got a tyrannical board out of power.

The first thing that you need to do is educate yourself and anyone else who wants to change things. Find out what the state law says about Homeowners associations. There is no better way to defeat this manipulation but by truth.

If the bylaws have been changed, they have to be filed with the secretary of state if your association is incorporated which it no doubt is. The bylaws that they have on file are considered the most recent bylaws of the organization. So if it isn't changed there, then they can't say it has been changed. Your weapon is self education. Then you need to start educating the other members.

Also go to board meetings. They are to be open. You probably won't be able to speak at them, but you will at least get to hear and see what is going on. Then you can do something about it. Just your presence may shake things up a little.  When you want to communicate with the board do it in writing. Support your facts with state laws, the governing documents and other pertinent information, and even Robert's Rules of Order. This will probably take some time but you can win by persistent. And most of all be sure that you keep calm, be composed, and be polite. Always be civil even if they aren't. Your example will be a light in the community and others will look to you for guidance and leadership. You are not helpless. Truth and honesty are always the victor!

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

A board member is planning to rescind a motion. On page 138 in your Robert's Rules of Order, Simplified and Applied it states: - Negative vote only can be reconsidered under the "Rescind and Amend Somthing Previously Adopted."  Can you clarify that statement as it relates to a motion to rescind? What are the special rules as they apply to only the rescinding of a motion?

Thanks, Robert Carpenter

Dear Robert

To answer the question about the negative vote can be reconsidered. This means if the motion to rescind is voted down, someone who voted "no" can make the motion to reconsider the vote.

The basic things that you need to know is that it is made when no other business is pending. It is an incidental main motion. It needs a second and is debatable. Something can't be rescinded if it has already been carried out and can't be undone. If no previous notice has been given, then it takes a two thirds vote or a vote of the entire membership of the board to adopt. Hope that helps.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

It seems that at each meeting of this board a new question arises. The latest question regards standing rules. Some members feel that there are no need for standing roles. The reason that standing rules came up, was because I as recording secretary ask for the previous secretary's notes and folders.  None are available. I mentioned that according to standing rules, under Robert's Rules of Order, the Secretary is responsible for keeping certain records and passing on to his successor these records. A remark was made that this is not junior high school and that we were already operating under Robert's Rules of Order. I know in revised edition of Robert's Rules of Order standing rules are mentioned. I would like to be able to explain to the board how necessary to standing rules are. Please advise where I can get the best information, and if you have a parliamentary newsletter on this subject.  Thanking you, in advance.

Dear Barney,

It's not a standing rule that the previous secretary give you the minutes, notes and folders, it is an absolute rule of parliamentary procedure. Depending on your organization, it may be mandated by state law.

The Secretary is responsible for keeping all the records of the organization. This should be handed to each new secretary. Do you have our book, Webster's New

World, Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised? We have a chapter about officers

and it includes what the Secretary is to be responsible for. This is a serious matter and you have a right to keep asking about this until it is handed over. However, notes of the Secretary may not be kept but all things that which are certainly recorded in the minutes.

Yes, there is an article on the WEB about Standing Rules. Go to Parliamentary Newsletter. It's one of the articles from last year. I did a series on governing documents which includes the corporate charter, rules of order, and standing rules. You probably would find them all interesting and helpful.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

At a meeting we had, a vote was taken by raising hands. The tellers counted 42 yes, and 15 no, and a 3/4 majority was required for a bylaw change. By that count the bylaw 2 failed, but the President counted only 10 no's and the tellers didn't correct him before the adjournment of the meeting. Is it too late to go back? Thanks. Ken.

Dear Ken,

Did the Tellers give a report? Tell me how the procedure went? Did the president just announce the vote and declare the bylaw adopted? Please tell me more. Are you a teller? Why didn't the tellers' say something? Do the teller's have a written report?

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

Thanks for your quick response.  I am not a teller. The head teller walked up to the podium to tell the President what her committee had counted. The President had also counted the hands. The President said to the teller: I counted 42 yes and 10 no, so the motion carries. The teller, mistakenly thinking that it was the 42 yes votes that automatically carried the motion,regardless of the noes, said OK. She didn't realize that the 15 no votes caused the motion to be defeated. The President then announced that the motion carried. The teller walked away, but she was a bit unsure herself, so she conferred with her committee and they discussed it, recomputed it, etc. By the time she realized the error, she went to the front of the meeting just after the President had adjourned the meeting. She said wait, wait, but everyone seemed to want to leave, so people left and the tellers and the President discussed it. I think the President felt it was too late to do anything about it.

Another impropriety was that the President raised his hand in support of the motion when hands were being counted. I think that's wrong. My understanding is that he's supposed to wait until all votes are counted to determine whether his vote is important to the outcome.

But again, I think it's all too late to do anything about, no?  I happened to vote against the motion. Isn't a rescind motion the only way to go back? And of course, even with previous notice of this motion before the meeting, it may be hard to get a simple majority given that 70+ percent voted in favor of the original motion.

Thanks. Ken.

Dear Ken,

The better way to handle this is to raise a point of order about how the vote was handled concerning this bylaw. Once the bylaw has been announced "adopted" it becomes part of the bylaw. If you make a motion to rescind, you are admitting that they bylaw has been adopted and then you have to go through the entire process of amending the bylaws by "striking out" this provision which takes previous notice and a three quarters vote which you are not going to get. In Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised 10th ed., it states that members can raise a point of order after the fact if the mistake was of a continuing nature. This is of a continuing nature because the Teller's committee has a record of the vote that was taken and they were not allowed to give before the meeting adjourned.

So what you need to do is: at the beginning of the next meeting raise a point of order and state that it is your opinion that the bylaw was not adopted as the chair declared because the Tellers' committee count showed that it did not receive a three fours vote. You also need to point out that the vote was not handled correctly. Since a bylaw vote needs to be counted, it should have been either taken by ballot or by a rising vote. A show of hands is not sufficient. Because it was a visual vote the chair should not have voted unless it was to make or break or three quarters vote. Because the Tellers' Committee was more than one person counting, its vote should be taken as the right count and not the Chairman's vote. The other thing that was done incorrectly was the way the Teller's count was handled. The tellers should have submitted a written report with the total number who voted, then the number it takes to get a three quarters majority, how many voted for and how many voted against. Then the Tellers' chairman reads that report to the members. Then the Chairman gives it to the President who then reads it again, and announces the vote.

If the chair does not accept your point of order, then you and another member can appeal from the decision of the chair. The main thing that you are doing is letting the members decide which vote counted is valid -- the teller's committee or the chair's announcement of the vote?

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:


With respect to boards and committees can a Chairman vote on the question? Is it proper for the Chairman to enter into the debate on an issue or is it better for him or her to remain neutral?

Brian Holm

Dear Brian,

In regards to Committee Chairman. Yes, they can vote on a question. A chairman is to take a very active part in the committee. He is responsible for setting the meetings, notifying the committee members, setting the agenda and directing the committee. He keeps all paper work, takes minutes, and can make motions, debate and vote on them.

The chairman has been selected for his or her leadership abilities. However, the chairman should never be so domineering that no one else has the ability to express his or her opinion. If the committee is divided then it is wise for a chairman to back off, listen intently to the discussion of the other members and try to build a consensus or some agreement. If a committee becomes divided it will fall apart and not get anything done. If an issue is something that concerns the entire membership, then the committee should let the membership resolve the problem.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian,

I have always been under the assumption that there is no such thing as self nomination. I have looked and see no written proof of using this procedure except in the local organizational meeting I attend here on a monthly basis. Please help me to find some documentation that will support or defeat this procedure.


Dear Clyde,

In our video "Nominations and Elections" we say that a person can nominate himself. Even though this might seem egotistic there is no rule against it. In George Demeter's parliamentary manual, he states, "A member has the right to nominate himself for office." (page 239) If you think about it, the only time members would know this is during nominations from the floor. If the nominations were by ballot no one would know that a person wrote down his name, would they?

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:


I hope that you can, and will, help me with a question. Is a Vice President who is chairing a meeting in the President's absence, allowed to place a motion on the floor? This was done with regard to expenditures from the treasury and I questioned the legality of it.
Thank you,

Donald Smith,
Secretary, Grand Valley Artists

Dear Don,

Please tell me what the motion was.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

I'm sorry...

The motion made by the Vice President, who was chairing the meeting in placeof the President, was to approve one hundred and ten dollars in funds from the treasury to purchase two instructional videos for our Pastel Society.  Earlier he had said (and I was certain) that he could not make a motion to accept the previous meeting minutes. When there was no motion, at his request, for the funds to be used, he made the motion himself.   At that time, I said, "I don't believe you can make that motion," and his reply was, "I'm doing it." I wasn't positive about the matter so I did not pursue it. However, if it was an illegal motion, I will bring it up during the reading of the minutes.  Thank you for your reply,


Dear Don,

It was not an illegal procedure. What he did was "assume the motion". It sounds to me like a member brought the idea of purchasing two videos. If the members didn't want it I suppose they voted it down. If they voted for it, then it showed they wanted to do it. So I would say no harm was done.

Now your vice-president needs to learn that no one has to make a motion to approve the minutes. This approval is also done by assuming a motion. The presiding officer should ask, "Are there any corrections to the minutes? Hearing none the minutes are approved as read." If there are corrections, then the chair states, "Is there any objection to making the correction? Hearing none, the minutes are approved as corrected."

Perhaps your organization would find our video "How to Conduct a Meeting" helpful. (You can get it from the WEB Site <> or calling us here at 1-800-532-4017) It takes both presiding officers and members through an agenda and shows such things as I have just stated.

It is important that both the Secretary and presiding officers are well informed about correct procedures. The presiding officer needs to know them to conduct a meeting correctly and protect the rights of the members. A Secretary needs to know them because it helps to write correct and intelligent minutes. If you don't have our book Webster's New World Robert's Rules of Order Simplified and Applied (it's just $8.95 at your local bookstore) I suggest you get it. It has very practical information about these issues and a lot for Secretaries about minutes.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

Once before you helped me with a question pertaining to Robert's Rules of Order. I took your advice and purchased a copy of your video entitled "Parliamentary Procedure Made Simple". However, I need a quick response to the following question and would greatly appreciate your assistance:

At a "special meeting" called to discuss one specific subject, how can a motion to table be made to postpone that discussion for a month?  Thank you for your consideration. I will await your reply.

Marilyn Wobeser, Executive Secretary

Dear Marilyn,

This is what Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised 10th ed. states: "At a special meeting, it is dilatory and out of order to move to lay on the table the matter for which the meeting has been called."

The correct motion would be to "Postpone the motion to..." However, I would argue since this is special meeting which has been called for an urgent purpose (that is what most special meetings are --to handle business that can't wait to the next regularly scheduled meeting) that the motion to postpone might be dilatory or out of order unless the member making it can prove that the members need more time to either think about what is being presented or to gather more information. If the motion to postpone is made it is debatable. If something is postponed, perhaps the members postpone it to an adjourned meeting. By postponing it a month sounds like someone wants to delay or even kill something important.

If this isn't what you needed please give me more information.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

In your paper "How to Have More Effective Meetings", under "Every Member Should Know" one of the topics is the following: How the rules in large meetings differ from rules in small boards and committees. (Those under 12 members). We are a small public council of 10 members, so this information would be helpful for us. Where would I find this information?

Thank you,


Dear Kelly,

The information can be found in our book, Webster's New World Robert's Rules of Order Simplified and Applied. The cost $8.95 plus S & H. Or you can buy it at a local bookstore. The rules are under small boards.  Basically this is the difference:

In small boards members don't have to rise to make a motion. They can do it while seated. (They still have to address the chair). Motions do not need a second in a small board or committee.

The presiding officer y can make motions, participate in the debate and usually votes, unless the rules have something to the contrary. In your council of 10 I suspect that the chairman only votes to break a tie.

Members can debate a number of times and usually no one closes or limits debate.

Members can discuss issues informally without a motion pending.

I recommend that your members get a simplified copy of Robert's Rules and learn them. That way you will have successful meetings. (We also sell videos on this subject, too.)

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

Thank you for the advice. Perhaps a change in where we sit may help.

However, this is one case where you have someone who is socially unable to interact unless she is in control. For three years we tried to accommodate her and it only got worse. Some of our directors sit on as many as 4 boards and nobody has ever seen anyone as irrational, but legal(she's a retired lawyer, legal aid!) as her.

Chuck Greenberg

Dear Charles,

Then this is what I recommend. Follow Robert's Rules (the agenda) to the "T". All a short segment at the end for those attending the open meeting to speak. Allow each member only a few minutes. If they have complaints have them put it in writing to the board to be taken up at the next meeting. Be firm, but kind. But do not let this person intimidate you with so called legal knowledge. Learn Robert's Rules thoroughly and speak with authority. This person will back down, but don't fight with her. That will only make matters worse. Stand up for what is right in a civil way and you will change behavior.

I am familiar with this type of person. I've had to deal with them myself. Your weapon is knowledge and fearlessness.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

Thank you for the tips on the web site. I am currently parliamentarian of an active PTA at an elementary school in Whittier, California. A nagging question that I have not been able to find the straight forward answer to ( even though I have scoured through our bylaws and reference books ) and would like your input is the following:

Can the presiding officer make a motion? or must the presiding officer remove him/herself from that position to take the floor?  ( Attendance at out meetings average about 25 people.) I hope you will be able to help me out. Thank you in advance.

Cynthia Krause

Dear Cynthia,

If the president wants to bring business before the assembly, the president needs to step, make the motion, and let vice president preside until it is vote upon. However, to expedite business the president can assume a motion. For example, the treasurer presents bills and the president can say, "The question is on the payment for bills. Is there any discussion? " And then take a vote. Or the chair can say "Is there any objection to paying the bills?" However, if the president wants to do something for example have a spring carnival for a fundraising project, then the president either steps down from the chair to make and discuss the motion, or ask someone else to present it. Does this help?

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

I haven't been able to locate information on whether the chair/president may make a motion. I'm under the impression that he/she may not. Can you tell me?


Norma Baron

Dear Norma,

It depends. In a small board the chairman usually can make motions. In an assembly meeting the chair can make a motion if he steps down from the chair and lets someone else preside while he makes the motion and discusses it. He then returns to the chair after the motion is voted upon.

Now, there is a time when he can stay in the chair and "assume a motion". Let's say the Treasurer has presented bills to be paid. Instead of waiting for a motion, the chair can assume it by saying, "The question is on the adoption of paying the bills, is there any discussion? All those in favor say aye. Those opposed say no." Then announce the vote.

Or the chair can handle it this way; "Is there any objection to paying the bills? Hearing none the bill will be paid."

This way of assuming the motion can be done to expedite business on non-controversial issues. A good understanding of parliamentary procedure helps the chair know when to use this method. Hopes this helps.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

I've been appointed as one of three recreation district board members to make decisions in the newly created Recreation taxing district. I read your book and can not figure out how a three person board is to operate in regards to making and seconding motions. Is the president allowed to make or second a motion?

Thank you

Frank & Mollie

Dear Frank & Mollie:

Look in our book Webster's New World, Robert's Rules of Order Simplified and Applied, page 225. In small boards especially that are of this nature, the president can make motions, vote, debate, discuss etc. Motions do not need second. You are acting more like a committee so see pages 226-227.

The Parliamentarian

Dear CJM,

I have answered your e-mail between the questions.

I have several questions that I have been unable to understand in English from the Robert's rules.

1. Does a President have the right to appoint a by-law revision committee if it is not addressed in the by-laws?

No. Who appoints should be stated in the bylaws. If you don't have a provision then the membership needs to make a motion giving the president or a board the power to appoint. Or the members themselves can make a motion appointing members to a committee. Robert's Rules states that usually the president appoints but that is because the bylaws state that.

2. If an issue is voted upon to be "laid on the table" who has the right to remove the motion from the table? For years I have been told only those who make and second the motion to lay an issue on the table may make and second the motions to remove the issue from the table. The language in my reference books is too confusing to me to resolve this question.

Any one can take it from the table. What the members have to learn is that as soon as a motion is placed before the assembly for discussion it belongs to the entire assembly and not to the person made the motion. It never belongs to the seconder. And the person who laid the motion on the table does not necessarily have to be the person who moves to take it from the table. Furthermore, groups are misusing the motion to table. It should rarely be used. It is only for urgent situations or to lay business aside to take up something else when this can't be accomplished by the motion to "suspend the rules". The motion to lay on the table should also not be used to kill and motion or to put it off to the next meeting. There are other motions for this purpose.

3. If the bylaws do not state the President is an ex-officio member of all committees, does he or she have that position by following the Robert's Rules? Also are ALL officers ever accorded this right if the by-laws do not address this issue?

The bylaws give the duties to the officers. If no provision is made in the bylaws for ex-officio membership to committees no officer can be that. The members would have to amend the bylaws to have ex office members to committees.

You have said that the Robert's Rules books that you have read are difficult to understand. Perhaps you need to get our book Webster's New World Robert's Rules of Order Simplified and Applied. It is based upon our videos. We are hearing from buyers that it is the best book out there and so easy to understand.

As the President of 1 organization and the secretary of 2 others, I am trying to resolve some weird issues with members who have a legal background but have never looked at a Robert's rules book. I appreciate any information you can send me on the above questions. Thank you -CJM

Hopes this help you.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

Thank you for your answers to my questions. I will purchase your recommended book on my next day off. But in the meantime I have two more bizarre questions.

1. Our bylaws state "that a nominating committee will be appointed in Jan., nominations will occur in March and elections in April." For some unknown reason the Jan. appointment of committee did not happen. In Feb. when it was realized absolutely no one present at the meeting would accept a position on the nominating committee.( I think everyone is happy with the way things are!!!) Where do we go from there? We have always allowed nominations from the floor at the election but we have also presented a ballot of people willing to run for the various offices. Do we try to appoint a committee outside of the meeting (this doesn't sound legal) or just wait until April and have all nominations from the floor.

(The Parliamentarian)

If no one wants to be on the nominating committee and somehow you have come up with a slate of candidates, then explain this fact to the members. Then have someone present the slate, and take nominations from the floor. It might be wise to let your members know that they are circumventing the bylaws by not serving. Apathy is a terrible disease in an organization and it ultimately kills the group. It might be time to find out why no one wants to serve in this position. Is it because they think the work is too hard? This might be a time of soul searching for the organization. If the nominating committee isn't working then perhaps the organization needs to come up with another way of nominating candidates. (Our new video on Nominations and Elections shows other ways than what you are currently using.)

2. Also at the last meeting we did not have a quorum. There was an urgent business matter that needed taken care of immediately so we phoned several members for their vote on the issue in abstentia. I feel this could be challenged. How do we fix this situation??? The money will be spent before the next meeting. What recourse will any members who were opposed but not present have?

(The Parliamentarian)

What you need to now is have another meeting and ratify the action that was taken with out a quorum. This motion is adopted by a majority vote. Those who were not present slept on their rights. However, they could complain that they were not called. If someone is going to call a few members, then they need to call everyone. Remember democracy is impartial.

I suppose the recourse would be to have the members who voted to spend the money come up with it out their pockets. However, the best way is to ratify the motion at the next meeting. Make sure you get members to the meeting and a majority to vote for ratification.  Thanks again for your time. Your first answers were extremely helpful.



Dear Parliamentarian:

First I would like to thank you. I was President to Lacey first aid where I had asked you many questions. Your assistance has helped me attain the 15th district VP position. I now represent 33 squads at the State First Aid Council.

My Question. The President had stood down from the chair to debate an issue?   One of the area VP's assumed the chair. When this occurs, can the president re-assume the chair after the issue has been discussed and voted upon or can the VP retain the chair. If the issue is tabled, what is what did happen, when the issue is brought back on to the floor at the next meeting, does the president have the right to the chair or must the area VP preside on this issue.

John P

Dear John,

I'm glad that the advice that I have given you has helped your retain the 15th District Vice President position.

If the President steps down to debate an issue, the VP remains in the chair until the issue has been voted on or temporarily disposed of. In the case that you mention, if the motion was laid on the table, the president returns to the chair and presides until it is taken from the table. A motion that is tabled is still within the control of the assembly. It has just been temporarily set aside for more urgent business. When the motion is taken from the table, then the president steps down until a vote is taken on the motion or it is again temporarily set aside.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

I am a director of an HOA and we have one homeowner who appears at our meetings and sits within 3 feet of me. There is no doubt that this is meant to intimidate and irritate me. The homeowner was a former director and was defeated by a very large margin when she ran for reelection. She blames me and others (rightfully so) for her loss. She claims she can't hear well and this is necessary. If I move and she follows me, can I demand the chair to take action and prevent her following me? We sit at a wide table with about 10 seats. The clubhouse we meet in is very large. There is NO way to reason with this person. Otherwise she is very smart and does nothing to disrupt the meetings.


Dear Charles,

The first recommendation that I have for you is to look to see how the meeting room can be arranged so that this woman doesn't have to sit to close to any board member. Surely there is a way to accommodate her hearing problem and not have her intrude on the space of the directors. If that can't be done can you sit between two board members so that this insulates you from the member?

Finally, what I recommend is that you win her over. Be friendly; speak cordially to this woman. Treat her as a friend instead of a foe. I bet that will change her attitude.

Homeowners Associations are such difficult entities but if we remember that we are neighbors first trying to work together for good and board members second, then I think that can set a nice tone for all our meetings and the business that is transacted at meetings.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian,

I am on the Board of a Not for Profit organization which meets monthly.   Our general meeting are every other month. During our board meetings, the committee reports are delivered. Sometimes these reports are long, wordy, and end up a time waster. 5 reports can take 2 hours. Does Roberts Rules contain limits on reporting or can we place content and time limits on these reports through our By-Laws?

Thank you,
Wendy Wagoner
Doberman Rescue League of Oakland Park, fl.

Dear Wendy,

You don't have to amend the bylaws you can adopt a rule of order that limits the reports. Perhaps the committee members need to know what should be included in a report. If the report is a summary of the committee's work, then it should only contain information about the most important work. If it is a report where the committee was to investigate and report its findings and recommendations then it should include the follow:

1. how it went about its work

2. the facts it uncovered and information gathered

3.the findings or conclusions made from facts and information gathered

4. recommendations or resolutions(motions)

The other thing that can be done is for committee members to give the written report to the secretary to photocopy or e-mail to the board members before the meeting. That way the board members can read the information before hand and just ask questions of the committee members. This could really help save time.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

Twice now, when I have been speaking at school board meetings during the "Non-agenda items" portion of the meetings, the superintendent has interrupted me during the allocated three minutes to request that I not face and speak to the audience, but that I face the board. The last time this happened, Jan. 17, 2001, I got the tape recording from the meeting. Here were his words:

> Dr. Casey, to Sylvia: Sylvia, just a minor thing, but it is important.

> Could you address the Board? Rather than the audience?

> Sylvia: Oh.

> Dr. Casey: You¹re giving them the information.

> Sylvia: It¹s a body language thing?

> Dr. Casey: Yeah..[laughs] makes us feel better, if you don¹t mind.

Are his requests justified? Is there a regulation about who is actually looked at during a public meeting when a visitor is given an allocation of time to speak? Thank you,

Sylvia Previtali, Aptos, California

Dear Sylvia,

Yes, the request is justified. There are certain manners or protocol that is followed at meetings. Your remarks should be addressed to the presiding officer of the board.

According to Robert's Rules all remarks are made to and through the presiding officer. This means, even in a meeting of a small group, that if a person has a question for another member he asks the chair to ask the member to answer the question. This is a way for the presiding officer to keep control of the meeting.

In your case, the audience can't make any decisions only the school board can. So it is important to address your remarks to the board. What if no one else was present in the audience, would you address your remarks to empty chairs? No.

This is just part of the protocol in meeting procedures. To help you understand this, may I suggest that you get our video "Parliamentary Procedure Made Simple: The Basics." This would give you the knowledge that you need to be a participant at meetings.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian,


My question is: Do letters of second need to state that they are seconding a nomination OR can all letters just say, "I nominate" and have one of those nomination letters count as a second?



Dear Sandi,

Do your bylaws give more specific directions? I would say that two people would have to sign the nominating letter. The first signature is the one that nominates and the second signature is the one who seconds.  You might want to have your organization get our new video "Nominations and elections". You can read all about it on the front page of our WEB Site <>,

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

Our bylaws state, "Each nomination for President or Director must be accompanied by a second." All other nominees had a letter of nomination and a letter of seconding the nomination. This one candidate had only letters saying, "I nominate ------- for President." That's why I am confused, does one letter have to say it supports the nomination or it seconds the nomination? It seems to me that this is like making two motions rather than seconding one. Also all nomination letters for this particular candidate are signed by only one signature (all different).


Dear Sandi,

Each nomination returned should have two signatures. You need to re-do your nominations form so that members are not confused. Instead of saying that you have to have one to nominate and one to second, just have two members sign the form or petition for the nomination. You will need to amend your bylaws too. Right now it is too confusing. The bylaw might read: "Each nomination for President or Director will be by petition and signed by two members."

Right now the nomination that has only one signature is not a valid nomination according to your bylaws and should not be considered. Any nomination that has two signatures, where one says it is the second or not, is a valid nomination.

If you have several nominations with no second signature, it shows that the members do not understand the nominating process. So either you need to change the bylaws or to explain the process better.

However, since nominations do not need a second, I think your organization needs to re-think this process. Now I am the member of a national organization who does nominations by petition. It has to be signed by two members. So if you want it to be signed by two members don't call it a second. Just state that the nomination has to be signed by two members--it will be less confusing.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian,

Does Roberts Rules of Order REQUIRE that a debate of a censure must Be brought up in executive session only? I wrote a censure resolution Against someone in my student government and was told that it was improper and was forced to remove it from the agenda? Is this correct? Thank you



Dear Mike,

Robert's doesn't cove this at all. I will do some research in one of my other books. But first tell me what you wanted to censure the member for doing?

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian,

The member is a student representative on our student government assembly. She and another student who is not on the assembly erected a sign that the University had previously said shall not be put up because it violated their policy on signs. They put the sign in what in the summer is a flowerbed.

They dug into the ground, poured cement and put the sign in. (The sign is a large structure two boards on either side and one on top connecting them, in between is the sign that says "Native Student Services" and a bidarka, a little canoe-looking boat). They did this knowing that the University had said that it could not be placed there. Thank you so much for your help with this question. I am very upset at the people who changed my agenda, as I am the speaker of the assembly.


Dear Mike,

May I suggest that you go to our WEB Site, <>, go to the Parliamentary Newsletter , March, Volume 6, 1999. There is an article about "Censure".

Now, let me answer your question. Censure is not done in executive session because it is a warning. It is done either under new business or "for the good of the order". In Demeter's Parliamentary Authority he states that if previous notice is given of the censure, it is taken up under "unfinished business".

A censure needs a second, is debatable. The person being censured can debate it but can't vote. The vote should be taken by secret ballot.

Hope this helps.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

I am the recording secretary for our club. At the last meeting, after adjournment the President asked that a note be added to the minutes. When I wrote the minutes, I added after my signature, the words "Additional Notes" and the information that he had requested be added. Some of the members feel that this is improper. I can find nothing in Robert's Rules of Order regarding this. Perhaps you can direct me to the chapter and verse. I would be very appreciative and perhaps this will put peace back in the club.

Dear Barney,

Would you mind telling me what you added as the note? It would be helpful to know this to answer you correctly. Thank you.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

Additional Notes:

Ms Larson ask about nominations for trophies, annual awards, Clint Smith Award, and Cliff Messler Award. Need article in Tails. Need research. Pat Duran has done a write up on them.  This is the exact wording and the same way it appeared following my signature in the minutes.


Dear Barney,

I'm sure that Ms. Larson asked about these during the meeting. IF the president wanted these in the minutes then the two of you should have consulted after the meeting. Or these may just be notes that need to be jotted down to follow up on and not necessarily to be placed in the minutes.

What I suggest is that you go on our WEB Site <>, go to the Parliamentary Newsletter and look at August 1996. It is about what should be included in the minutes.

Members can always strike this out of the minutes when the president asks for corrections. The members have the final say about what goes into the minutes. Hope this helps.

The Parliamentarian

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