Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 61 March 2001
Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 61 March 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.
1. The Chair of a Committee that follows Robert's rules forms the agenda of a meeting. May that Chair initiate agenda items or must the agenda be made up of items that have been offered by the membership of the committee? If the Chair may offer agenda items I assume that strictly speaking it may not be discussed at any length without a motion.
2. Though I understand that the Chair usually remains neutral in a discussion may a Chair offer a motion which, if seconded, will be discussed and possibly voted on? Or, must the Chair temporarily relinquished his or her position as Chair in order to offer a motion?
3. I am not sure how to phrase this next question, so I hope it is clear: does a Chair, in forming an agenda (especially when on a committee that deals with money) have a fiduciary responsibility?
Thanks very much!
Are all these questions relating to Committee Chairman? If so how big is the committee? Is it a committee of an organization or of a governmental body? Are there special rules concerning what it is to do? How much power does it have in relation to the organization? What are its duties?
This time I've inserted my table of contents below this text. I'm sorry the file couldn't be converted. Thanks. Wayne Harvey
My earlier letter:
Mr. or Ms. MConnell, thank you for responding yesterday to my query about your web page and whether you continue to help people with bylaws.
I represent an association of churches. Our bylaws are over fifteen years old and are of little help to us. Hence, we are revising them. I have consulted over ten sets of bylaws from sister associations, finding most similar in organization and content. I have used these other bylaws for examples, taking elements that we found helpful to our situation and inserting them into our proposed bylaws.
We are comfortable with the content we have assembled and, with the addition of a few other items, will have finished the project. Organization, however, is a problem. We want bylaws that contain only the essentials and that are relatively brief so that revision will be unlikely unless our body's organization changes drastically. We want to put most of our content into a manual/s of procedures. I anticipate that we will have several manuals: general administration, personnel, and financial.
After consulting other bylaws reference sources, I believe that some of our bylaws organization is satisfactory, containing information about officers and committees and their duties. Also, some of our constitution organization is satisfactory, including references to our name, purpose, membership, meetings, messengers (aka delegates), general statements about officers, amendments, and parliamentary authority.
I recognize that, generally and from what other sources say, a manual should contain more specific hows and whens while bylaws should refer to more general whos, whys, and wheres. This is where I need help. With our content in mind (I have attached a list of the items in our proposed constitution and bylaws), which content should be in the constitution, which in the bylaws, and which in manuals? Also, do we need a constitution? A constitution and bylaws seem to have such similar purposes, perhaps only bylaws are needed. Is this true? I have other questions but will now lay only these before you. Thanks for your help.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
B. Admission of Churches and Missions
C. Withdrawal of Churches
D. Dismissal of Churches
E. Internal Affairs of Churches
VI. Composition of the Association in Session
A. The Association in Session
B. Messengers (Delegates)
VII. Non-Profit Status and Dissolution Provision
A. Officers of the Association
B. Election of Officers
C. Terms of Office
D. Filling Vacancies
A. The Annual Meeting
B. The Semi-Annual Meeting
C. Called Meetings
XI. Parliamentary Authority
B. Duties of the Churches
C. Duties of the Officers and Directors
4. Assistant Clerk
6. Assistant Treasurer
9. Alternate Parliamentarian
10. Other Officers, Directors, and Committee Chairmen
11. Election and Removal from Office
D. General Guidelines for Committees
E. Duties of Standing Committees
1. Association Council
2. Executive Board
3. Missions Committee
4. Administrative Committee
5. Nominating Committee
6. Program Committee
7. Stewardship Committee
8. Evangelism Committee
9. Middle Florida Baptist Assembly Committee
10. Campus Ministries Committee
11. Credentials Committee
12. Continuing Education Committee
13. Youth Committee
14. Family Life Committee
15. Pastoral Ministries Committee
16. Media/Library Committee
18. Properties Committee
19. Other Committees
Thank you for sending them in this form. If you go on the WEB Site <parli.com> and look under the blue side bar, and go to "bylaws", you will find help on this matter. Click on this link. Everything that I have written about bylaws is on that page. For further information about rules of order and standing rules look at the "Internet Newsletter"-- I believe last year I did a series on that. What I suggest is that you read the second article on bylaws, June 1996. This will give you a basic outline what should go into the bylaws. You really don't need a constitution. Have one document called bylaws. I would do some re-arranging with what you have done. The Parliamentary authority should come before amendments at the end of the entire document. The Non profit status should be separate from Dissolution (I suspect) and Dissolution should again come towards the end. I'm just going by titles and not by what the content states. The title "Composition of The association in Session" might be included in meetings if it is part of the meeting structure. (again I would have to read to see) Duties of churches if they are members should be included in the article on membership. Duties of Officers follow the article on Officers. Committees should be one article, then general duties and standing committees would be sections of those articles. The key to writing good bylaws is to have everything in a logical order and all the items pertaining to that subject under that article. Also it should be listed as Article I. Name; Article II. Purpose (Mission) object is usually the purpose or mission. So another section called object is not necessary. Article III. Doctrine; Article IV. Membership. etc. Anything under that becomes Section 1. Section 2. etc.
If you are still having problems with this after reading the articles on bylaws then contact us. If you need the services of a parliamentarian to go over the bylaws and help you with them, we can do that but we do charge for that service.
Question: A vote had been taken at a previous meeting, and all were in agreement, unanimous decision. At the next following meeting, without an amendment, or such another vote was taken, with five in favor, and one opposed.Total opposite than the two weeks before.The minutes had been approved from the previous meeting which stated the unanimous decision had been made. My question, Should there have been an amendment or something done with the previous vote?
Martha A. Burton, Village Council Member
Please tell me what was adopted at the previous meeting. Then at the second meeting did someone make a motion to change the motion that was adopted at the last meeting? Right now I can't answer because I don't understand how it was presented. Thank you,
The question that was voted on at the March 6, 2001 meeting was:
Grass Lake Twsp. relating the difficulty of the existing site, they suggested that the Vilage Council give consideration to relocating the site on the Village grounds where a higher traffic flow and visibility provides some deterrence.
At the Twsp. it is quite isolated and a complete mess all the time.
After much discussion, it was decided that the Village really wasn't to excited about having that mess on our grounds.
A vote was taken. Six members present, one absent. Unanimously they did not want the project on Village Property.
At the March 20th Meeting the G.L. Supervisor attended and pleaded the Twsp. case, and after some discussion a vote was taken. Five to one. One absent, to provide an area and have the center located on the Village Grounds.
Hope I have made this clear now, sorry for the misunderstanding I created.
Martha A. Burton
If I understand you correctly, a main motion was presented that Grass Lake Twsp be relocated. (this is an abbreviated version of the main motion.) After discussion, a vote was taken and the motion was defeated by six members voting no.
At the next meeting a supervisor attended the meeting and spoke very
persuasively that it be relocated. The main motion was then presented again and this time it was adopted.
Please answer if this is correct. If it is I will explain the parliamentary procedure behind it.
I guess maybe I presented the whole situation incorrectly, or maybe we acted upon it incorrectly.
March 6th meeting, there was discussion on placing the Recycling Center on Village property, due to the fact it is placed at the TWSP hall, and it is in poorly lighted area, and much garbage and debris is just thrown there. After much discussion, a motion was made and supported, to notify the Twsp. Board that the Village Council is not interested in placing the Center on Village Property.
Roll call vote was taken. All in agreement unanimous deccision. Motion carried.
Then like I stated previously at the March 29th meeting the Twsp. Sup. came to our meeting and convinced the board to put the Recycling Center on the Village Property. Motion made and supported to place the Recycling Center on Village grounds. 5 yeas, 1 nay, 1 absent.
There was nothing done about the previous vote which goes WAY back to my orignal question, shouldn't there have been an amendment or something?
Thank You for all your time.
Martha A. Burton
Thank you for tell me exactly what happened. How the motion was phrased determines if the parliamentary procedure was handled correctly.
At the second meeting you in essence amended the previous action by striking it out and inserting something else. It was not phrased that way but that is what you did. Now since previous notice was not given it takes a two thirds vote of those voting or a majority of the entire membership. The vote met both of those qualifications. So you are okay on this one.
May I suggest that you village board invest in our video "All about Motions" and our book Webster's New World Robert's Rules of Order Simplified and
Applied." It sounds to me that your members do not understand motions and how they work in meetings!. If you continue in this way of doing things without knowing the proper procedures, you could do something that may get you into trouble. I would say you lucked out on this one. Ignorance is not bliss, but knowledge is power!.
PS. If the motion was phrased at the previous meeting "That Village board is interested in doing something." and it was defeated, then at the next meeting brought up again and adopted, this is called renewing the motion. It takes no previous notice and only a majority to adopt. So it is important to understand the difference between renewing the motion and rescinding or changing the motion after it is voted upon.
If there is no statement in the by-laws of a home owner's assoc. limiting whocan or cannot attend bd. of dir. meetings, are those meetings cosidered open or closed according to roberts rules ? I look forward to your reply. Thank you
John W. Stone
Homeowner's associations are horses of a different color as the saying goes.
They are usually subject to the open meeting laws. You need to check with the state to see what state laws have to say about board meetings. The laws that I am familiar with say that board meetings are open to the membership. This means that members of the association can attend the meeting, but they can't participate or make comments unless the board of directors allow for this at the meeting.
This question has to do with whether an election which violated the bylaws can be simply accepted by a vote.
We are a small, 1300 member, non profit national hobby group. We are in it for fun and own no property.
We have 11 Area Directors elected by the members in 11 areas of the country designated by the Organization. Only the Directors have a vote, even though the meeting is open to all members. There is only one meeting per year, lasting a day and a half.
The first order of business at the Annual Meeting is to elect a President. He comes from the Board of Directors (BOD) and is elected by them.
The bylaws state that a new candidate for Director must be nominated by omeone from the same Area. In one case, that was not done and it is in the minutes. So the fact that the election was illegal came up. The Election Committee (one person) did not seem to think that it was up to him to judge if an election was legal, even if it was clear that the nomination was illegal. In order to settle it one Director made a motion to accept it as is, which was seconded and accepted by vote.
I contend that a BOD cannot simply vote to accept an illegal election without suitably amending the bylaws. In addition I do not think they can amend the bylaws to cover a minor problem and then use that retroactively. Is that correct?
So the election stood, and the person in question was then elected as the new President. It would seem that this election as President was also illegal since he was not a legal Director.
Specific questions are: Whose responsibility is it to ensure a legal election? Can an election which is not in accordance with the by-laws be allowed to stand by a simple vote of the BOD?
I should point out that most of us are just there to have fun, but this person is a skillful politician who had quietly campaigned all year for this outcome.
Thank you for your time.
I would have to see you entire bylaws on nominations and elections before I can give you an answer. The other thing is do you as a member have any recourse?
Right now it looks like the nominating process was not followed, but it could be that his election is valid. There is a big different between nominations and elections. If the balloting process was followed then the election is valid. What is the problem here is who nominated the person. If there is a provision for write in names in your bylaws or if it doesn't exclude write-in names then anyone can be elected whether that person is nominated or not by someone. Again I would have to see the bylaws concerning this issue before I can give an answer.
Finally, if the board of directors has all the power, is there any way you as a member can challenge it if it is wrong?
Thank you for the prompt reply. The by-laws state, and I quote:
A Nominating Committee will be appointed in a timely manner to allow for the entire process of nominating and electing Directors to be concluded prior to the next membership meeting at which time ratification of election results is scheduled to take place. The President will appoint two members in good standing at the previous membership (read annual) meeting. Regardless of any particular election process that may be adopted by the Board from time to time, any three members of a voting district (Area) may nominate a candidate for electionfrom that district, and onlyfrom that district, independent of the Nominating Committee.
Candidate nominations will be made by the Nominating Committee or by a written nomination by a member in good standing within the district to be represented by the nominated candidate. If no candidate can be found for a district, the ballot will be a "write-in" only. A minimum of 4 write-in votes for a candidate will be required for validation. End of Quote.
Although I quoted all of it, the entire document can be found at: http://www.narcoa.org Then open NARCOA Documents. Then click on by-laws. It will open in a .pdf file. The quoted text is from Article 5, Section 2, found on pages 9 and 10. He was not elected by write in. It was through the Nominating Committee. Ballots are sent out in the newsletter to those in the Area where an election for Director is taking place. Members return them by mail to the Nominating Committee (which is also called the Election Committee) and the result is announced in the Newsletter.
The second paragraph seems to be at odds with the first, but that is not the problem. Both paragraphs mention that a candidate for Director must be nominated from within the district. This candidate was nominated by one person outside of his district.
I hope this is enough for a clear opinion. What is our recourse if it was illegal? Thanking you again for your time and expertise,
I went on the WEb Site that you put in your e-mail and read the bylaws of your organization. Yes, they made a mistake in the nominating process. However, when someone pointed it out, the board voted to accept the nomination. Then the board evidently elected this person to the board. In further reading the bylaws, it says the members are to ratify the board's selection off board members. Evidently this was done. Then this person was elected to president. I suppose you could write a letter pointing out the mistake, but I don't think it will do any good. Your bylaws are set up so that the board runs everything. The board could remove the person, but then turn around a fill the vacancy with this person. If you really want to make a change, then have someone nominate you to the board and try to change the bylaws. If the members want to have more say in the organization they are going to have to change the bylaws so that they are more democratic. Right now 11 members rule the roost.
I and another woman have just this January started a group with bylaws and committees. We are not completely organized and recently have been plagued by a disruptive member who is not on any committees. We have it written in our Bylaws that anyone who refused to comply with normal codes of common decency may be asked to leave but we have no follow up definition. How are these kinds of situations normally dealt with in groups? How should we handle it after we have amended the bylaws to allow for follow through?
Robert's Rules states that at any time an assembly can remove someone from the meeting that is not a member. If the person won't leave and he is not a member, then you will have to call the police. You might have to press charges. But here is another idea. If the person is not a member of the organization or the if he is not a member of the committee, then set another time and day for the meeting and don't tell the person. Has someone talked to this person about being disruptive and not do this any more? Is this person just trying to intimidate so that the person can control?
Article XI Section 1 AMENDMENTS
Proposed amendments to these by-laws and constitution must be made in writing and be presented to the by-law committee for consideration. They will then be presented at any regular or special meeting for the first reading. The second reading shall be presented at a special meeting called for this purpose. The third reading of any amendment must be presented at a regular business meeting at which time it shall be voted on. Adoption of an amendment requires an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members present.
This is taken exactly from our by-laws. The procedure taken: First meeting it was just read. The second meeting was a special meeting 1/2 hour before the regular with the intent to vote on it at the regular meeting. The debate extended for 3/4 hour before the president requested to table the debate until after the regular meeting. At the end of the regular meeting the president announced that there was not enough time and he would contact everyone to continue the debate. We met this past Sunday continued the debate. Few people showed up, but enough to constitute a quorum. A small change was made. Instead of First aid matters it was changed to be more specific (all first aid matters).
1. By tabling the debate and continuing with a regular meeting in between does this break the chain. Do we have to start over?
2. Can we vote on the amended by-law at the next regular meeting?
3. Does adding a small change break the chain and do we have to start over that reason?
4. Can we suspend the by-law rule in any way especially since the spirit of the procedure and fairness, in my opinion, has been fulfilled?
John Pizzurro, Lacey EMS
Why didn't you vote on it at the third meeting, was it postponed to the next meeting?
Do you have something regarding "E-mail Privacy"? Is the President allowed to open the e-mail correspondence addressed to the office administrator regarding the non-for-profit organization business? Thank you for your help.
Is this personal e-mail or is this e-mail coming from members to you? I would really like to know more about this situation. We are currently revising our book and I am including information about e-mail correspondence, meetings and voting in the new book. So any problems like this I am really interested in.
We don't have that information but I did read something in the local paper about in the business world employers can open people's e-mail and reading it. It even said that some people are being fired for what they say in e-mail that goes out from the company computer. The article was reprinted from the Chicago Tribune written by T. Shawn Taylor. This book was mentioned, "The e-Policy Handbook" (Amacon, 2001, $19.95).
The article then said this, "Workers essentially have no right to expect privacy regarding electronic devices. The federal government protects employer's rights to monitor all electronic communications in the workplace.
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) is planning to reintroduce a bill in Congress this year that would require companies to provide notification of monitoring and define notification in a way that is clear and relevant to employees."
In your case if you are a paid employee then I would say that all e-mail coming into the non-profit could be opened by others.
In most of the organizations that I belong too the president is allowed to open any incoming postal mail, so I doubt e-mail would be excluded.
Perhaps you could get something clarified by the members of the board about this. They could adopt a standing rule about this situation.
Let us know what happens.
Thank you very much for your prompt reply. I am member of the Board of Directors for the non-for-profit Organization. The Treasurer has engage the services of an office administrator and both of them are not allowing the President to open the Emails received by the office administrator in our New York office. They affirmed that because the President is not an employer she cannot open the E-mail addressed to the office administrator regarding the organization's business.
They have changed the password so the President cannot read or use the Organization's e-mail. The President affirms that because she is traveling it is necessary for her to read what is going on in the office and with the Board members.
This is also a way to control the office administrator. I guess this will be one of the issues that will be discussed in our May meeting.
I would appreciate if you could send me any information regarding "Privacy
of E-mails" and if there is any laws against this in New York? I will present the motion to adopt a standing rule about this situation. Meanwhile I will open your link and buy the "e-policy handbook"
If you send me your regular post mail, I will send you a copy of that article from our local paper. In the meantime, call your secretary of state. That person can tell you what is on the books concerning e-mail.
I believe your officer administrator is out of line on this one. If the information concerns the organization the president should be able to read it. Your administrator doesn't know that he/she is the hired employee of the organization. The president has been assigned by the bylaws to represent the organization and oversee the organization.
It sounds to me like the Treasurer is planning a coup. You'd better get on this one right away.
The case is that the office administrator(who is an independent contractor) for our non-for-profit organization receives in our office, the messages concerning our organization . He told our President that she cannot open the email messages because it was prohibited in New York, it was invading his privacy.
He mentioned this because Board members write to him about our organization's business. He also said that because our President is not his employer, she cannot read "his messages". How can she control what messages come into or areforwarded from our office? The office administrator is the one that opens all the mail so why our President cannot open the emails? Is this really against the NY laws? Can she be sue? Thank you for your info.
I have a temporary solution for you. When the Board members send an e-mail to the office administrator have them e-mail a copy to the President. If the President isn't his employer who is? Did the Board vote on hiring this man or did the Treasurer make the decision by himself? Also send me a copy of your bylaws. Do you have them so that you can e-mail them to me? Or can your President (if this person is in USA) fax them to me? the fax number here is 253-265-1550.
We talked in late January as I was asked, at the time, to chair a by law revision for the band parents association. I did go out at your suggestion and buy a newly revised copy of Robert's. The current President of this group, did not like the revisions that the bylaw committee formulated, so she "suspended bylaws for that meeting" which I tried to explain that you cannot temporarily suspend your bylaws, they did anyway. Then she dismissed the bylaw committee. And no they have not formed another bylaw committee. The President likes to operate without bylaws, so I doubt that she will ask for another committee to be formed.
Those of us that had met to work on the bylaws, said o.k. well. We can wait until we have an opportunity to vote in new Officers and then form another committee this summer to work on the bylaws.
My concern now is that at the last Board meeting (not general meeting) the President stated that "no one can run for office of President unless they are on the 'Board'" of course, my comment was that the specific requirement is not in the bylaws and they said it didn't need to be etc.....This woman is planning to run for this office again,(6 years now) and doesn't have a student attending the high school! She did ask a member to chair the nominating committee.
The bylaws that the current President is ignoring were never voted on (the minutes were checked) and I do have a copy of the bylaws that preceded those and they do have a 4yr term limitation on Officers. Since the most recent bylaws were not voted on, does that give the organization the right to revert back to the previous bylaws that were voted on appropriately by general membership?
In order to move forward I will do some reading on nominating committee's and procedures with the election process from Robert's.
If you can give me some direction or options towards getting this group back on a healthy meeting track that would be great, also let me know if you would rather I call you so we can talk in person instead of email. I'm sorry this was so long.
If the current bylaws were never voted on then the previous bylaws are those that are now enforce.
What you need to do is get some people behind you and go and talk to this woman. If she won't listen, then run someone for president. Make sure you have the votes to get this person elected. Start training others in parliamentary procedure.
I would also raise a point of order or at a general meeting point out that there is a term limit on president and that she can't be considered for office. If she is elected the election is null and void because she has not met the eligibility requirements.
I would appreciate clarification on this issue. Our organization's by-laws require that any standing or special committee must first report to the executive committee any report or recommendation prior to being presented to the body. In the case of one committee's recommendation, the executive board was not in favor of the committee's recommendation, and approved a motion as such. My question then is two fold, how do you present this recommendation to the body when the special committee's recommendation is different than that of the executive committee?
Also does the executive board have the authority to present its own recommendation to the body, or is this soley the responsibility of the committee?
If the executive board does have the authority to state its position, how is this worded in terms of a motion? As is always the case, I need an answer yesterday...would appreciate any help you can provide as we meet this weekend. Thank you.
Are you a member of the board or of the special committee? Is the committee presenting a recommendation or phrasing it as a motion? Is the executive committee against the proposal or do they have something they want to substitute in its place? Please answer so that I can help.
I'm the president of the organization, the chair of the executive board andan ex-offico member of the special committee. The special committee ismaking a recommendation as a part of its report. The executive board isagainst the recommendation. Again, so how does this go to the body? Thank you.
If your bylaws just state that it goes to the executive board for review, then the special committee has the right to present it to the membership. I don't know anything about your organization or how it is set up. But it sounds like the assembly can have the final say on this and not the executive board. The committee's report come on the agenda where special committees report. When the committee gives the report, the chairman of the committee also gives the recommendation. If it is phrased as a motion, then the chair repeats the motion and asks for discussion. Since it comes from a committee it doesn't need a second. The executive board can speak against the motion and give the reasons why, but the ultimately the assembly makes the decision by a vote.
Oh, one point to clarify, the special committee made the recommendation tothe executive committee and needs to make a recommendation as a motion to the body...but whose recommendation is it...I hope this isn't confusing...thanks again.
The recommendation belongs to the committee and not to the board. Is this special committee a special committee of the board or of the organzation? That might change things.
it's a special committee of the body...thanks, and as a matter of "fairness" should the committee reporting to the body indicate the executive board's recommendation...
Since it is special committee of the body you can't stop the report. No they don't have to state the board's recommendation. The board can give their comments after the committee reports.
Thank you for your comments...the meeting went fairly well with my new understanding of this procedure...I've looked in RONR and am still looking for clarification on one thing...let me give this a stab...a committee report to the body with recommendations can be accepted, in part or full, in this case it was one of the recommendations that the executive board recommended against...when the committee chair making the report says, I move acceptance of this report, it doesn't need a second, but then in the discussion, can any member make a motion to amend the report to exclude the recommendations and take them up as separate motions...in fact that's what happended...I'd like to know why this is correct and if it is referenced in RONR...thank you, once agian, you're information was most helpful...
Normally a report is not accepted nor the recommendations in a report. If the committee wants something done or its recommendations implemented, the committee chairman needs to put it in the form of a motion. If the committee gives a report with recommendations and does not make a motion to adopt the recommendations, then someone else needs to make that motion to adopt the recommendations. However, it is not wise to have someone else do. The committee should always have recommendations in the form of motions or resolutions.
I have no idea about your organization or the special committee that you are concerned about, but let's use this as an example: the report is that of a special committee to set up a investment program for the members. After investigation, the committee thinks this is a go idea and that they have found that Investments Incorp. could set up this program for the members. The cost of set up would be $2,000. Each member would have to contribute $200 per month to go into an individual investment program with the organization paying $300 fee per year for the company to do the paper work for the investments. The committee recommends that the organization do the investment program.
Now if the committee doesn't put it in the form of a motion, then it is a recommendation and that is all it is. After the chairman gives the report, the presiding officer should ask, "Are there any questions concerning the report?" At that time members could ask questions. AFter the questions are finished, the presiding officer could ask, "What are the members wishes concerning the investment program? Would someone like to put the committee's recommendations into a motion?" At this point someone should rise and make a main motion. It then needs a second if it doesn't come from the committee. It is open for discussion and debate and amendment.
If the committee report ends with this, "By direction of the committee, I move that we set of an investment program for the members to be managed by Investment Incorporated. The cost of set up to be $2000, with a yearly maintenance fee of $300 to be paid by the organization and members willing to participate to contribute a minimum of $200 per month."
The presiding officer then states, the question is on the adoption of the motion (and repeats the above motion). Then asks, "Is there any discussion?" Now members can debate the motion, and they can amend it. It's on page 486 of the 10th ed. of RONR>
I am a member of the IAFF and my own local firefighter union. At the meeting tonight, I made a motion to have contract issues voted on by secret ballot, which was immediately seconded. The President did not even want to speak about this. He immediately called the motion out of order, and would not take a vote. He said that he didn't want people voting on contract issues when he hasn't had time to explain them. I told him he could explain it in a letter sent along with the contract issues. He would not even entertain any discussion. Is this legal? What if any are the recourses I have? Also, another motion was then made to have voting done by secret ballot, which got the same reaction. I believe we are ruled under Atwoods rules, however I am not sure. I have asked for a copy of our by-laws for several years now and have not received them. Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated. If possible by tomorrow night, as there is a second meeting then. We have meeting on Wednesday, and Thursday, once a month. Thank you very much.
You do go by Attwoods Rules of Order. Contact the national firefighters' union and they will send you a copy of ATTwood's rules of order. Someone sent me a copy. On page 291 of ATTwoods it says this: When you want to have secrecy in voting, the method to use is the ballot. The member making the motion for this type of voting will say "I move we vote on this question by ballot." A majority vote is required. If the motion carries, the Chair appoints tellers."
This motion needs a second and is not debatable. Since the president wants to hear discussion on the contract you could phrase the motion this way: "When we vote on this contract, I move that it be by ballot." Perhaps that will help him understand your motive is not to close debate on the issue or silence debate on the issue but that you want the members to vote by ballot when the time comes to vote.
If the chair refuses to accept your motion, I would point out that on page 291 of your parliamentary authority says this motion is allowed. I might politely ask him to explain his reasoning by refusing to allow this motion. Your last resort is to the motion "appeal from the decision of the chair". According to Attwoods a member makes the motion "I appeal from the decision of the chair". (In Robert's Rules it needs a second but I can't find that in this authority.) It then says that the person making the appeal can say why he is making it. Then it says that the chair usually listens to some of the other members who want to express their views about the chairs decision. The chair is to take a vote. It takes a majority vote to uphold the decision of the chair.
It sounds like your chair doesn't know the rules. Attwoods say this about this situation. "There is danger in a situation in which the decisions of the Chair are frequently appealed. This is not necessary and is, in fact, very harmful to the organization. To have such frequent appeals means on of two things. Either the Chair doesn't know his job or he doesn't have a majority with him.
"If the Chair doesn't know the basic rules of procedure, he should study them. If he doesn't have the majority, he should resign. There is not way to conduct the affairs of a group without the necessary votes."
Another thing that you can do is talk to the chair before the meeting and share some of these things with him. Ask him if he has a copy of the parliamentary authority and perhaps it would be good for him to read it.
I spoke with the president of the union, and he has not changed his views. He is still under the impression that he can order a motion out of order because he wants to. I asked him his reason and he said that "it has never been done that way in the past, so he doesn't want to start now. A secret ballot would make it too easy for people to vote against the contract, and they would not have to be accountable for their vote." I told him that is what this is all about, people should not have to be "accountable" for the way they vote, it's their right to vote any way they wish, and they shouldn't be put up against a wall to vote against the contract. Our department is very young, and the older guys on the job can inflict a lot of pressure on the young people voting. He assured me that this is not his intention, but it obviously is. Thank you for your help.
Your president has forgotten what his role is. He is a member of the organization who has been elected to keep order at meetings, see that each member has a right to speak to a question, and vote the way they want without being influenced by others.
I encourage you to get a copy of Attwood's rules of order and a copy for your presiding officer. I also encourage you to educate yourself and others in democratic meeting procedures. First of all it the assembly that decides not the president that decides for the assembly. He is being a dictator because of ignorance. Have him e-mail me and see if we can't get him to understand what the right way to do things.
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