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Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 70 December 2001

Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 70  December 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:

  I need some information on the following situation at the church I attend. To give you some background on this situation:

  One year ago, an amendment was added to our By-Laws that the chairman of the deacons could remain as chairman, and as a deacon until we were able to find a permanent pastor. We had an interim pastor for about 2 years, but he has left and we do not have a permanent pastor and have not had one for almost 2 years. The amendment that was added was that this chairman could remain in his position until a permanent pastor was found, but that this would have to be voted on annually for him to remain as chairman. This time has arrived and a vote was taken and he was not elected to remain in this position. It was announced and put in the bulletin for 3 weeks that this vote was going to be taken at the  next business meeting. Two weeks ago was this meeting, and not very many  members were in attendance. But what this chairman had done was to have   a handful of absentee ballots (proxy votes) to be counted. Since our  By-Laws DO NOT STATE that proxy votes are allowed, which he was not aware of, these proxy votes could not be counted. The vote was taken, and he was not re-elected to remain as chairman. Now he and others seem to be circulating some kind of petition for people to sign that they want this vote to be reconsidered or retaken. The only ones who know about this are the members who were not there to vote. My question is this, Is this legal according to the Robert's Rules of Order? Can a group of members that do not like the way the vote turned out, and who were not there to vote, and were informed of this meeting for 3 weeks, somehow or another make a motion to revoke? And if so, what are the terms that must be met in order for a revoke to be taken. I imagine that the excuse they are  using is that they did not know that their proxy vote could not be counted. To me, this chairman should have informed them of this, and if he didn't know, he should have checked on this himself. There is nothing stated in our by-laws that refers to anything

like this. I have just purchased a copy of the Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised  10th. edition, and I cannot seem to find out exactly what I am looking for. I know that this book refers to a quorum and I  understand that if our by-laws do not state how many should make up a quorum, that a quorum is the members who were present at the time this vote was taken. I can use any and all information you can give me on this matter. In your reply, I could use any and all references you could give me so that I can make everyone aware of this.

Thank you,

Bill Orrock


Dear Bill,   

Thank you for giving me all this information.  However, you need to tell me who was voted to be chairman?  Or is it still vacant?
The Parliamentarian


Dear parliamentarian,

  We are a relatively new (2 yrs old) not-for-profit organization, which functioned harmoniously until recently.  Everything was decided by general consent until the board suddenly began to make decisions on behalf of the assembly.  These were matters of fund allocation and our by-laws specifically state all such matters must be agreed by the membership.  But the board simply makes the decisions, writes the checks and says, "Hey, you people voted us in to act on your behalf."

  The problem is this. We are a small assembly and the board is comprised of 7   members who form a tight voting block.  Add to the mix that they'll get 3-5   "allies" in the general assembly and when we try to overrule the board, they   narrowly win the vote.

  Other matters come up for example when the board limits debate to 3 minutes   per person without a vote of the assembly (I realize we need a 2/3 vote but it   doesn't matter to them) or suddenly make statements that a member can't vote   unless they pay a 5$ membership fee which is not referenced in the by-laws or  any previous meeting or has ever come to a vote.  I constantly call them out of order but they know their "block" will out-vote any dissenter.  And at this point many other members of the assembly are starting to think that I'm just trying to give the board a hard time.  The President is new (September '01) and is not at all familiar with any rules of order.    It's very frustrating and to make matters worse when we amend the by-laws   later this year, the board is suggesting they be increased from 7 to 9 members.  Any advice?
New York

Dear Duggan,

    Try a different technique.   It's called asking questions.  Instead of raising a point of order, since there is so much wrong going on, try instead, "a point of information."  You could rise and say, "Mr. President,  I am puzzled about something... or I have a question.....  Could you explain......"  don't be confrontational.

    By asking pertinent questions you get the rest of the members thinking.  That is very important to win people over to your side.  However, if a majority is going along with this fascism, perhaps this is not the organization to be a member of.  The other thing you might want to do is try to become a member of the board and try reason.  

    You are in a very difficult situation.  The only thing I know is try to win people over to your side, or get an attorney.    When they try to limit debate,  you could rise and say "Mr. President, I believe this motion takes a two thirds vote to limit debate. Could you check your parliamentary authority on that?"    If the president is approachable why don't you give him or her a copy of a good Robert's Rules book or suggest that this person contact us for help.
The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

  If you don't mind I would like to run another question by you for your opinion. This   Board I sit on, recently removed two (2) individuals from an ongoing committee that    has been working on an event for more that three years. The new president felt he   could not work with these individuals and was able to persuade a slight majority of the Board to replace these individuals. This caused quite a stir and there is now a petition circulating around the club to ask the Board to reconsider their decision. I personally was not in favor of the removal of these men. Would it be proper or improper for me to sign this petition given the fact I sit on the Board? Not that it matters but the petition is being supported by an overwhelming majority of the members.  Thanks for your insight.
Larry Meyers

Dear Larry,

    You are member of the organization and certainly can make your wishes known by signing the petition.  It also may encourage the members to know that a board member agrees with them.    If the members win out, perhaps the president needs to keep a low profile and try to find a way to work with these committee members.

The Parliamentarian

Copyright 2001 Robert McConnell Productions, all rights reserved.