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Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 71 January 2002

Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 71  January 2002
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:
At a recent homeowner's association Board of Directors election meeting, several signed proxies, each by out of town absentee unit owners, were given/mailed to several on-site residents requesting such person(s) vote for the candidate(s) of his/her choice.
A.   Is this democratic?
B.   How do you suggest we correct this?
C.  Would an amendment be appropriate?  If so, what wording
      should be used to prevent swinging the election by
      way of the disinterested/absentee proxy votes?
Our By-laws merely state "proxies must be filed with the Secretary before the designated time of the meeting."
Thank you.

Dear Nygren,
    1.  Proxies are never democratic.  But in Homeowner's associations state law usually requires that members can vote by proxy.  So you have to obey the state laws.
    2.  See if your state laws allow people to vote by mail for the candidates that are nominated.  If it does allow this, then use a mail ballot vote.  There is no way to prevent proxies from swaying the election.  I was un-elected from our board by proxy votes, and some other board members going and getting the proxy votes.  What I later discovered was that the members who sent the proxies had not paid their dues.  It is important that if your bylaws or covenants state that voting rights can be taken away if members are not current on their assessments, that the board reviews the list of unpaid members and notifies them that they can't vote until assessments are paid.  
    3.  If you are concerned about proxies influencing the vote, then you collect proxies of people who will vote the way you do.  

  PS.  See our Web Site <> Homeowners section, the second to last article has about our election process and how I was not re-elected to the board.

Dear Sir,
I loaned my copy of Robert's Rules of Order to a friend and now I need help-How does one conduct an installation of officers? It can be simple but I need to know. The meeting is tomorrow 1.29.01. Can you help me?

Dear Linda,
I don't know of a version of Robert's that tells how to conduct an installation.  Call the National Association of Parliamentarians at 1-888-NAP-2929.  They can hopefully give you some suggestions.  They even may have some information that they can refer you to.
PS.  You might want to write something brief about the duties of each office. When I was installed as President of my local parliamentary unit, the person who installed us did just that.  He described our duties and asked us if we would uphold the duties of the office.

I'm a member of the Bridge & tunnel Officers Benevolent Assoc.(BTOBA). The rules and orders of "Cushing’s Manual of Parliamentary Procedure" is applicable where our constitution is lacking. Problem-- the Executive Board has refused to schedule meetings. We had charges drawn against each exe. board  member and held them back when they promised  the general membership meeting to be scheduled in March. They have failed to schedule any meetings since April of 2001, meetings are to be scheduled on even #'d months. Our ranks had dwindled through attrition and we have currently nearly doubled the membership in the past two years to (600). Spoke to VP 3 weeks ago on matter, still awaiting date.

Dear Rita,
    If your board is not meeting, who is taking care of business?  And what are they doing?
    What does your bylaws state about removing officers?  I am not familiar with Cushings Manual nor do I have a copy of it.  Does Cushings talk about removal from office?  Also, are you incorporated as a non-profit organization in your state?   If so, the corporation laws will have a section on how to remove a board of directors for not doing their duty.

Dear Parliamentarian:
I need some information on the election of a pastor at church. Our church is small and only have about 20 or 30 active members. Our pulpit committee is looking at 3 men who have submitted papers to become pastor there. The way I understand it, the pulpit committee has to decide on
one of them to bring before the church membership so he can be voted on to become the pastor. My question is this, when the pulpit committee meets to decide on one of the men, does this committee have to have a unanimous decision or can it be a majority vote among them as to which one to bring before the church? Our by-laws do not address the issue at all. I would appreciate any and all information on this matter.
Thank you,

Bill Orrock


Dear Bill,
 Since your bylaws are silent on this (you might want to address in the bylaws) then it takes a majority vote.  Also  if there is a division in the committee then a committee member at the meeting could amend the motion by striking out one name and inserting another.

Dear Parliamentarian:
Exactly what is an assessment?  
Can members of an organization be assessed for the following. (The bylaws of both the chapter and the national organization are silent on these issues.)  
(1) a contribution to the national organization which requires a minimum contribution of $100 per year per chapter.  (If so, can the assessment be as much as $100 or more per person?)
(2) participation in a non-mandatory program or activity being hosted by the chapter, i.e., a group outing to the theater?

Dear LChastang,
    According to "A Dictionary of Procedural Terms" by Harold Corbin,  an assessment is "the charge imposed in addition to designated costs of membership.  An assessment must be specified in the bylaws if it is to be imposed."      So if your bylaws are silent on this issue, the organization can't impose one.

 Dear Parliamentarian:
I have a question that has come up in conversation, and I am hoping that you can answer it. The question is in regard to electing a Chairperson of a Committee.  The Committee has four Council members to make up the Committee, who are appointed by the Mayor.  Who would break the tie should two members get nominated via motion for the Chair of that committee?   In this case, there are no by-laws stating how the tie would be broken in a committee.  There are only by-laws stating that the Mayor shall cast the deciding vote in event of a tie vote at a Council Meeting.  I appreciate any information, and a procedure to follow if this should ever happen.  Thanks,

Dear Rick,
 Usually when a committee is appointed, the first person appointed to the committee is the chairman.  So with that information your problem may be solved without having to have an election.  

Mr. McConnell
Your site is awesome.  My name is Ivann Greene, and I am a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Sacramento Alumni Chapter.  Our Chapter recently revised our Chapter By-laws.  As Chairman of the By-laws Committee, it was my responsibility to be "forward thinking", maybe even innovative in our approach to the revisions.  I am proud to report that we met the challenge and adopted our new By-laws in December.  It took 10 months of haggling and arm- twisting though.
My concern at this point, however, is that the Chapter leadership needs to detail policy with respect to check disbursements and the like.  A Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) has not been authored as yet, although provisions in our new By-laws do in fact call for the Board of Directors to prepare the SOP.
What, if at all, does parliamentary procedure allow for Executive Action?  In other words, would it be possible for the President our Chapter to issue a policy with respect to check disbursements?  If so, please advise.  Thank you.
Ivann Greene, LTC
CA National Guard

 Dear Ivann,
    It would be best for the board of directors to decided how to handle check disbursements.  It also helps to work with the Treasurer on this matter and get imput from others about  a good way to do this.

Dear Parliamentarian:
Can a general proxy solicited from members be used by Board member to "vote any and all matters properly coming before the Association" at members meeting or does a proxy need to be specific to an issue? Thanks.
Barry Lunn

Dear Barry,
The proxy can be either a general or a limited proxy, meaning that the issue can be put on the proxy where the person checks how the proxy holder is to vote.

Dear Parliamentarian:
There will be a motion at our next board of directors meeting to remove a person from office.  The by-laws state that a majority of the members must be present for a quorum.  The by-laws further state:  "A director may be removed from the Board of Directors for cause and upon recommendation of two-thirds of the members of the Board."  Please consider the following scenarios:

If a person abstains, I am assuming that is counted as a 'no' vote under this the by-laws interpretations.  Also, I am assuming that it calls for two thirds of the entire membership, not just people present.  Is this a correct interpretation?  Also, are proxy votes valid in this case?


Dear Tim,
 You are correct in that the recommendation of the board must be by two thirds of the members that is all the members of the board. So if your board has nine members, six must vote in favor of recommending that the board member be removed.  From what I am reading it sounds like the board must make the recommendation and then the membership removes? It sounds from what you quoted me that there is a two step process.  If the membership removes, then usually it is two thirds of those voting.  But until I could see all the bylaws applying to this situation, I can not give specifics.
     Proxies are not allowed unless your bylaws allow it, or if you are incorporated, the state corporate law allows it.  If there are other steps in this process please advise me so that I can be of further help.


Dear Parliamentarian:



Our bylaws state that a member can be removed from our organization by a 2/3 vote of the board for, among other things, "failure to comply with our Bylaws, Standing Rules and Policies."

Our Bylaws state that Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised shall be our parl. authority for all matters not specifically covered by our Bylaws.

We have two members whom we'd like to expel. One sent a letter to all our members on our letterhead stating a position that our Board did not endorse; the other has repeatedly passed bad checks at our fundraisers. In one case they took over 5 months to make good on the checks.

Our attorney says we have grounds for legal action in both cases, but we just want to expel them from membership. The member in question says: "You can't kick me out. There's nothing in our Bylaws that says we can't bounce checks."

1. Is there something in RONR that covers "generally accepted standards of ethics, propriety and decorum?"

2. Is there a phrase we can add to our removal policy that would cover common sense things like breaking the law, etc?





Dear Elizabeth,
I love the way wrong doers always try to justify their crimes or mis-deeds.  If the lawyer says that you have grounds for legal action, you have grounds to remove them from membership.  Don't be intimidated.  If they brought a lawsuit against you, they would look ridiculous.
Now Robert's uses this phrase to be put into the bylaws:  "tending to injure the good name of the organization, disturb its well-being, or hamper it in its work."  This is from the 10th ed. page 630 of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised.
Some organizations do adopt a code of ethics for their members to follow.  But lying and committing fraud are general ethics that don't have to be written down.  There are universal laws to take care of that kind of behavior.

Dear Parliamentarian:
Could you provide me with any resource for Closed Sssion meetings, via internet, website, etc.
Thank you

Dear Kathy,
What exactly to do you need to know?

Dear Parliamentarian:
Is there a manual written in conjunction with State Statutes regarding closed session? Practical guide in entering into closed session, motions, returning to open session and recording action taken out of closed session. Proper etiquette, etc. The subject matter can be sensitive.   Any reference or resources provided would be helpful. As County Board   Secretary confidentiality is part of the job.   Thank you
Kathy Vojcihoski

Dear Kathy,
The only information that I am familiar with is that what is written in parliamentary manuals.  Normally the state statutes set when the public body can go into a closed session.  So I would begin there.  Usually the statutes state that only discussion takes place in closed session and not any action.  
To go into a closed session,  a member of the governing body must make a motion to go into "executive session"  or "closed session"  to discuss renewing a contract, or the employment record of so and so, or the employment performance of so and so, etc.  That way the public attending can know if this is legal under the statutes.  It should also be recorded in the minutes why the public body went into executive session.  That way if there is a court challenge there is a record in the minutes for the reason.  
When in executive session, the public body should discuss the problem and come up with an acceptable motion to be made about the situation when they return to the open meeting.  No decisions should be voted upon in executive session because these are closed, and secret meetings, and whatever is decided in them is secret also.  Any minutes (meaning actions decided) are approved only in closed session.  So therefore the public could not know of what is decided, that is why only discussion takes place in a closed meeting.  
When the members are through discussing the problem and have figured out the plan of action and the motion to be made, a member should move to return to an open meeting.  This motion takes a majority vote.  Then during the open meeting someone makes the motion and a vote is taken.  Usually there is no discussion because that would be giving away the secrets of the closed meeting.
Hope this helps.  I realize that I need to write an article about this for our WEb page.  When I get that done I will e-mail you about it.
If you have further questions please write.

Dear Robert McConnell Productions:
I am staff to a board which consist of 15 members and we have several committees.  According to Robert's Rules, my questions are as follows :
1.  Can the Chairman of the board also serve as a committee chair?
2.  Can the Chairman of the board chair a meeting in the absence of  the
assigned committee chair?
3.   Can the Chairman of the board chair a meeting when the assigned
committee chair has resigned from the board?     
4.  Are minutes required for committee meetings?
Thanking you in advance for your assistance.
G. Johnson

Dear Gwen,
Is this a public board and a public committee -- governmental or of a non-profit organization. Please answer.  Tell me what kind of rules govern you-- bylaws, corporate charter, or if governmental tell me who selects the committees of the board and then what rules if any say the chairman of the board can be a member of the committee.  Or if your board has created the committees what rules have they adopted to govern these committees.  You need to look at your rules to see if the chairman of the board can be chairman of the committee.  If this was enacted by a motion to form X committee and to appoint members A,B,C,D and the chairman wasn't one of them, then that will determine the answer.  If you have a record of the motions that brought these committees into existence that would be helpful to know.  Also it would be helpful to know if the board members allow themselves to serve ex-oficio.  
Thank you,

Dear Parliamentarian:
Thank you for responding:
This is a tri-partition board consisting of 5 representatives from the Poverty Sector, 5 representatives appointed by the Board of Supervisors and 5 representatives of the Private Sector (business, education, major community interests groups, labor, etc.).  This board is governed by its' by-laws and the County Board of Supervisors.  This board created the committees and the chairman appoints the committee chairs.  There are no guidelines re: committee chairs or minutes for committee meetings in the by-laws.
Hopefully this will assist in preparing a response to my uestions.  Thanks again.  You may also e-mail me at work.

Dear Gwen,
Now to answer your questions:.  Yes, the board chair can serve as a committee chair unless you have rules that state to the contrary.  Yes, if there are no objections from the committee.  Normally, the secretary of the committee would call the meeting to order and the members would appoint a chairman pro-tem.  If the chairman of the board appoints committee chairs, then he could appoint himself to be the chairman and conduct the meetings.    Yes, minutes should be taken at these meetings, especially if you  have been appointed by a governmental body.   How else is there going to be a record of what the committee has decided?

Dear Sir,
      I have a question concerning Board Officers. Robert's rules state what officers are generally considered for board members. We have a unique situation with our association in that we have an Executive Director for life on our board. The question has been put to me as to the legality of this position. I have reviewed Robert's Rules of Order and do not find any reference to a situation as this one. If the position is not a legal one, how would one go about doing away with the position. The member in
question was the founder of the organization, and feels that without their input and guidance the organization would not function properly to their standards. Please advise me on what action if any to take. Thank you.
James Stockman

Dear James,
Is it in the bylaws that the member is for life?
The Parliamentarian

Dear Parliamentarian:
Yes, it is written in the bylaws. It is written as follows:
An Executive Director position will be established upon the expiration of the term of the 1st president of the Alumni. Such position will inure to the benefit of the holder, in that the term will be indefinite and the Executive Director will be Ann adhoc member of the board of directors with voting privileges. The duties of the Executive Director may include, but are not limited to, an advisory roll to the board and promotion of the Citizen's
Police Academy and the Alumni and the public venue.

Dear Cathy,
If you are brave and have enough members behind you, propose an amendment to the bylaws which changes the term or does away with the position completely.  Usually to amend bylaws takes previous notice and a two-thirds vote of those present and voting.

Dear Parliamentarian,

   Thanks for the information. I just finished reading pages 329 through 335, of chapter 20,  that also gave me the information you just sent me. My husband will take over as President on 1 March 2002. He is brave enough, but we are not sure we can get two thirds of the members’ votes to change the current bylaws.
     Some people complain allot, but may not be willing to vote and change the current status. The lady "Ann", in the Executive Director position, is very popular with a handful of people since she started the alumni association.  All we know is, if something isn't done before 2002 ends, we may fold as an alumni organization. Our current bylaws were just thrown together so to speak.
   I also have another question. Our physical year is from 1 January to 31 December, according to what is written in our bylaws. Shouldn't a new board take over as of 1 January if that is considered the physical year?  
    Our bylaw reads: The new board shall begin their duties on 1 March.
Voting is in held in January, at our monthly alumni meeting, for the new board members. And the transition period, and swearing in of new board members, is February.
    Seems like this should be another revision of the bylaws too. We are not familiar with other organization practices, we have never been members of any organization before. Is there a set standard?

Dear Cathy,
 Each organization handles it differently.  Some members elect their board members and officers and they take office immediately after the close of the meeting.  Others have a transitional period.  You do what your bylaws say.  You could amend the bylaws to say that after the meeting in January the new board members and officers take their positions.  

Dear Parliamentarian:

What number constitutes a quorum for a seven member board?    Also what is your interpretation of the following, "These bylaws may be amended by a majority vote of the entire membership of the Planning Commission"?  Thank you for your help.
Henry Steward

Dear Henry,
If the bylaws don't state a quorum then it is 50% or in your case 4 members.  The majority vote of the entire membership means not just of those voting but of the entire board which is 4 members.  In that case if 4 members are present, all would have to vote in favor for the bylaws to be amended.

Dear Parliamentarian:
Minutes of the last meeting are passed out just moments before the meeting is to start.   The President goes through the agenda and business is handled which requires the attention of the members.
When it is time for the minutes to be read, she states that we received the minutes prior to the meeting and the reading of the minutes will be dispensed and then she ask for a motion and a second to accept the minutes as circulated.
When members complained that they did not have time to read the minutes she reminded us that we received them prior to the meeting.  She ask for corrections and seeing none she says the minutes are approved.
My question is this--after the minutes have been approved at a meeting can a correction be brought at the next meeting, have discussion and then make changes to the already approved and accepted minutes?

Dear Barbara,
 First of all the minutes belong to the assembly and not to the president.  To dispense with reading of the minutes the chair needs to take a vote.  Second, a member can make a motion at any time during the meeting when no business is pending to have the minutes read and corrected.  
    Minutes can be corrected at any time there is a mistake by the motion to "Amend Something Previously Adopted".  If you will give previous notice it only takes a majority vote to adopt.  If you don't give previous notice it takes a two thirds vote or a majority of the entire membership whichever is easier to obtain.
    Your president evidently doesn't understand the importance of the minutes of the organization.  If you are incorporated as a non-profit organization, I'm sure your Secretary of State would frown at how casually she handles the approval of the minutes.  This is a legal record of your meetings.  It can be used in a court of law to resolve disputes.  If the corporate veil was ever pierced the minutes would be the first thing they would examine.  I would suggest that you show this to your president.  The minutes should be handled immediately after the meeting is called to order unless there is a more pressing issue.  This is so important that it is considered the first item of business on the agenda.

Dear Parliamentarian
I am a member of a recreation club and our bylaws state that election are to be voted by secret ballot.  A nominating committee was appointed to present a slate of officers.  The committee acted and presented a slate.
Nominations from the floor were requested and no one was nominated from the floor during that meeting.  The election is to be held at the next general meeting.  After the meeting concluded a member requested to be a "write in" during the election.  It was my understanding that since there were no nominations from the floor that the officer was elected by acclamation.  Is this correct or do we now have to prepare a ballot with the name of the
officer nominated by the nominating committee on it to allow for the "write in" vote?  Thank you.

Dear Alf,

Since your bylaws state that the election will take place by secret ballot, you have to prepare a ballot.  There are no exceptions to this rule.
Let me explain some concepts for you.  There are two steps in electing officers.  The first step is nominations.  In your organization you have a nominating committee that is to find the best candidate for each office, which they did.  The committee presented a slate of officers. Then the next step is to allow the assembly to nominate if they so desire.  In this case no nominations were presented from the floor, which is also fine.  
Now the next step is electing them.  Even though you have only one nomination for each office, they still have to be voted on.  Since your bylaws state how the election is to take place, by secret ballot, you have to follow that.  A ballot vote allows someone to write in a name.  Evidently one member wants to do that.  You can't change the method of voting unless you amend the bylaws, which takes previous notice and a two-thirds vote.  
You might find our new video "Nominations and Elections" very helpful to understand this entire procedure.  We have focused upon the ballot vote, how it is to be taken, counted by the tellers committee and reported to the membership.  Since you seem unfamiliar with this subject, it would be very helpful to you and your organization.  You can find information about it on the WEb Site at  There is also a place to order it.

Hi Parliamentarian:
Thank you for your prompt reply.  I was just told that there is no mention in the bylaws how the election is to be conducted.  In the past we used a ballot only if there was more than one person running for office.  If no one nominated from the floor the vote was done by show of hand.  What is the proper way to proceed?  Thank you.

Dear Alf,
 In this case the member wanting to write in a candidate needs to make a motion to take the vote by ballot.  This motion is not debatable and the chair takes a vote immediately on whether the members want to vote by ballot.  If a majority wants to take the vote by ballot, then the members get to vote by ballot.  If they vote no, then take the vote by either voice or show of hands.  
    Here is the scenario.  
    Chair states:  "The next business in order is the election of officers, the nominations are as follows.  (read the names)  In the past we have taken the vote by a show of hands.  If anyone wishes to take the vote in another way, please rise now and make a motion to do so.  (this is now the time the member needs to make the motion.)

Member:  Mr. President, I move that we take the vote by ballot.
Member 2.  I second the motion.
President:   It is moved and seconded that we elect our officers by a ballot vote. All those in favor of electing by a ballot vote say "aye."    Those opposed say "no."   The ayes have it and we will take the vote by ballot.   Will the tellers please hand out ballots.
If the members vote no, the chair states:  "The noes have it and we will not take the vote by ballot.  All those in favor of  electing the slate as presented raise your right hand.  Put your right hand down.  All those opposed raise your right hand.  Put you hand down.  The affirmative has it and our officers are elected."
    There is a way to take a vote  by acclamation but that also has to be vote on.  Our video shows all this.  

Dear Parliamentarian:
Thank you for the information.  If the members agree to vote by ballot do we give them a blank ballot for them to write whatever name they want or should the person who was nominated have his/her name on the ballot?

Dear Alf,
You can either give them a blank ballot to write the name of the candidate of choice or provide a ballot with names on them and leaving a place for write-ins.

Dear Parliamentarian:
Our ambulance league recently held our elections.  That night our current President stacked the meeting by asking members of our fire department to attend and "vote for her," which they did.   The vote was in her favor.  Comments were raised as to the validity of the fire department members being allowed to vote in our elections as there used to be wording in the bylaws which stated that in order to vote a person must have attended at least one half of the monthly meetings of the league - however, the wording is now missing and no one can remember the wording being deleted from the bylaws.  After many angry words being spoken and crew members quitting due to the "unfair voting practice", the re-elected President resigned the following day.  Here is where the problem lies:   there is nothing in our bylaws regarding resignations.  She simply came to me, the vice-president, and told me that I was now President and gave me some of the papers that she had (I say some because there has to be more).  I have given her a few days to make sure this is what she wants to do.  She has "quit" before then changed her mind.  This time she did turn in her pager.  I am not sure if she turned in a letter of resignation, I assume that she didn't, and feel that I should approach her, along with another officer as a witness, to make sure this is her decision and ask for the letter of resignation.  What if she refuses?  Can she just simply change her mind again?
Our ambulance league is chartered under our fire company.  I have asked for a copy of the fire company bylaws, however, the people that came to our election are the fire chief and assistant chief and I am being brushed off in getting a copy.  I have talked to several life long members (and former chief) and have been told that they cannot recall anything in the bylaws regarding resignations of offices.

Dear Shawne,
    The normal procedure would be for the newly elected president to submit the resignation in writing.   At that time someone has to accept it.  It is usually done by a vote.  Are you officers allowed to act as an executive board or committee?   If so then they should accept the resignation, by voting in the affirmative.   Then notify the members of the vacancy and proceed to have an election to fill the vacancy.  Until the president resignation is accepted and the person notified, she can certainly change her mind.

Dear Parliamentarian:
Good morning!  Interesting site.  I have a question if you wish to answer it.  Is a motion considered "unanimous" if one voting member abstains?  Thanks for your reply.

Dear Steve,
 It is unanimous of all those voting, but not of those present.  An abstention means a non vote.  No one is ever forced to vote.  Unless the vote is counted and recorded of all those present, it should be considered unanimous. If, as some governmental organizations require, the vote is a roll call vote,  then it would be recorded as ___voted for the motion, one member abstained.  In announcing the vote the chair should just state that the "ayes" have it.  The chair does not have to state it is unanimous.  Nor do the minutes have to reflect that it was unanimous.  This is a rather long answer, but I hope that clarifies it for you.

Dear Parliamentarian:
Thank you so very much.  I have saved your website on my favorites.  Just to be certain that I am understanding you correctly....
      "A vote is considered unanimous even if one person abstains, unless it is a roll       call vote."            
If that is correct you need no reply.  Thank you so much again.  This is an important issue for us.

Dear Steve,
Tell me why this is important and  how the vote was taken.  I like to know more details if my answers are going to be used to decide and issue.

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