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Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 2 February '96

Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 2 February '96
Answers to your Parliamentary Questions
mailto:drvideo@comcast.net


Dear Parlimentarian:

    In Oregon, it is possible to have special district to handle the problem of receiving and administrating tax dollars for a Fire and Rescue Dept. The district is subordinate to a County, State. The 5 member board is elected from candidates who reside within the Districts Boundary, and are serving 2-4yr terms. The Board is responsible to set policies & a Budget for the operation of, in this case, a Fire Dept. Our “Rural Fire Protection District” serves about 3500 people in 5 mile radius of the Station and has been operating since 1967 without a basic “Job Description” (Bylaws). The officers, Chrmn, V. Chrman and Secretary, are elected from their own ranks yearly and are eligible for re-election. The board also retains a “Deputy Treasurer” who disperses Warrants on County collected tax funds according to budget needs. We are looking into applying the Sturgis rules of order for conducting the regular monthly business mtgs.

    Your interest and assistance are appreciated.

Wayne

Dear Wayne,

    Do you want a “job description” or bylaws? There certainly would be a difference between the two documents. To me a job description is just that, a summary of people’s duties. But bylaws are a legal governing document of the organization that would define the organization’s objective, the purpose, how officers are elected, how long they can serve in their position and the most important duties (but not a job description or daily duties). Example the Chairman is to preside at all the meetings. Can the chairman call special meetings? Bylaws also specify the number of meetings a year, what day the meetings are to be held, and how to call special meetings. The other topics bylaws cover are the parliamentary authority, and how to amend the bylaws.

    May I suggest you do some reading on this topic. I would certainly suggest reading what Sturgis says about it, and notice her distinction between bylaws and policy statements. That would also hold true for a “job description”. Other resources to read are ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED, 1990 ED. , published by Scott Foresman. He has a very detailed chapter on the writing of bylaws and what to include in them. Also the pitfalls to avoid. Another helpful book is THE FUNDAMENTALS OF PARLIAMENTARY LAW. It is a instructional book on parliamentary procedures. It was designed for the schools, but it has a very good chapter on writing bylaws. This book can be purchased from the AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF PARLIAMENTARIANS, 10535 Metropolitan Ave, Kensington, MD 20895-2727. The phone number is 301-946-9220. I believe the price is in the $20.00 range. If you can not find the current edition of Robert’s Rules in your bookstore, we sell it throught our company. For a paperbound edition, its $15.00 plus $6.00 S & H. OUr address is 6018 W. Hellis Drive, Muncie, IN 47304. or you can call toll free at 800- 532-4017.

    If you are going to write bylaws, I suggest you consult with your county attorney to see what are the laws concerning your organization. Then your bylaws must be in agreement with these laws. It sounds to me that you already have some procedures and rules in place or that is being done by tradition. If this current way of doing things is working, incorporate this into your bylaws. Remember in writing bylaws that it is important to write them in complete sentences and grammar is just as important as content. Sometimes in writing , we think we are saying something, but because of the ways it is worded, it says something else. I would highly recommend working with a parliamentarian. This person can prevent many mistakes.

Here are some notations I made that I thought will be helpful to include in your bylaws.

1. Begin with the name.

2. Define the object of the organization

3. How the board is elected and the state provisions concerning this.

    4. How the board elects its own officers. What is the nominating process, is the vote by ballot or voice vote; the term of office; and eligibility of re-election; how a person can be removed from office and the reasons a person could be removed from office.


    5. Duties: general duties and general responsibilities. Then refer to the “job description” which could be a different document and easier to change if things change.


    6. Meeting days or dates are usually set in the bylaws. The time of the meeting is written in the standing rules. If you have regular quarterly, monthly or weekly meetings this should be stated, Set one of the meetings as the an annual meeting, another for election of officers, if this is not done at the annual meeting . Perhaps you elect officers after new members are elected to the board. This would be called an organizational meeting. A provision for special meetings should be included, and who has the authority to call a special meeting. Can a meeting be canceled because the weather? (include this somewhere). Or can the meeting dates or days be changed by a majority vote of the board. Do you need to have notice of these meetings and who sends the notice. Can it be by telephone, fax, E-mail, or does it have to be by mail. How many days ahead of the meeting does the call to the meeting need to be sent. If you have quarterly meetings then it should be stated what business can be conducted at these meetings, does it different from the annual meeting and how. These are all things to considered under meetings.


    7. Does your board have the power to appoint committees or special committees to investigate things? If you have standing committees (committees that are long term and the only thing that changes are the people serving on them) name them and define their purposes.


    8. Name the parliamentary authority. In this case it would be Sturgis.


    9. How the bylaws can be amended. Can it be done at any meeting or just at the annual meeting. It is normal to state that in amending bylaws, there must be previous notice given, usually so many days before the meeting, and that they can only be changed by a two-thirds vote.


    I hope this helps you. It is by no means complete.

    One more note. I have this highlighted in by Robert’s Rules (p. 562.) “The composition of bylaws is somewhat different from ordinary expository writing, in that it places greater demand on a “tight” clarity and precision in word choice, sentence structure, and punctuation. IN bylaws, as in legal documents of any kind, every punctuation mark may have an important effect; and what is omitted may carry as much significance as what is included. Indisputability of meaning and application is a more important consideration that “readability”, and the latter must be sacrificed when both cannot be achieved. Each sentence should be written so as to be impossible to quotes out of context; that is, either its complete meaning should be clear without reference to sentences preceding or following, or it should be worded so as to compel the reader to refer to adjoining sentences -- as by beginning, “Any member so elected...” Exceptions or qualifications to statements should be included, as far as possible, within the sentence to which they apply -- which can often be accomplished by ending sentences with clauses beginning “exept that...” or “provided, however, that...” Where such a technique is impractical, a sentence should contain at least an allusion or reference to any exceptions to its own applicability -- as “except as provided in ‘Article VI, section 2 of these bylaws, officer shall....”

    Have fun and if I can be of further help, please write.

Sincerely,

Parlimentarian of
Robert McConnell Productions

Dear Parlimentarian:

    I am interested in the latest revision of Robert’s Rules regarding accepting /receiving of Committee reports.

Dear Committee Member,

    A committee report is given at the proper time by a “reporting member”. The Proper time” is set in the agenda or an organization’s adopted rules of order. The order as established by Robert’s is that after a meeting is called to order and any special ceremonies completed, the first order of business is the reading and approval of the minutes. Then follows reports of officers, boards and then standing committees. When standing committees have finished reporting, special committees report.

    In giving the report, the reporting member, which is usually the chairman, makes the report in behalf of the committee. If the chairman does not want to do it, or is not at the meeting to do it, then the committee members should appoint someone from the committee to do it. It is important that the information contained in the report be agreed on by majority the committee members. Robert’s says on page 493, “a report of a board or committee can contain only what has been agreed to by a majority vote at a regular or properly called meeting of the board or at a meeting of the committee where every board or committee member was notified of the meeting and where a quorum of the board or committee was present.”

    When it comes time for Committee Reports, the chair should announce: The next business in order is hearing reports from standing committees. (These are given in the order they are listed in the bylaws.) The chair should state “We will first hear the report of the Finance Committee.” He/she keeps calling on all the committees until all have reported. (If you are the chair, it is a good idea to call members before hand to see if they have a report to give and then call only on those who have reports. This is a times saver.)

    If a committee has a recommendation that they want the members to debate and vote on, it should be phrased as a motion and given at the end of the report. It would be phrased, “By direction of the committee, I move that we......”

    This does not need a second because it has been voted on by the committee which means that more than one person wants to hear it discussed. It is taken up immediately(and not later in the meeting) because “the object of the order of business is to give priority to the classes of business in the order listed.” RONR P. 350

    After standing committees report, then it is time for Special Committees to report. These are called on in the order they were appointed. Only those should report who were instructed to report at that meeting.

    If you have any further specific questions about committee reports please do not hesitate to write.

    For further references on this subject see ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED (RONR) 1990 Ed., pp. 350-351, and Chapter 50, pp. 493-521

Sincerely,

Parlimentarian of
Robert McConnell Productions

Dear Parlimentarian:

    I have recently begun taking minutes at Commission and Committee meetings for the Village in which I live. I would like to know all about the duties of a recording secretary, tips/guidelines on minute-taking... Any help for me? Thank you.

Linda

Dear Linda,

    I am sorry that it has taken me so long to answer your message. I was checking around to see if some of the people I know had experience taking minutes for city government.

    Let me tell you about two very helpful organizations. The first is the National Association of Parliamentarians. They have a wonderful series of booklets called the "Spotlight Series". They sell for about two dollars each. They have one called The Spotlight on you the Secretary. This booklet tells the basic things that need to be included in the minutes and basic duties of a secretary. However, I want to stress that since you are the secretary for a governing body, things might be somewhat different. I would check to see if there are any state codes that determine what should be in your minutes. Remember the minutes are the legal document of the village and need to be accurate. Before I go on to the next paragraph, the telephone number of the NAP is 816-833-3992. The other organization is the American Institute of Parliamentarians. Their phone number is 301-946-9220. You might call them to see what information they might have that will help you.

    Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 1990 Ed, pp. 449-451 has duties listed for the secretary of organizations. However, as a secretary to a legal body you may have different duties. He also has a section on what to include in the minutes.

    Robert's say "unless the minutes are to be published they should contain a record of what was done at the meeting, not what was said by the members. The minutes should never reflect the secretary's opinion, favorable or otherwise, on anything done or said." P.458.

    According to Robert's the first paragraph should contain the following:

    What kind of meeting-- is it a regular, special adjourned, regular or adjourned special meeting.
    The name of the assembly or society.
    The date and time of the meeting -- what time it was called to order, the place if it is not always the same. And that the regular presiding officer and secretary were present, and if not who filled in for them.
    And whether the minutes of the previous meeting were approved as read or corrected.

    Here's an example of an opening paragraph.

    The regular monthly meeting of Hoosier Parliamentarians, Chapter 38, was called to order, January 15th at 8pm at the Library, by the president, Eva Board, with the secretary being present. The minutes of the December meeting were approved as read.

Or

    The regular monthly meeting of Hoosier parliamentarians, Chapter 38, was called to order, January 15th at 8pm at the Library by the Vice President, Robert McConnell, with the secretary being present (or with Dolores Davis acting as secretary). The minutes of the last meeting were read and approved as corrected.

    In separate paragraphs for each subject:

    All main motions with any amendments included in the motions. The maker of the motions but not the person who seconded it. (However, city government may have separate rules. A POINT TO REMEMBER: A second does not mean I agree with the motion. It means I willing to have it discussed. This is very misunderstood by most people. Some people want to have their name in as a seconder because they think it means I'm also in favor of it. Not true. Someone could be against a motion but seconds it, just to have it out in the open for discussion and to have it voted down. ) The status of the motion needs to be reported was it adopted? lost? temporarily disposed of? ( temporarily disposed of means was it sent to a committee, postponed to the next meeting, layed on the table)

    Normally discussion is not included in the minutes. However, governing bodies may want some discussion included in the minutes which means you become an editor. I would advise against it, unless all the discussion is included. If this is the case take a tape recorder to the meeting and tape everything, keep that tape on file!!!!! Sometimes all that is necessary is to give some background for the motion in the minutes, so that it makes sense.

    A separate paragraph is needed for any notices of motions. This means that if I want to give previous notice, for example, I want to rescind something that was passed at a previous meeting, I would give notice that I was going to move to rescind the motion at the next meeting.

    A separate paragraph is recorded for any points of order and appeals, stating whether they were sustained or lost, together with the ruling of the chair.

    Announcements
    The last paragraph should state the hour of adjournment.
    Then you name and title.
    The minutes are initialed and dated after they have been approved by the assembly, or in your case the village board.

    Some hints. When I serve as secretary to organizations, (I am currently the secretary of our Hoosier Parliamentarians) I write the minutes immediately . IF I don't, I some times can't remember what all my notations mean.

    Another thing, I always have a copy of the bylaws and Robert's Rules with me. So I can help correct if a mistake is made, and assist the President.

    It is very helpful to have a working knowledge of Robert's Rules if that is your parliamentary authority. This knowledge can help the organization if they are not quite sure how to proceed and it is helpful to know how motions are ranked so that they can be put accurately in the minutes and make sense. I have as a member, had to correct minutes that were nonsense because the secretary didn't know how to write the minutes when a motion was sent to a committee by the vote of the membership.

    Ask your village council if they have duties for you. Are you required to send out a call to the meeting? Are there certain things that they expect you to do? Have it in writing somewhere. Some secretaries have certain things they are to do by certain dates. This information is helpful to have in writing and in a convenient place so it can be easily referred to.

Sincerely,

Parlimentarian of
Robert McConnell Productions

This letter is from a student at a university but I've been asked it by others:

DEAR Parlimentarian,

    What is the correct way to handle the topic of abstentions from a vote. Should they be called for? Are there some motions that require members to vote either for or against without abstentions?

JP


DEAR JP,

    Oh, those abstentions.......So many are confused on this subject. Both ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER and DEMETER'S MANUAL OF PARLIAMENTARY LAW AND PROCEDURE, state that it is the duty of every member to vote, but you can't force a member to vote.

    When the chair takes a vote, he only asks for the affirmative and negative votes. He NEVER asks for abstentions!!!!!!!

    The chair would state, "As many as are in favor, say 'aye'. Those opposed say 'no'". Members who do not wish to vote do not have to say 'aye' or 'no', but can remain silent. If the vote is by a show of hands, members do not have to raise their hands. If it is by a rising vote, they can remain seated. If the vote is by ballot, they don't have to cast a ballot, or they can cast a blank ballot. (In recording a ballot vote, blank ones are discarded and are not considered in the total of ballots cast.)

    The only time a member is able to let the other members know he is abstaining is in a roll call vote. When the secretary calls a member's name he has three ways of answering: "yes", "no", or "present". A "present" answer means I'm here but not voting. In other words, I abstain.

    (A member can also answer, "pass", which means I'm not ready to vote now, come back to me.)

    There is one time a member should abstain from voting and that is when there is a conflict of interest. If a member could have financial or personal gain by the outcome of the vote, then he should abstain. See ROBERT'S RULES, 1990 ed. page 402.

    As far as I know there are no motions which require that a person must vote. Please note, I wrote, "as far as I know". There are always exceptions. There may be a state code or law pertaining to certain organizations that would require every member to vote, or it could be in an organizations bylaws. None of the parliamentary authorities that I am familiar with require that members vote.

Parlimentarian

Dear Parlimentarian:

    Thanks for the information. I really like what you’re doing. I need help. How do you enforce the bylaws when the meeting or voting are not valid and the meeting turns out to be a mockery? i.e., a community association meeting. Many things that happen are not done with the bylaws in mind. Thanks again.

Ron

Dear Ron,

    First, does everyone in your organization have a copy of the bylaws? If everyone knows the the rules they will probably (hopefully) be more inclined to follow them.

    I have found it helpful to take the bylaws and any other governing rules (including a copy of my parliamentary authority, which is Robert's Rules of Order)with me to a meeting. When the bylaws are not being followed, I will rise, get the recognition of the chair and point out that a bylaw is not being followed. Or sometimes correct a misconception about the bylaws. I will point out the error and then read the bylaw to the chair and assembly. That usually takes care of it.

    (An example is as follows: In one organization that I am a member of, our board members have a different eligibity for office than an officer. To be eligible for the position of officer, a member must be a member for a year before he/she can be considered for the office. Any member is eligible to serve on the board. There is no year's membership requirement. However, at an election meeting, the chair stated that to be eligible for the board, members had to be a member a year. Therefore he had left two eligible candidates off of our list of potential nominees. I was able to point out the mistake and add the two to the list to be considered.)

    Another thing I have found helpful is to educate the members about the bylaws or democratic procedures, every opportunity I get -- in serving on committees, or the board, or talking to them on the phone, going out to lunch, where ever and whenever. Again in this same organization....when I moved to this area and joined, I found that all kinds of undemocratic actions were going on and that a small group was trying to run the organization and prevent others from having a say. Members were even afraid to speak out at meetings. I began to talk to people and many who were silent were just as concerned as I was. Slowly changes began to take place. One big change was to revise our bylaws.

    Remember organizations change. IF the bylaws aren't meeting the currrent needs of the members they should be changed. Rules are made to fit the members' needs. Many bylaws are written without this in mind. Each organizations bylaws should be unique, tailored to its needs.

    Can you run for office or serve on the board? Through these positions you can be a great help to seeing that the rules are followed.

    Is Robert's Rules of Order your parliamentary authority? If it is, you can point out on page 108 of Robert's (1990 Ed.) that any motin adopted which conflicts with the bylaws, even if it is unanimously adopted, is null and void.

    Is your group located in Canada? Is it like a home owners assocaiton? Do the motions passed affect any property of the individual members or take away certain rights? If this is the case there may be province laws, or if you are in the US, state laws which govern the assocaition's actions and the members might have a legal action that can be pursued.

    I hope this helps. If you have any specific things you want me to address please send e-mail to drvideo@comcast.net.



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