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The impeachment process in organizations

Roberts Rules of Order

If you are in an organization and need to know more about Robert's rules click here. There is a new chapter in the book especially for HOA's.

THE IMPEACHMENT PROCESS AND HOW IT WORKS IN ORGANIZATIONS

                             Robert McConnell Productions

None of us could escape the news and the various commentaries about the impeachment of the President of the United States. Everyone has his or her opinion about whether this should have be done or whether it should continue to go further. This article is not going to address this issue, but try to give some understanding of this process and the procedures to be used in organizations if it becomes necessary to remove an officer.

HISTORY

In common law, impeachment is a criminal proceeding by a legislative body against a public official. It originated in the 14th Century as a means of initiating criminal proceedings based on "clamor" or outcry. In 1376 the Good Parliament in trying William, 4th Baron Latimer, set the procedures for the method of trial.

In Britain impeachment became a means for parliament to get rid of unpopular ministers who were favorites of the king and protected by him. Although this was a popular process in England in the 17th Century, it has not been used since 1806.

It was primarily used as way to balance the king’s power. When it was finally decided that the king could not pardon a minister to stop impeachment or stop criminal proceeding against a royal minister, then impeachment was no longer used. It was believed to be too drastic as a political measure.

When writing the Constitution of the United States and deciding how much power would be entrusted to the office of president, the framers of the constitution included an impeachment clause to protect against the president having absolute power like the king and ignoring the will of the people.

In an article in the Newport Herald (Rhode Island) March 20, 1788 , a comparison was made between the British Constitution and the proposed Constitution of the United States of America. The article compared the difference between the powers given to the king and those to the president.

BRITISH CONSTITUTION                  U.S. CONSTITUTION

THE KING                                              THE PRESIDENT

The Constitution of England                   The Constitution of the
not only views the King as                       United States supposes
absolute in perpetuity, but                       that a President may do
in perfection. The King                             wrong, and have provided
can do no wrong, is an                               the he shall be removed
established maxim.                                    from office on impeach-
                                                                      ment and conviction of
                                                                      high crimes and mis-
                                                                      demeanors."

Because of the lessons learned from the Revolutionary War the framers of the Constitution wanted some clause to removed the president from office during his term. Even though they had set the term limit for four years, they realized that during his term, a president could commit acts of "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." (Constitution of the US, Article II, Section 4.) The punishment could not wait until his term was ended, but because of the serious nature, they needed to provide a democratic way to remove from office now.

IMPEACHMENT PROCEDURE

We’ve have just witness the impeachment of the President of the United States by the House of Representatives in December of 1998. As we have learned, impeachment does not remove from office but brings charges against the President. These charges are the basis for a trial in the Senate.

The Associated Press gave this outline for the path of impeachment:

"1. Evidence incriminating an officer holder is delivered to the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

2. House Rules Committee asks the House to approve a resolution that transmits a report to the Judiciary Committee and establishes procedures for conducting an initial investigation.

3. The Judiciary Committee holds a hearing. The committee sent four articles of impeachment (similar to an indictment) to the full House.

4. A majority of the House must vote to approve the articles of impeachment. The House approved two articles, Saturday, December 19th, 1998.

5. The senate, presided over by the Chief justice, sits as a court to hear charges. A two-thirds vote is needed to convict.

6. Upon conviction, the president is removed form office and the vice president is sworn in."

 

For a complete discussion of the impeachment process go to <http://www.essential.org/books/impeach/#author>. It is written by Alan Hirsch.

For the Senate Rules on following the impeachment process, go to <http://jurist.law.pitt.educ/rules.htm>.

IMPEACHMENT AND PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE

Now, as persons interested in ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER and your organization, you might ask, "what does this have to do with me or my organization?"

First, we are getting a lesson in how we interpret our bylaws. The debate in the House has been what is the meaning of "high crimes and misdemeanors".

Second, we are seeing how disruptive and divisive a trial can be when no other procedure for removal is given than the impeachment process.

Third, we are learning that an organization has the right to protect its good name, and discipline its officers and members.

In voluntary societies, ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED, states on page 644, that members can be disciplined for conduct outside a meeting or work in the organization that tends "to injure the good name of the organization, disturb its well-being, or hamper it in its work".

There are two ways to discipline a member or officer,

1. censure

2. removal from office or membership.

REMOVAL FROM OFFICE

Since impeachment is the subject of conversation these days, and the immediate question in Congress, we’ll talk about removal from office first.

In most organizations, the bylaws don’t use the term "impeachment" because it is mainly a legislative term. The equivalent term would be a "trial" or a clause for "removal from office".

Since a trial is a long involved process, (which we will discuss in the next issue of this newsletter) the best way to remove from office is to provide in the bylaws a provision for this.

It can be simply stated: "Officers can be removed from office [with or without cause] by a two thirds vote." This is simply rescinding the election and replacing him with someone else. The phrase "with or without cause" is now being recommended to be included in such a bylaw provision. If this is included in bylaws, someone should check with the state statutes for your type of organization to see what the statutes say about removing from office. (if your organization is incorporated, then check with the state statutes in which state the organization is incorporated-- not necessary where the national office is located)

Another provision in the bylaws that enables members to remove an officer through the simple procedure of rescinding an election, is the statement, "that an officer shall serve for ____years or until their successors are elected." In this case, the voting requirements concerning "rescind" are in effect. If previous notice is given, it takes a majority to adopt. If there is no previous notice, it takes a two thirds vote or a vote of the majority of the entire membership.

This provision in the bylaws then allows any member during new business to make a motion to remove ____officer. It needs a second and is debatable. Other subsidiary motions can be applied to it. It is recommended to take the vote by ballot.

If the procedure is to rescind , the officer that is the object of the motion to remove from office, has the right to debate the motion (defend himself) and the right to vote. If the procedure is a trial, he has the right to defend himself but not to vote.

If the president is the subject of the motion to rescind, he must step down from the chair and let another officer preside.

REASONS FOR REMOVAL FROM OFFICE

What would be some of the reasons for removing someone from office?

1. not attending meetings and not doing the designated work

2. embezzlement of funds or other criminal activities
3. harming the good name of the organization

4. abusing the privilege of the office of president -- such as not allowing members to make motions, to debate, pushing through a personal agenda, ignoring the bylaws when it is for his purpose.

SPECIAL COMMENT

It is this author’s opinion that when there is a serious problem in an organization the members need to go to the person first. If an officer is not fulfilling his obligations, then someone should talk to him about it. Does he need help? Does he not understand what his work is and how to do it? Try to work with the person. Then if he continues to neglect his duties it is time to rescind his election.

If the presiding officer is abusing his power in office -- thinking he has the mandate to "run" the organization for his term without input from others. Talk to him. Buy him a copy of ROBERT’S RULES. Show him how democracy works in everyone’s favor, including his. If he is ignorant about presiding and what to do, then suggest he work with a registered parliamentarian or buy some videos on the subject. (See our bookstore on this web site for books and videos on the subject.) Try to be as helpful as you can.

Another thing that is helpful in electing people to office is to have the nominating committee nominate the person who has the time to do the job and is best qualified. Committee members should not be blinded by personal biases. The key is objectivity and fairness.

If a person has been elected to office and can’t do the work, then he should either ask for help or resign from office.

And finally, remember this is the age of the lawsuit. If you remove someone from office be sure you follow all the rules. Consult your bylaws, parliamentary authority and state statutes on this subject. And just to be safe, work with a registered or certified parliamentarian and maybe consult an attorney, too.

For any questions you may have on this subject, e-mail us at <drvideo@comcast.net>.

The next news letter will discuss the removal of an officer or member by trial.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The history of impeachment was found in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

The procedure of impeachment was found in the Associated Press article published in the Muncie Star Press.

The quote from the Newport Herald was found in the book, THE DEBATE ON THE CONSTITUTION, p 369.