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Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 1 January '96

Answers to your Parliamentary Questions

Listed below are different questions about parlimentary procedures answered by "Dear Parlimentarian"

Dear Parlimentarian:

    Someone in the organization asked the following: An ex-officio member of a committee by definition can be asked to leave the meeting of a committee at any time if the committee so wishes. Can you tell me if this is so?


Dear Sally:

    This is the definition of “ex-officio” as given in the 1990 Ed of ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED. (p. 473) “persons who are members of the board by virtue of an office or committee chairmanship held in the society, or in the parent state or national society or federation or some allied group, or -- sometimes in boards outside of organized societies -- by virtue of a public office.”

    This is how Alice Sturgis defines it in THE STANDARD CODE OF PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE, (p.169) “The bylaws of some organizations provide that the president or other officers, because of the particular office they hold, are automatically members of certain boards or committees. Such members are termed ‘ex officio’ members.”

    DEMETER’S MANUAL OF PARLIAMENTARY LAW AND PROCEDURE defines it as this page 274: “Sometimes a member of the assembly is made ex officio member of a committee by virtue of his office (as where the treasurer is made ex officio member of the finance committee, or the parliamentarian is made ex officio member of rules committee, or the president is made ex officio member of all committees).”

    Now what do your BYLAWS say about ex officio members? Does it say they are to leave the meetings????

    Now this is what all the parliamentarians say about the rights of ex officio members: (Demeter p. 274: “the ex officio member has the same privileges of membership as any member of the committe, including the right to vote, unless it is expressly provided to the contraty in any respect, and he is counted in the quorum, except a president who is made ex officio member of ALL committes (who is not counted in the quorum). If a non member is made ex officio member of a board or committee by reason of his special talent, he has all and the same privileges therein as any other member, including the right to make motions, to speak and to vote but he has none of the obligations of membership, such as dues, assessments, etc. Ex officio members who have full rights in board or committee are counted in the quorum.”)

    ROBERT’S RULES say this p. 473: “If the ex-officio member of the board is under the authority of the society (that is, if he is a member, officer or employee of the society), there is no distinction between him and the other board members.”

    ROBERT’S say this on p. 447: (concerning the president as ex-officio member of committees) “As an ex-officio member of a committee, the president has the same rights as the other committe members, but is not obligated to attend meetings of the committee, and is not counted in determining if a quorum is present.”

    STURGIS says on page 169: “An ex officio member has all the rights, responsibilities, and duties of any other members of the committee, including the right to vote. An ex officio member is not, as is commonly believed, merely a consulting or advising member, but is a full-fledged working member of the committee.”

    So I would say that unless your bylaws or standing rules provide for an ex-officio member to leave the meeting at any time the committee wishes, the committee is not following proper procedures!!!!! (Then could the committee ask any other member to leave too?????)

    If you have any further questions, please write back. Please consult your bylaws and then standing rules or special rules of order on this subject and then your parliamentary authority.



P. S. If you noticed that some authorities do not hyphenate “ ex officio” but ROBERT’S does.

Dear Parlimentarian:

    I'm having a problem trying to find some information in the book on Robert's Rules. Or perhaps you would know some answers for me. Our church counsel meeting votes on the pior meetings minutes at the begining of the next counsel meeting , which I'm in agreement with. The minutes that I have a problem with, were aproved as written by counsel, but dilibertly held back and not posted for the congergation to view , because the paster didn't what the congergation to see certain things.( our church is going through some hard times) I have been trying to obtain a copy of our counsel minutes as our bylaws state that we have a right to view them. Now the paster has got the counsel to unaprove the already approved minutes, and changed the content considerably. He has now posted new, alted minutes. My question is this, don't we as a congergation have the right to see the origional minutes as written , can they just go back and change things they don't like without the church involed?

    Please help me with the answers as I am to attend the next counsel meeting and plead my case.

Thank you,

Mrs. P. Peacey

Dear Mrs. Peacey

    You have posed a very interesting question. But before I can answer it, I would really need to see your bylaws. Do you have access to a fax machine? If so you could fax then to me at 317-282-2171. Or if you would like to send a copy to "Dear Parlimentarian" Robert McConnell Productions, 6018 W. Hellis Drive, Muncie, IN 47304. The questions I am interested in having answered is who is the church counsel, how many members, how are they appointed or elected? Are they responsible to the membership and I would like to see the wording of the bylaw that allows the membership to see the minutes. Is your counsel the equilavent of an executive board?

    This is what Robert's 1990 ed. p. 477 writes about who can see the board minutes: "these minutes are accessible only to themembers of the board unless the board grants permission to a member of the society to inspect them, or unless the society by a two-thirds vote (or the vote of a majority of the total memberhsip, or a majority vote if previous notice is given) orders the board's mintues to be produced and read to the society's assembly. " Of course if your bylaws state differently, then that takes precedence over Robert's (if that is your authority).

    On page 465 of Robert's it says this, if the existence of an error or material omission in the minutes becomes reasonably established after their approval -- even many years later -- the mintues can then be corrected by means of the motion to AMEND SOMETHING PREVIOUSLY ADOPTED, which requires a two-thirds vote, or a majority vote with notice, or the vote of a majority of the entire membership, or unanimous consent."

    When minutes are corrected especially after they have been approved, you don't rewrite the minutes a line is drawn through the incorrect material and new information is written above it or in the margin. Also the date that is was changed would be in it too. If the secretary presents minutes to the meeting to be read for approval the same procedure is in place. This is why the secretary should carefully go over his/her notes in writing the minutes.

    Do your bylaws say that the church is to approve the minutes or the counsel? In re-reading your question, in my opinion, the counsel itself would have to amend or correct the previously adopted minutes and not the paster re-writing them. Another question, is the paster a member of the counsel?

    I will have to do some further research to see if it is possible for new minutes to be substituted for previously adopted minutes. If this has answered your question, please let me know. If you still need further clarification please let me know and I will do further research.

    Sometimes calling in a professional parliamentarian can help solve these problems. This person charges a fee but it is well worth it to solve problems.


P. S. Could the paster have changed the minutes because a lot of discussion was in the minutes in stead of a record of what motions were made and adopted? This is a highly unusually situation and I am just trying to figure out what happened and what the procedure might be to correct it.

Dear Parlimentarian,

    Could you tell me the proper wording for placing an item on the agenda, which item was tabled at the last meeting.

    I have Roberts and can find nothing on it.

Thank you,

Richrad Grey

Dear Richard,

    First of all a motion should not be "layed on the table" unless an emrgency arises during a meeting and the current business needs to be put asided TEMPORARILY to handle the emergency. That is when "To Lay on the Table" would be in order. See Roberts Rules, 1990 edition pages 207 to 216.

    If you want to put off a motion until the next meeting, the proper procedure is to "postpone it" to the next meeting. If a motion is postponed to the next meeting, it is put on the agenda under unfinished business.

    To lay on the table is NEVER put on the agenda. The members laid it on the table, therefore only a member can move "To Take it from the Table". If the main motion which was laid on the table was being considered under new business, the motion "To Take it from the Table" can be made under new business at the next meeting. If the motion was made under unfinished business, it can only be taken from the table under unfinished business at the next meeting.

    Most people MISUSE the motion "To Lay on the Table". The motion "To Lay on the Table" is not debatable and must be voted on immediately. Since this closes debate on an issue without going throught the proper procedure of closing debate (a vote of two-thirds) it shoul rarely be used. In fact when a person makes the motion, the chair has a right and a obligation to ask the member for what purpose it is being made. If the chair believes that it is not an emergency he should rule the motion not in order and instruct the person what motion is in order.

    If the person is trying to put it off until the next meeting, the chair should state that the motion that is in order is "To Postpone" to the next meeting. This is a debatable motion and need s a majority vote to pass. If this motion is passed then it is the chair and/ or the secretary's responsibility to put it on the agenda for the next meeting. If the member is tyring to kill the main motion, (which is a common misuse of the motion to lay on the table), the chair should tell the member that the proper motion is to "Postpone Indefinitely" -- another debatable motion.

    I hope this helps you and your members. Everyone should have the lastest copy of Robert's Rules if that is the adopted parliamentary authority . Your organization's adopted parliamentary authority explains this. Our video tape explains thoroughly the motions "Postpone Indefinitely" , "To Lay on the Table", and "To Take from the Table." Our next video which is currently under production will explain thoroughly the motion "To Postpone to a Certain Time".

    If you would like a brochure, please send your name and address and we will send you one.


Dear Parlimentarian:

    My name is Shelly and I am the Treasurer of the Student Government Association At Embryo-Riddle Aeronautical University in Presto, Arizona. Today at our council meeting we voted on granting funds to an organization. A motion was made by me on behalf of our Budget Committee. The issue was controversial with a vote of 3-3-2. Two members abstained due to conflict of interest (they were members of the organization requesting funds).

    According to our bylaws, the Vice-president is chair of our meetings and votes in case of tie. However, he was not aware of this and instead allowed the President (who does not have a vote) to cast the tiebreaker. The President then voted "Aye" and the motion passed 4-3-2. This mistake was not noticed until after the meeting.

    Also, the President is dating a member of the organization requesting funds. Is this considered a conflict of interest? Either way, how should the motion be redone?

    I appreciate any help you can provide on this issue. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.



Dear Shelly:

    The reason we have bylaws is so that the most important things that we do not want changed without previous notice and a two -thirds vote we put in the bylaws. So therefore anything that is done that is not in accordance with our bylaws is null and void unless the bylaws are changed first.

    In your, case the vote is not valid because the person who broke the tie vote was not the one designated to do it in the bylaws. You will need to re-take the vote. Remember that abstentions are not counted or taken (unless your bylaws state otherwise or it is a roll call vote), and definitely people who have a conflict of interest should not vote. Also if the vote is a tie vote the chair does not have to vote. He can leave the tie vote and the motion fails, or he can vote for or against to break the tie vote.

    At the next meeting ,or, if this is important, call a special meeting to re -take the vote. If it is taken up at the next meeting, it should come up under unfinished business and the chair explain what happened and that the vote needs to be retaken. Why is the president present if he is not allowed to vote? Read the bylaw concerning this to everyone. In fact all officers should be thoroughly familiar with the bylaws. If you were aware of this when it happened,. you could have pointed out the bylaw provision to everyone so it could have been corrected at that time.


    Perhaps the Vice-president doesn’t want to alienate anyone or desires to remain imperial which is his right, please point out in Robert’s page 400, he too can abstain or not vote, and then the motion fails. If it fails it can always be brought up again at another meeting.

    I want to commend you for your diligence and honesty in preserving your bylaws and democracy in an organization. Many people who made the motion would have let the vote stand.


Dear Parlimentarian:

    Our church is considering a financial obligation wherein it is felt that the majority may wish the church to support an activity at some level below that desired by the activity (they membership has already declined full support).

    We are a democratic organization; our bylaws require that we follow Robert's Rules, Newly Revised.

    Although having declined full participation, some members wish to see us participate at some level below full, some do not wish to support the activity. (our bylaws require a 2/3 majority for this level of authorization, a 5 year commitment).

    We see how a motion to support at an intermediate level (without specifying an amount), if not approved by 1/3 of a valid quorum, will decide the issue in the negative.

    However, if the motion gets the 2/3 required, we then need to determine at what level the membership will approve a motion with a specified amount.

    It has been suggested that a ballot might be distributed (following the above vote without a specified amount)to those attending the valid meeting, stating roughly the following:

    "I will support a motion for the church to expend up to $______ per month (for the named activity), but not more than that amount"

    Following that "poll" or "straw vote", it would be announced (previous to the vote) that the Board would have the election tellers committee tabulate the level at which 2/3 had indicated they would vote "YEA". The Board would then introduce a motion stating specifically this amount.

    It seems a very efficient procedure to us, but there are those who are saying this (the dollar tabulation procedure) is a "straw vote" and would be illegal as there are no such provisions in Robert's Rules of Order. We cannot find where the version of Robert's we are using addresses such an issue. Yet this must be a recurring problem to many such organizations.

    Any advice you can give will be most appreciated. Thank you in advance,

Frank Jaguars

Dear Frank,

    Did you find your answer by reading Robert's on "fill in the blank?" Instead of going through the long and involved process that you suggested, I would recommend that someone make the motion with a blank in it. It needs a second. The chair should repeat the motion with the blank, and then say to the membership, the question is now on filling the blank. Are there any suggestions?

    However, since no one in your congregation understands this procedure, the chair should explain it to them. I would also have one of those white boards that you can mark on with a special kind of bright marking pen to write down all the suggestions. That way when the chair takes a vote the members will find it easier to follow along.

    If I were conducting the meeting this is how I would handle it:

    It is moved and seconded for the church to spend up to ____ per month for the named activity. The question is now on filling the blank. Each member is allowed to make one suggestion in filling the blank. Any suggestion made does not need a second. There will be no discussion after each suggestion is made, but after all the suggestions are made then debate is open on all the suggestions. Are there any questions about this procedure?

    The chair will now take suggestions on filling the blank."

    After each suggestion I would write it on the board provided for this or the secretary could write the suggestions for all to see.

    After every one was finished giving suggestions, I would state as the chair:

    "Are there any further suggestions for filling the blank? (pause ,look around to see if there were any) Filling the blank is now open for discussion. .......

    When the discussion is finished then the chair needs to explain the voting procedure because this is so different then what we are used to doing.

    The question is now on filling the blank. This vote will be taken by voice and it takes a majority vote to fill the blank. In voting on filling the blank the chair will begin taking the vote on the largest sum, which is five thousand dollars and work backwards until one of these proposed sums receives a majority vote and the blank will be filled. The members must vote for or against each proposal until one passes by a majority vote. If you are in favor of the first item vote "aye", if you are against vote "no". If the ayes have the majority we will stop voting and the sum of five thousand will fill the blank. If the nos have the majority we will then vote on the next sum of three thousand dollars. If you are in favor of this vote "aye", If you are opposed vote "no". This procedure will go on until one of these fills the blank. Are there any questions about the procedure of voting? "

    After the blank is filled, the chair states, The blank is filled with one thousand dollars. The question is now on the motion as amended, for the church to spend up to one thousand dollars per month for the named activity. Is there further discussion?

    The members need to understand that when they fill the blank they have not adopted the motion but an amendment to the motion. The motion will still need to be adopted by your two-thirds rule.

    When these problems arise in church meetings I always see it as a wonderful opporutnity to educate the membership in Robert's Rules.

    However, your chair, and if you have a parliamentarian, need to understand this procedure thoroughly and explain it thoroughly to the members. Once they learn this procedure I am sure they will want to do it frequently when a lot of people have different ideas about a date or time or money.

    Share with the membership that this procedure is a way for the members to consider many alternatives without going through a long amending process.

    Much success to you. If we can be of further help, please call us at our help line number of 765-282-9294.


Parlimentarian of
Robert McConnell Productions

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