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Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 10 October '96

Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 10 October '96
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 Readers,

Before the column begins, I want to tell you about a new book that has just been published and is now for sale in our Parliamentary Bookstore. It is A DICTIONARY OF PROCEDURAL TERMS, by Harold Corbin, RP. Harold has been very helpful to our company and someone that I have called many times to see "if I was on track" with my answers to the Dear Parlimentarian Column. Many of the words that he has defined in his book, are answers to questions that have appeared in this column. For example, the definition of "friendly amendment". NO other book defines it, but his dictionary does! I highly recommend this book for your library. See our bookstore for details.

This month there is a very interesting question about how to "censure" a president. Some other topics this month include:

    Procedures for a Mail Ballot
    How to Organize a Permanent Society
    President's right to vote
    How to conduct a meeting
    Giving a Workshop in Parliamentary Procedure

Dear Parlimentarian,

    I am the parliamentarian for a national organization. I am responsible for conducting a 90 minute workshop for chapter presidents and parliamentarians. There will be approximately 200 women at the workshop. Many of the chapters are using their energies just to survive and have not been focusing or using much parliamentary procedure. I would like to do several experiential exercises focusing on the importance of parliamentary procedure, the basics on how to use it, as well as how to serve as a parliamentarian. It is important that I involve those attending in the process. Any help that you could give me would certainly be appreciated. I can be reached at Thank you.

Dear Corstan,

    Why don't you focus on the things that most people are having trouble with in meetings?

    Here's what we've found to be the most common problems in the organizations we work with:

        1. They do not understand why you need to follow procedures.

        2. They do not understand how following procedures helps to expedite business and get everyone home at a reasonable time and yet not railroad through something .

        3. They don't understand that someone needs to make a motion and have it seconded before business is discussed. It seems everyone today wants to discuss before making a motion which as you know is a time waster!!!!

        4. They don't know how to address the chair, obtain the floor and make a motion. Most chairmen then don't know how to put the motion to the assembly, handle the discussion and then take the vote. How many times do they forget to take the negative vote?

        5. Another big problem organizations are having is "tabling" motions when they want to kill the motion or to postpone it to the next meeting. Presiding officers and parliamentarians need to know this is not allowed and what to do about it. Chairmen need to know their purpose is to protect the rights of all members and to remain impartial. I bring this one out in at all workshops since it is the most abused motion of all.

        6. The other motion I bring up is "previous question". People do not understand how to close debate and just yell out "question".

        7. If you have 90 minutes may I suggest that you begin by taking a meeting from the very beginning and go through it step by step.

    A. Meeting is called to order by one rap of the gavel. Show to get order when people do not want to come to order.

    B. Explain opening ceremonies that are unique to your organization.

    C. How to read and approve the minutes and how important it is do this. And What to "dispense with the minutes" really means.

    D. How officers give reports and that the Treasurer's report is always "filed" and not adopted. Explain how all questions are asked through the chair and not to the officer reporting.

    E. Reports of Committees. If a committee has a recommendation or motion to handle it at the time of the report and not later in the meeting.

    F. Unfinished business -- that you don't ask for it but it is put on the agenda. Define what it is and where to find it.

    G. New Business. This would be a good place to teach how to make a motion, discuss it and take the vote.

    H. Adjournment -- members can make a motion or the chair can assume one, or say " If there is no objecting to adjourning (this is of course when no more business is coming forward) .....then the meeting is adjourned.

    We have a booklet by the National Association of Parliamentarians entitled "Workshops that Work". The cost if $5.00 plus $1.00 for S & H. We also have other booklets for presiding officers, secretaries, treasurer's, parliamentarians, members, etc. that we sell from the NAP. Each booklet is $5.00. We have a 10 booklet "Organization Starter Kit," for $40.00 including a free booklet by Harold Corbin, RP and cost of $5.00 S & H. We give discounts for quantity purchases.

    Did you see our FREE REPORT on "How to Make Your Meetings go More Smoothly" on the WEB page? You have our permission to print it off and use it if you will give us credit for it and mention our WEB page.

    Finally, we have a video called PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE MADE SIMPLE: THE BASICS. It is used by many organizations in a workshop setting. It was produced with this in mind. Each topic is in short segments so that they can be watched and discussed. It comes with its own instructional booklet that has a time code to make the sections easy to find on the video. There is an ad for it on the WEB page or if you would like send us your mailing address and we will send you a brochure.

    One more pointer: People love to act things out. All our workshops include people making motions and one person acting as chairman. We keep this part simple. Everyone has a great time doing it.

    If I can be of further help, please let me know.


Dear Parlimentarian,


    I have a friend that is involved in a district sport organization, of which she is the president. Her district is affiliated with a provincial/state organization. Each district organization has a representative(s) on the provincial/state organization board of directors/executive board. She is not her district's representative to the state/provincial board. The provincial/state organization's fundamental objective is the promotion and development of the particular sport.


    In a conversation with this person, "Madame President", she had indicated that the executive board/board of directors had passed a "motion of censure" against her. This was as a result of an open letter she had sent to a publication involved in the sport. The content of the letter dealt with the lack of communication and direction the state/provincial organization was providing to the grassroots of the sport in a particular area of development. My understanding for the reason of censure was the fact she was criticizing {constructively} the organization - apparently not all had seen it that way - and the fact she signed the letter as the president of the district organization and not as a concerned participant or as "Jane Q. Public".

    Having been removed from "parliamentary procedure(s)" for a number of years now I have some fundamental questions surrounding the concept/topic of "Censure".


    1) What is censure?

    2) What behavior/activity/actions may be considered censorious?

    3) If the organization has a discipline committee, should all censorious matters be dealt with by said committee?

    4) What form should a censure take?

    5) Is it the place of an executive board to censure one of it's members?

    6) How does one word a motion to censure? Is censure a movable item?

    I have reviewed Robert's Rules of Order and other parliamentarian resources and can find no in-depth consideration of the topic of "Censure"

    Thanking you in advance for your response to these matters. I think the service you provide is fantastic. ( I have perused volumes 1-6 of your collection of questions looking for references to these matters)

    Keep up the good work.


Dear Keith,

    Here is a definition from a new book soon to be released, entitled, "A DICTIONARY OF PROCEDURAL TERMS" by Harold Corbin. It will be available November 1 from our company (look for it on the WEB page.) Anyway he defines censure this way, "An expression of displeasure with actions of a member or officer. Reprimand. v.t. To take action against an officer or member whose conduct or speech is unacceptable."

    DEMETER'S parliamentary authority is the only place that I could find a detailed and in depth explanation of "censure". If you will send me your mailing address, I will photocopy the pages and send them to you. This book is now out of print.

    In brief this is what Demeter says about Censure:

    It is "the warning voice of suspension, removal or expulsion." He says "Censure expresses the assembly's indignation, and is a lighter form of pronounced punishment."

    He lists many grounds for censure but generalizes by saying when a member or officer violates bylaws or rules, its orders, instructions, misconduct in office or disorderly conduct at meetings, offensive words in debate, unethical acts, etc.".....By reading his list, it sounds like whatever the assembly or in this case the board is not happy with can be grounds for censure.

    I don't know if the board can censure in this case or if it would have to go to the entire assembly.

    It is an incidental main motion. It needs a second. It is debatable and amendable. It is adopted by a majority vote. Demeter says "The vote on the censure is final and can't be reconsidered. No person may be censured a second time for the same offense...The offender himself may not vote on the motion...a vote by secret ballot is advisable." The member being censured has the right to defend himself/herself, but can't vote.

    A censure is usually brought up under new business or "for the good of the order".

    Here is the wording that Demeter uses for censuring the president:

    "MEMBER X: "Mr. President, I am about to propose a resolution of censure against the president [or against you], which I have a right to do. As you well know, Mr. President, under our parliamentary authority (name and cite the page) RONR p.443 & 657 when a motion is made to condemn or censure the president, the motion is addressed to, and is entertained by, the vice president".

    Member X no turns to the vice president, and, addressing him as "vice president" and not as "chairman", or "president", since a censure is merely a warning and not a proceeding that removes the president form the chair, says:

    MEMBER X: "Mr. Vice President".


    MEMBER X: I move the adoption of the following resolution of censure:

    Then list what the presiding officer has done to merit a censure. The motion needs a second. The vice president puts the motion to censure to the assembly and asks for discussion, and takes the vote by ballot. If the assembly censure's him, and the president continues to disobey the assembly's wishes, then charges can be filed, or he can be removed from office. If the bylaws state that the president serves for a year "or until his successor is elected", the members can rescind the election and replace the officer with someone else.

    Now I hope in your friend's case this issue can be resolved harmoniously. Again if you would like a copy of these pages , send me your mailing address. He explains the censure of a member, an officer and the president. All are handled somewhat differently.

    I hope this helps.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    Thank you very kindly for your prompt response to my inquiry on the aforesaid motion. I found your response extremely helpful and educational. I have sent a copy of your response to my friend. However, her only concern at this point-in-time is the fact that she did not have nor was she given an opportunity to defend her actions to the "whole of the board".(She did apparently resolve the issue with the President, sometime prior to the board meeting, however, it was brought to the floor under new business by another member of the board) She was, I guess you could say, "censured in absentia". In your opinion what would you think to be the best coarse of action to address this situation, considering that this motion in not eligible to be reconsidered, and given the fact that the person to whom the motion was directed did not have an opportunity to defend herself. I have suggested to my friend, knowing how principled she is, not to let this matter lie.

    I would greatly appreciate a copy of the pages from Demeter's parliamentary authority you refer to in your response. My address is

Keith Whalen
c/o M.A.G.

720 Bay Street, 9th Floor (CLD)
Toronto, Ontario
M5G 2K1

Or if you prefer, you could fax me at (416) 326 - 2423

Dear Keith,

    I will be sending you a copy of Demeter's procedure's on Censure. It is very small type so it may not go through fax very well.

    I brought up your question at my Registered Parliamentarians Study group to see what we could come up with. The consensus was that if your friend wanted to pursue this it would be best to contact a parliamentarian in Canada. To really advise her correctly the parliamentarian would need to see the bylaws, know what the parliamentary authority of the organization was, and what exactly happened at the meeting.

    I was told this by the other parliamentarians: If a member wrote a letter to the editor of a publication identifying himself as an officer or even a past officer without the board's prior approval, the organization might be justified in censuring the member.

    I did find this interesting comment in ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISIED, 1990 ED. p. 638, "It is usually in the best interests of the organization first to make every effort to obtain a satisfactory solution of the matter quietly and informally."

    It is unfortunate that the president didn't communicate with the other board members that he had resolved the issue with your friend.

    If your friend needs to contact a parliamentarian in her area, tell me what city she is in and I will send you some names and telephone numbers.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    Could you answer a question for me or direct me in the right direction?

    Once a meeting has been adjourned, can it be reopened for discussion on a topic that should have been discussed in "Old Business", then a vote taken on that topic? (with one member leaving)??

    This happened recently at a meeting. The topic had been voted on 3 separate months previously and voted "NO" each time. This person waited for the meeting to adjourn before bringing it up again. This meeting is governed by "Robert's Rules of Order".


Jackie Byrkit

Dear Jackie,

    Once a meeting is adjourned it can't be called back to order, there is one exception. ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED, pp. 237 -239 tells the exceptions.

    When the motion to adjourn is pending or even after the chair has announced the vote on the motion to adjourn and before the chair declares the meeting is adjourned, members can rise and :

        1. make an important announcement.

        2. give notice about a motion to be made at the next meeting that requires previous notice

        3. to make a motion to reconsider the vote, or reconsider and enter into the minutes

        4. to set the time for an adjourned meeting.

    If important business needs to be conducted before adjournment, a member can inform the assembly while the motion is pending -- that way the motion can be defeated and the important business taken up if the members so desire.

    Robert's says this, "If the chair learns, immediately after declaring the assembly adjourned, that a member was seeking the floor for one of these purposes had risen and addressed the chair before the adjournment was declared, it is his duty to call the meeting back to order, disregarding his declaration of adjournment -- but only long enough for the purpose for which the member sought the floor at such time." p. 239

    It is not proper to call it back to order in the situation you have described. First of all what the member was doing was renewing a motion. Even though it had been defeated at other business meetings, the proper place to bring it up was under "new business". There is no such thing as "old business". There is a classification of "unfinished business". This is business that has not been disposed of at the previous meeting or been postponed to that meeting.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    When standing rules (not bylaws) are amended do they need to be brought to the membership for vote or can they be approved an implemented by the Executive Board? I belong to a newcomers group and the president and 5 board members (actually three were present to vote) adopted entirely new standing rules (policies and procedures) for the club and nothing was told to the membership. In reading Robert's Rules I believe the membership needed a 2/3 majority vote. Am I right?

Thank you


Dear Kissell,

    Who originally adopted the standing rules? Whoever adopted them should amend them.

    To amend or rescind standing rules that pertain to the administration of the society, it takes a majority vote if previous notice has been given. If no previous notice has been given, then it takes a two thirds vote to change them or rescind them.

    Look at your bylaws. How much authority and power has been given to the board? This will tell you how to proceed. In the bylaws of many social organizations, the board has been given most of the power since the members only want to be involved in the social activities of the organization.

    Look at the your bylaws, write back and tell me what you find out. If the authority rests in the membership, then you can bring this up at a meeting and the members can decided whether they want to uphold the board's decision to change the standing rules. If the membership decides not to accept the changes in the standing rules, then the board action would be null and void.

    I would recommend that you get a copy of ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED, 1990 ed. see page 473. It says, "In any event, no action of the board can conflict with any action taken by the assembly of the society; and except in matters placed by the bylaws exclusively under the control of the board , the society's assembly can give the board instructions which it must carry out, and can counterman any action of the board if it is not too late...." Robert's goes on to say that the opposite condition prevails in boards of corporations.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    Help !!

    I am the chairperson for a carnival committee. I have only half a clue as to how to conduct meetings. There are about 20 persons involved in the committee.

    Please hurry.


Ruby Bishop-Ryan

Dear Ruby,

    The person who conducts the meeting needs to take these things into consideration:

    1. What is it that we want to accomplish at this meeting?

    (Is this your first organizational meeting? When is the carnival? What needs to be done before the carnival? Do sub committees need to be appointed to take care of carnival booths, advertising, ticket sales, etc.? Is this what we need to do at our first meeting?) You need to prepare an agenda--this means a list of all the things you want to get accomplished. Put the most important ones at the beginning. If you don't get all the way through the agenda then the least important may be able to wait until the next meeting. Come thoroughly prepared. If members need to know what happened in the past have hand outs of this so that they can review it. Give everyone a copy of the agenda so that they know what needs to be accomplished at the meeting. If the members take off on a tangent -- something that is not related to what you are discussing -- point out to them where they are on the agenda and say "Those are all interesting comments (suggestions -- whatever you would say) but let's get back to the business at hand. We are right now discussing item #3."

    2. Conducting a committee meeting is usually less formal, but since you have twenty members it is important to keep order and keep the meeting going in the right direction or you will be there ALL night! So it is important for you to know some of the rules of conducting a meeting.

    A. Don't let one person dominate the discussion. Ask if others have any suggestions. You might want to follow the formal rules of debate where members rise, address the chair, obtain the floor, and make a motion. Then debate should be alternated between the pro and cons. A person can speak only twice to the motion, but must take the second turn AFTER everyone who wishes to speak the first time has spoken.

    B. If there is a pause and it looks like no one else wants to speak. Either take a vote or sum up the points and ask, "Is this what the committee agrees that we should do?" State what it is that you are going to do. Then go on to the next item. Keep it moving but don't let the members feel they have no input. There must be a balance in pushing forward and letting everyone have enough time to discuss the matter. If committee members keep repeating themselves, ask, "Is there anything NEW that someone can add?" If not then go on to the next item.

    C. If there is any disagreement on an issue, have someone put what they want to do in the form of a motion. Discuss it and take a vote. That way the majority prevails and the committee will fill unified.

    D. Do you have a secretary? Normally the committee chairman takes minutes for the meeting, but if this is all new to you and you don't have a secretary of the committee, then ask someone to take minutes for you. You need to jot down on your agenda however, what needs to be done so that you can follow up.

    (I really don't know much about your organization so I am giving general suggestions to you.)

    I'm sure as a committee chairman you have many responsibilities besides conducting a meeting. The most important advice that I can give you is to take time to plan you meetings and when things have to get done. The key here is being logical and organized. In conducting the meeting, remember this principle: discuss one thing at a time. Something new can't be brought up until what you are discussing has been decided. If you need to put something off until the next meeting, it can be postponed to the next meeting. Make a note of it so it can be put on the agenda for the next meeting.

    Before you adjourn the meeting, set another date for the next meeting.

    If I can be of further help, let me know.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    I want to have a letter written by me and addressed to the Board read into the minutes of the upcoming Board meeting. Is there a way to insure that this is done? Are there ways that prevent this from being done?

    We are governed by Robert's Rules. There is nothing in our by-laws that speaks to this issue.

Thank you

Dear Avalon,

    Are you a member of this board? If you are, then you can bring your letter up at the board meeting if the secretary did not read it or the board members decided not to have it read. Remember that a majority of the board can set anything aside. Normally, correspondence is not put into the minutes unless it would be of extreme importance and a motion adopted that resulted from the correspondence. But the entire letter would not be recorded in the minutes but a summary of the letter or the most important facts that gives a background for the motion that is made.

    If you are not a member of the board, then find a sympathetic board member to present your letter.

    If this can not be done then bring the issue up at a regular business meeting and ask permission to "read a paper". See Robert's p 289.

    Under minutes look at Robert's page 461 third dot. It is about the assembly ordering a very important committee report into the minutes. This might apply to your situation. But the assembly must decide this by a majority vote.

    If boards continually ignore letters from their members, adopt a bylaw that states that all correspondence from members will be read, and that the board is required to give a written response in so many days stating that they have received the letter and what they have done concerning the member's request.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    I am in the process of revising our bylaws (following your guidance). If we include a limit of two consecutive terms in the same office, how would this apply to a member who is currently serving his fourth term in the same office? Would he be eligible to run for the same office at the next election following approval of this change?

    I know the effective date of any revision is final approval in accordance with existing bylaws. If this comes during the term of office of a member, how do we count the time in office for the member mentioned above?

    Your articles plus the Newsletter have been very helpful to my current responsibilities. I have worked myself into a new position within our club. I have been appointed "Parliamentarian".

Thanks again for all your help,

Bill Hess

Dear Bill,

    When bylaws are revised and adopted they immediately take effect unless a proviso is adopted which states differently. If the new bylaws would immediately end the term of an officer , and the members would like that person to continue serving in that office for a certain period of time, then adopt a proviso stating the conditions. Let me give you an example: An organization has a bylaw that states "_______may serve, three consecutive , one year terms. A ____ shall not serve more than three years within a six year period." When changing the bylaws, the organization changed the date this officer took office. The officer serving during this bylaw change would complete her three year term before the organization was to have an election for the office. So they adopted a proviso that allowed the member to serve an extra six months. When the six months were up and a new officer elected the proviso was no longer in effect.

    Now in your situation, the person serving his fourth term would not be eligible for another term because the bylaws now state "only two consecutive terms." Time of service does not begin a new because you have changed your bylaws. The fact is he has served four consecutive terms. The only thing that has changed is that now you have a limit on the number of terms that a person can serve. If you have the phrase in the revision "or until a successor is elected", then he can serve out his term or serve until a successor is elected.

    In the above case, the organization had to adopt a proviso because they did not have the phrase "or until a successor was elected."

    Hope this helps.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    Hello There!

    I have a couple questions that I was unable to get answered through other means, I was wondering if you could assist me in finding answers to these questions.

    My question is about the QUESTION OF PRIVELEGE:

        1. Does it have to be called while the meeting is in session? 2. Could there be any instance where an injunction could be construed as a question of privilege? 3. Do these types of questions refer only to such things as snow blowing through windows, accidents in house during the session, or the types like calling for the order of the day, or can questions of privilege be call to stop proceedings if one member feels procedure was not being followed either in session or during past sessions?

    Thank you for your help!


Dear Matthew,

    A QUESTION OF PRIVELEGE only has to do with what is transpiring in the assembly during a meeting and is only raised at that time. It does not correct the procedures of the assembly, but has to do with noise, temperature, etc. or to make the motion to go into "executive session". See ROBERT'S RULES NEWLY REVISED beginning page 223.

    To correct procedures in a meeting, you want to raise a POINT OF ORDER which is considered an incident motion. However, most points of order need to be made at the time the infraction is taking place unless it has to do with a continuing infraction like breaking bylaws or something of that nature. See ROBERT'S RULES pp. 247- 254.

    Our new video ALL ABOUT MOTIONS has a thorough presentation of these two motions and how to use them in a meeting. Our example meeting that goes with the instructional portion of the video shows how both of these are used in a meeting.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    A group consisting of 20 members were voting on a motion that was presented at a meeting. The vote was 13 yes, 5 no, and 2 abstentions. According to the by-laws of the organization a 2/3 majority is needed to pass this particular motion. Question is do you count the 2 abstentions to determine your 2/3 majority or just use the 18 who actually cast a vote ? Any information on this matter will greatly appreciated. Thank you.


Dear Daniel,

    In the wording of your bylaws, does it say two thirds of those present? or two thirds of those present and voting? or a two thirds vote?

    Normally abstentions are not counted but there is one case where abstentions influence the vote and that is when the bylaws state a two thirds vote of those PRESENT. Let me explain if there are 20 members PRESENT then the number to get a two thirds vote is 14 in the affirmative.

    If however the bylaws state of "those present and voting" or just a two thirds vote, then the abstentions do not influence the vote at all. So in your case 20 members are present, but only 18 voted. So the two thirds would be 12 votes.

    Please see ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED , pp.395 -399.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    I am the member of a volunteer organization of 320 members. At our next meeting we will be voting on a standing rule change which was tabled at this month's meeting. The issue involved is causing high emotions and unfortunately our president let the debate get out of hand. I had to stand to point of order. (at one time two members were not only not addressing the chair, they were screaming at each other about a topic not being discussed. I have talked with the vice president you will running the next meeting (our president will be out of town). I suggested she consult with our group's parliamentarian for help and guidelines during the next meeting.

    Here is my question. I think it would be best if we voted by written ballot as oppose to raising hands. In this group many members may not vote their true sentiments because of what their friends may think. If I read my Robert's Rules correctly this can be ordered by a majority vote. I have not yet brought this up to the vice president or our parliamentarian. If they choose not to bring this up to the assembly can I as a member of the assembly call for a motion asking for written ballot. Would this not be non-debatable and require a majority vote?

    Thank you so much for your help with this,


Mary D. Smith

Dear Mary,

    First of all may I suggest that your president study our video, PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE MADE SIMPLE; THE BASICS on the sections how to handle the debate. In an issue like this, the debate should have been alternated between the pros and the cons. At the next meeting, if your vice-president would like to contact me, I can give him/her a way to handle this situation so it won't get out of hand. Now here is a helpful hint for your as a member, when you see things start to fall a part make the motion to recess for ____ minutes. Always have someone ready to second the motion. This is not a debatable motion when other motions are pending. So the vote needs to be taken immediately! If the members vote to recess , use it as a cooling down period. Talk to the people getting out of control and reason with them.

    The presiding officer needs to learn such phrases as: "Will the member please keep her/his remarks to the subject at hand".

    "The chair has assigned the floor to _______ will the member please be seated until________ has finished his/her remarks and then the member can be assigned the floor.

    Another helpful thing a presiding officer can do is to read the rules of debate to the members at the beginning of the debate. At our Indian State Association of Parliamentarians the rules of debate are read somewhere at the beginning of the meeting. I can't remember now where in the agenda it takes place, but these rules could be read before the discussion on any business.

    Now what to do. In another e-mail message you said you have our first video. If you remember, members can't table a motion unless the purpose is to temporarily set it aside. A motion can't be tabled to the next meeting. Our second video ALL ABOUT MOTIONS has a thorough presentation of this under the section about "Postpone to a Certain Time" and again under "More About Lay on the Table". The second video is a sequel to the first video not a repeat. It is designed to give those who bought our first video more information to handle meeting problems. The second video tells how to make the motion to "recess". In fact all the motions you need to know to prevent this kind of disruption is on the video.

    Going back to "the motion was tabled". Someone will first have to take the motion from the table. Remember a tabled motion goes into the minutes but is not put on the agenda. So if no one removes it from the table at that meeting the issue is dead until someone brings it up again.

    If it comes off the table then YOU can move to take a vote by ballot. It needs a second and is not debatable and is voted on immediately. Another way to do this however, would be for the presiding officer to ask the members if there is any objection to taking a vote by ballot. If no objection is voiced then you saved a step in the procedure and can have a vote by ballot. If there is an objection to taking the vote by ballot, then the chair would take a vote about having a ballot vote. Here's how it may go:

    CHAIR: Is there an objection to taking the vote by ballot?

    MEMBER: I object!

    CHAIR: All those in favor of taking the vote by ballot, say "Aye". (Aye) Those opposed say "no". (no.) The ayes have it and will take the vote by ballot.

    or "The noes have it and we won't take the vote by ballot."

    Another point that you may or may not be aware of......Standing Rules are amended under the rules of AMEND SOMETHING PREVIOUSLY ADOPTED. See Robert's pages303 to 308. (This is also on the new video ALL ABOUT MOTIONS) If no previous notice was given, it has to be adopted by a two thirds vote. If previous notice was given, then it takes a majority to adopt. Previous notice is given when someone announces at the previous meeting that he/she will make a motion to amend the standing rule. Or previous notice could be given by mail in the call to the meeting.

    I suggest that you be fully armed with information at this meeting. Your knowledge of parliamentary procedure could save the day.

    May I suggest something else....If the parliamentarian allowed the motion "to table to the next meeting", your parliamentarian may not be well informed about correct procedures, why not give a workshop to the officers of your organization on parliamentary procedure using our videos? I'm sure they would find both the basics and the sequel "ALL ABOUT MOTIONS" very helpful.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    I'm a staff member of a not-for-profit organization, I'm wondering if it is correct procedure for a staff member to take the minutes at an official board meeting. We have an elected secretary and the executive director takes writes the minutes for the board.

Mona & Rich Seeger

Dear Mona & Rich,

    Is the secretary present at these meetings? What are the official duties of the secretary? (Should be in bylaws or job description) Normally, it is the secretary's duty to take the minutes unless you have other written rules that say the secretary DOES NOT, or the secretary is absent, or the secretary is not the secretary of the board. In the case of the secretary being absent, the presiding officer calls the meeting to order and the first item of business is electing or appointing a secretary pro tem. Perhaps your not-for-profit would benefit from our video tape PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE MADE SIMPLE: THE BASICS. It has information about the office of secretary and business conducted in board meetings. You can find information about this video on our Web page under the topic of videos.

    So to find the answer to your question, you will have to answer above the questions. If it is the duty of the secretary to take the minutes then the secretary should do it. If the executive director is presiding at the board meeting someone else should be taking the minutes of that meeting -- usually the secretary.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    I am a member and officer of a chapter of an international organization. We have a Constitution and By-laws. Our Constitution requires specific employment to be a regular member. As such, the Executive Board of the chapter recently declared the President and Executive Vice President inactive and unable to hold office. The Constitution says that when a person changes employment they must re-qualify for membership. Until they re-qualify they are placed in an inactive status and, as such, can not vote or hold office. My question is this: If the Executive Vice President re-qualifies for membership in their new position, do they automatically retain their previous office or, because they were removed from office and placed in an inactive status due to needing to re-qualify for membership, do they lose their office? There is nothing in our Constitution or By-laws to address this.


Dear Jimmal,

    The answer I am sure is in your bylaws. Here are places to look. First look under filling vacancies. When the officers have been dismissed, then that creates a vacancy and the organization needs to fill it. The other place to look is under officers and how long do they serve? ____ or until their successor is elected; or _____ and until their successor is elected. Once the successor is elected or appointed (however your bylaws read on this) then that person fills out the term.

    Another place to look is after a person becomes a member what is the eligibility for holding office.

    Sometimes a thorough reading of the bylaws is necessary to answer questions such as this.

    Normally, I would say that if a person loses his status as member and then reapplies and is accepted, he is like any new member. However, if the organization wants to address this issue, it needs to write a provision for it in the bylaws. If this happens frequently, people changing jobs and needing to re-qualify, perhaps there needs to be provision addressing this particular issue.

    If this doesn't answer your question, fax me your Constitution and Bylaws and I will look at it and see what I can find to answer the question. My fax number is 317-282-2171.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    I just read your remarks about ex-officio members, but I still have a question. I am a member of an elected school board, and we use Bourinot's rules (only in Canada?).I understand that ex-officio members are full members with voting rights, but you mentioned that this might not be the case if it was prohibited elsewhere. Does this mean that the board can decide to deny voting rights to ex-officio members? In this case, it would involve the chair and the vice-chair.

    Thank you for any help you may be able to give...


Dear Karen,

    I received your e-mail message. I will answer it soon. Could you please tell me what you read on our web page about ex officio members? Was it in the "Dear Parlimentarian" column and where? or was it in our newsletter? I would be helpful to me if I could go back and read what I wrote. I know that may sound strange but I do so much writing, I don't remember what was said. If you would please answer I would be most appreciative.


Hi Parlimentarian,

    What I read was in the "Dear Parlimentarian" column, volume 1, Jan '96, which I saw at website It was the first letter in the volume, from someone named "Sally". I was referring to your reference in Demeter, p. 274, which I have copied from the column, below:

    "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 committee, including the right to vote, unless it is expressly provided to the contrary in any respect, and he is counted in the quorum, except a president who is made ex officio member of ALL committees (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.")".

    I wanted to know if the right to vote could be denied to these ex-officio members, if the board wanted to make a motion to that effect. Also, regarding their presence for quorum purposes, if they are ex-officio on ALL committees, by reason of their office, can they be counted for quorum purposes.

    Hope this is a little clearer, and that you can help shed some light on the subject.

    Thanks for your quick response. I was quite surprised to find this type of resource on the Internet. Our own parliamentarian is not very knowledgeable, and somewhat biased at times, I believe, so I was not content to take her word for it. Also, our edition of Bourinot's does not go into the matter. It appears that I may end up having to back down, but at least I will know that the decision was corroborated by an outside party.

thanks again...


Dear Karen,

    The quote from Demeter is for organizations and governing bodies that use Demeter for a parliamentary authority. However the principle should be the same. What I would suggest is that you go to the governing documents concerning your school board -- are there provincial laws or city laws that govern the meetings of your school board? First of all, in organizations there can't be ex-officio committee or board members unless the bylaws provide for it. So what document has provided for ex-officio board members?

    If ex-officio members are not to have voting rights then, that should be stated in the bylaws of an organization. Because you are an elected body in Canada and I don't presume to know about Canadian law or your parliamentary authority, I would suggest that you contact a professional parliamentarian in Canada. If you will tell me where you are located, I will send you names of people in your area that you can contact.

    I am sorry I can't be of more help.


P. S. If you do find the answer to this question, please write back and I will put it in the column. It might help others in Canada. Thanks for writing.

Dear Parlimentarian:

    May I ask a question? Or can you help me find a resource to contact with this question?

    Bylaws require majority vote of a quorum to amend bylaws and to vote on any other motion. President convenes a meeting with less than quorum present. Neither President nor any member ever calls for quorum count. President allows making of a motion, seconding, and discussion. President calls for vote on the motion. Motion to amend bylaws is 80% for, 20% against. Two days after meeting President claims vote is invalid because quorum requirement was not met.

    Is it true that failure to recognize lack of quorum invalidates the vote?

    By the way, I voted for the motion, and trying to defend validity of the vote.

Thank you,

Tom Woods

Dear Tom,

    To answer your question -- yes. (Failure to recognize lack of quorum invalidates the vote.) Business transacted without a quorum is null and void. The president was negligent by calling the meeting to order without first inquiring of the secretary or whoever has that information if there was a quorum present. Robert's Rules says on page 343: "Before the presiding officer calls a meeting to order, it is his duty to determine, although he need not announce, that a quorum is present."

    Now what can be done? At a meeting where there is a quorum present, the action can be ratified. However, I would suggest presenting the bylaws again.


Dear Parlimentarian:

Need information on how to organize a permanent society. Thank you


Dear Fidler,

    I would recommend that you purchase a copy of ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED, 1990 ED. On pages 547- 555, he tells all the proper steps that need to be taken to do this.

    Here is a brief outline, of how it is done.

        1. Invite people who are interested to a general meeting. Robert's recommends by personal contact or a letter.

        2. At the first meeting, a temporary chairman and secretary are elected. Then the chairman asks someone to explain the purpose for the meeting, the reasons why such a society is necessary.

        3. After a reasonable time of discussion and questions and answers, someone should offer a resolution to form the society. Those who called the meeting need to have a written proposal in the form of a resolution ready to read. It needs a second, is debatable, amendable, and is adopted by a majority vote. However, the adoption only implies intent. To bring it into being bylaws must be adopted and members enrolled.

        4. If the motion is carried, then a bylaws committee needs to be appointed to draft bylaws. See Parliamentary Internet Newsletter Volume 2 for information about bylaws.

        5. After a committee is appointed or elected, those present need to set the time and date for the next meeting, or at the call of the chairman. At that meeting the bylaws committee present the proposed bylaws.

        6. At the Second organization meeting, the temporary chairman calls the meeting to order, the minutes of the previous meeting are read and approved. Then the bylaw committee chairman reports and presents the proposed bylaws. Those present can debate and amend them. They are adopted by a majority vote and immediately take effect.

        7. The meeting recesses and those present can enroll by signing a "permanent record sheet provided in advance by the secretary pro-tem -- to be filed with the original paper so the organization." (RONR p. 553) Members by signing are agreeing to abide by the bylaws and promising to pay dues.

        8. After the recess, the chairman asks the secretary pro tem to read the roll of members. The next business in order is to nominate and elect permanent officers. After the officers are elected, they immediately take office and any other business is then taken up.


Dear Parlimentarian:

    What is the proper method for a member of an organization in an assembly to make something a matter of record that another may have said.

    Thank you,

James Wise

Dear James,

    The first step would be to "request" that the member's statements be included in the minutes. If the chair denied the request then you could make a motion that the remarks be included in the minutes. This motion would need a second and is debatable. It would take a majority to adopt.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    I would like to receive information about the presidents right to vote. I believe it is only to break a tie. could you send me information. thank you


Dear Bubsster,

    The president may vote when it is taken by ballot and by roll call. In a roll call vote, he votes last.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    What is the procedure for balloting by mail?


Dear Linda,

    Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised pages 416-418 has a very good description of the procedure on how to handle a mail ballot. Remember that a mail ballot must be authorized by the bylaws.

    I would recommend that your president and teller committee each have a copy of this book, read carefully the instructions for a mail ballot, and then write guidelines from it for the committee to have and review when tallying the mail ballot.

    There are two procedures listed. The first is the procedure for a ballot that is not secret and the second is for a secret ballot. The difference is in the way in which the ballot is verified against the registered list of members eligible to vote. In the ballot that is NOT secret, the ballot has a place for the member to sign. In the ballot that IS secret the person's signature is not on the ballot but on the outside of the envelope in which the ballot is enclosed. There are procedures that the teller committee must follow exactly to ensure the secrecy of the ballot at all times.

    With each ballot that is mailed to the membership, complete instructions on how to mark the ballot, and the date it needs to be returned, should accompany the ballot. Always enclose a self addressed return envelop with the name and address of the designated person that is to receive it.

    If a person mails in two ballots, the teller committee needs to call the person to see if he cast two ballots, and if so which one the teller committee is to count.

    This is just a brief outline. I strongly recommend that you look up this entire procedure in Robert's Rules (1990 Ed.).


Dear Parlimentarian:

    Can you answer this question for me--or tell me where to go to get this kind of information? "Is it proper for a member of the Board of Trustees of an organization to also be a member of the Professional Advisory Board for the same organization" Thank you for whatever help you can give me.

F. Maier

Dear Florence:

    You need to look in your bylaws or other governing documents for this answer. Somewhere under the Board of Trustees it should state if that is allowed, or it may be under the article concerning the Advisory Board. Thoroughly read your governing documents and I believe you will find the answer.

    The Parlimentarian

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