Parli Procedure



Hire a Licensed Parliamentarian

Licensing Authority

Order Form

How To Have Effective Meetings

Little Ben

Home Owners Association
Homeowners' Association
Proxy Voting
A Homeowner's Experience
HOA Blog




Dear Parliamentarian

Popular Products
Robert's Rules of Order: Simplified & Applied 2014
Competition Package
Competition Package
Dynamic Video & Book Combination - How to Conduct a Meeting
Dynamic Video & Book Combination - How to Conduct a Meeting
How to Conduct a Meeting
How to Conduct a Meeting
How to Conduct a Meeting, Taking & Writing the Minutes, Robert's Rules of Order: Simplified & Applied
How to Run a Meeting (DVD & CD-PPT)
McMinutes: A Training Manual for Secretaries
McMinutes: A Training Manual for Secretaries
Nominations & Elections
Nominations & Elections
Parliamentary Procedure Made Simple: the Basics
Parliamentary Procedure Made Simple: the Basics
Robert's Rules of Order in the Courts (Law Cases)
Robert's Rules of Order in the Courts (Law Cases)
Roberts Rules of Order in Spanish & English
Special DVD and Book - DVD: Parliamentary Procedure Made Simple: the Basics and Book: Robert's Rules of Order: Simplified & Applied 3rd Edition 2014
Special DVD and Book - DVD: Parliamentary Procedure Made Simple: the Basics and Book: Robert's Rules of Order: Simplified & Applied 3rd Edition 2014
Teacher's Package
Teacher's Package
Un Guia para Sessiones Effectivas - in Spanish
All About Motions Video
All About Motions Video

Order Form

Las Reglas Simplificadas de Orden (FREE)

Parliamentarian For Hire

Helpful Links

How To Run A Meeting


Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 11 November '96

Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 11 November '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.


The first series of letters in the column this month is a classic example of what our country is faced with if we don't reach out to the immigrants coming to our country and teach them the procedures of democracy. There is going to be frustration on each side. Here we only hear from the frustrated American. I wish we could hear from the other side to see what they are perceiving or feeling about the procedures in this meeting.

Please give this some thought and if you have any suggestions about how we can reach out I would be interested to hear from all of you.


Dear Parlimentarian:

    I am fairly well acquainted with Robert's rules and Parliamentary procedure. But have several questions of interpretation. How does one handle a member of the audience. She is not a voting member who speaks off the topic who speaks in a second language and how many times is she allowed to speak? She is not a voting member

Diane Lott

Dear Diane,

    Since I do not know anything about how your organization is set up, I can only answer your question in general terms.

    One of the first rules, in debate in an assembly, is that each member can speak twice to the same motion and for ten minutes each time unless the organization has adopted other rules limiting debate. In boards or committees with less than twelve members the rules of debate are unlimited. A member can speak as often and for how long they want.

    In an assembly meeting, a member can speak only a second time after all members who wish to speak a first time have spoken.

    Another rule of debate is that it must be relevant to the question pending. If it isn't then the presiding officer asks the member to keep her remarks to the subject under discussion and this is done in committees, in boards and in general assembly meetings.

    The chair might phrase it this way, "The topic under discussion is _________ . Will the member please keep her remarks to the ___________ .

    Or the chair could say, "The topic under discussion is ___________ . Does the member have anything further to say about it?"

    If the member says "no", and does not sit down, then the chair could ask the member politely to sit down so that others could speak.

    I do not understand why the person speaks in another language. Does everyone understand this language? I would also say that if no one understands the person the chair could ask the member to speak in the common language so that others could understand what she is saying.

    If the chair does not do these things, then a person can interrupt the speaker by raising a point of order and correcting the member when she gets off the subject.

    Another device is that when the member begins to speak in the other language, another member can interrupt her by "raising a question of privilege" that would state that the assembly can not understand what the member is saying. You could phrase it by saying, that her remarks are valuable and since the voting members want to take into consideration the points that she is making, you are requesting that she speak in the common language.

    Why don't you share this information with the presiding officer and see if this helps with the meetings.

    If you have further questions, please write.


P. S. This answer is based on the assumption that this person does have the right to debate.


Dear Parlimentarian:

    Thank you for your response. Not knowing if we would connect I did not give much detail.

    We are a charter school -- the main decision making body called the MMT (Memorial Management Team) is our executive board so to speak. There is, in our charter, a description of a list of who will be on the management team. There are 20-21 people on the board. Several people sit in the audience... alternates and people who belong to the larger body who attend out of interest or a vested interest.

    Our school is in the Spanish barrio of San Diego and so most of the parents speak Spanish. We have two parents on the board who speaks English-- one speaks Spanish and English. Her alternate who sits in the audience speaks only Spanish(Parent B). Parent B who sits in the audience and is a rabble rouser.

    We have in the past allowed members of the audience to speak to an issue.

    My problem is that I cannot rule parent B out of order as I am a limited Spanish speaker and do not know what she is saying until she stops and someone translates which takes up a lot of time and is generally ruled out of order but the words ad vitriole have been said.. Most of the time she is totally out of order and off the topic. She is not a voting member of the board -- Parent A is.

    I do not feel we can demand she speak a common language English. We have in the past allowed a translator to translate...but this is getting out of hand.

    Most of the meeting goes smoothly... just the issues she wants to speak to get bogged down.

    I have asked for limited debate and WILL take your suggestions as to and member speaking twice and after all who have a desire to speak ... have spoken. I have also asked a non voting person who speaks both languages to be parliamentarian and to nudge me each time something in Spanish is not speaking to the question.

    I repeat she is in the audience -- a non voting member but tradition has it that members of the audience have been allow to speak.

    I think the board would accept limiting her speaking if it were done according to certain Robert's rules or procedure.... I just don't know how to do it and our rule book doesn't speak to any circumstances such as this.

Dear Diane,

    Thank you for writing me back and explaining in more detail your problem.. What a wonderful opportunity you have to reach out to new immigrants and teach them the proper rules of a democratic society.

    Here is what I suggest to help you and the Spanish speaking members of your organization. Give them information about the rules of debate and making a motion in Spanish. We have available a pamphlet written in Spanish that covers the basics of parliamentary procedure. If you would like to buy some copies for your organization let us know. They are $5.00 a copy but if you bought in large quantities, let's say about twenty or more we could certainly work out a price break.

    Can the woman who is your parliamentarian meet with the Spanish speakers and give them some guidelines on how to prepare their speeches and to keep to the topic? Perhaps the board could adopt a standing rule concerning the length of time that the members of the audience speak. Another thing you could do is to encourage them to write their suggestions to the board for the board to consider.

    The key here is education. Perhaps you could inquire in your area to see if there is someone who can give a parliamentary workshop in Spanish.

    We have produced a video called PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE MADE SIMPLE: THE BASICS for people who do not know anything about meeting procedures. Why not see if the public library has it and use it to give a workshop? It teaches how to make motions, and the rules of debate and many other essentials. Some one could translate as it was playing. We are in the process of working on a video for the Spanish market. If you give me your mailing address, I will put you on a mailing list when it comes out.

    I believe that the most important point here is to encourage the Spanish speaking members to learn the proper procedures of democratic action. It is important not to squelch it but encourage it.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    I thank you for your information and we are using every skill we have to educate the Spanish community in process..

    Again, I ask.. What about a member of the audience who is there with her own agenda and not a voting member and not speaking to the issue.

    Our purpose IS to squelch this manner and means of disrupting the meeting. This woman does not recognize process let alone stand corrected when she is corrected.

    I am looking for a process which the chairman or voting members of the group can curtail her speaking and establish that she is out of order. What is the policy on a non voting member in the audience of an executive board meeting getting and maintaining control of the meeting.

    If you cannot answer this for me can you provide me with a name and address of a Parliamentary Society who will advise me?


Dear Diane,

    First of all let's talk about the organization's agenda. Do you adopt an agenda at the beginning of the meeting? See Robert's Rules pp.367-370. Normally the secretary and presiding officer get together prior to the meeting and write an agenda -- that becomes the order of the business for the meeting. If you adopt the agenda at the beginning of the meeting (takes a majority vote) then it can't be changed during the meeting except by a two-thirds vote. However, if you do adopt an agenda, voting members have the right to put things on the agenda.

    Now a person who is a non-voting member can't bring up something new because this person can't make a motion. They can only discuss a motion. So then if this is true then a non voting member can not come to a meeting "with her own agenda" and take over unless the chair allows it.

    As presiding officer all you have to say is that the member can not make a motion, and that the members must get back to the agenda if they get off base. All the chair has to stay is that the subject being discussed is _____ will the member please confine her remarks to the subject at hand. See Robert's on page 217 on "Call for the Orders of the Day". (One member can "Call for the Orders of the Day" and the assembly has to get back to the agenda.)

    I'm glad you asked about a parliamentary group in your area. I'm sure there are many. The National Association of Parliamentarians will have their 1997 national convention in San Diego next September, you are invited!!! And so is everyone in your group. Non members may attend and observed and take the workshops that are offered. The fee is nominal. Here are some names you can contact:

        Beverly Barclay 619-277-1727
        Shirely Schmardel 619-284-6256
        Mary Alice Kraft 619-276-4060
        Mrs. Douglas Anderson 619-583-9280

    These women are all professional registered parliamentarians. They can also tell you about the study units around the San Diego area that you can join as a student member. If you joined, the information that you learned there will help you conduct your meetings and have a better understanding of parliamentary principles.

    To sum up my remarks, I suggest you do this:

        1. Adopt an agenda and stick to it.

        2. When the member gets off the subject, correct and remind her to get back to the subject.

        3. Adopt a standing rule that limits the time members of the audience can speak to an issue --for example, three minutes.

        4. Take some classes on parliamentary procedure.

        5. And as recommended in the other communications, have a workshop for the Spanish speaking members so that they can learn these principles too. If members feel left out of the democratic process, you will continue to have problems no matter HOW much parliamentary knowledge you have.


Dear Parlimentarian:

    Thank you so much for making your knowledge available via the Internet!

    This questions may not be within your area of knowledge but I thought it was certainly worth a try!

    I represent a group of experiential trainers, working primarily with the general public, who wish to start our own professional association to promote the work we do and professional standards for the same. I have so far been stymied in my quest to determine whether there are any state or federal requirements for initiating a professional association. We have already developed a standard of conduct and in that I found Ruth Goren's "Codes of Responsibility" very helpful. This volume also included by-law's for many organizations which will be our next step.

    Can you tell me...

        1) Are there any state or federal laws we must observe in creating this professional association and if so, how might I access them (I am located in California);

        2) Any reference materials relating to the creation of by-laws for a professional association;

        3) Any other references or contacts you feel might be helpful.

    Thank you so much for your time and any assistance you can give me.


Nancy Adamson

Dear Nancy,

    This is what I suggest:

        1) Call the Secretary of State. Someone in the office will be able to answer your question about any laws governing a professional association.

        2) The PARLIAMENTARY INTERNET NEWSLETTER , Volume 2, Issue 2, has information in simple terms about what to put in the bylaws. (This is on our WEB page.) You have our permission to down load it.

        3) A professional parliamentarian can be a great help in forming your organization. If you tell me where you live, I will send you names of parliamentarians in your area that can help to you. This person charges a fee but it will be done correctly.


Dear Parlimentarian:

    Our organization has the usual officers, President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. We require a new Treasurer to be bonded and to submit written financial reports to the Board of Directors at specified times. In addition, we have a Budget Committee charged with preparing our annual budget. The Treasurer is not on the Budget Committee.

    Is it appropriate to have the Budget Committee audit the Treasurer's reports? Does auditing these reports legally relieve the Treasurer of any finical responsibility?

Bill Hess

Dear Bill,

    ROBERT'S RULE'S NEWLY REVISED, 1990 ed. has a good explanation of this entire procedure. See pages 467-470.

    Briefly, normally the bylaws state who is to audit the treasurer's books and when. The society can designate whomever they want to do it. If the bylaws do not provide for such a committee a member can make a motion 1) to have a committee of _____(name the members to audit the books) or 2) to have a committee appointed by the chair or executive board to audit the books, or 3) to have an outside firm audit the books, or 4) to have a standing committee such as budget or finance to audit the books. It is best to designate in the bylaws who is to audit the books and the when the assembly is to receive the report.

    Robert says p. 469, "When amounts involved are very large and the reports complicated, it is desirable to have the audits made by independent accountants. But in ordinary societies it is practical to have the financial reports audited by an auditing committee of two or more members of the society....."

    Then to answer the last question, Robert says, (page 469, line 22) "The adoption of the auditor's report has the effect of relieving the treasurer of responsibility for the period covered by his report, except in the case of fraud."


Dear Parlimentarian:

    We are a University hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Our Medical Staff Bylaws state that all medical staff meetings are conducted per Robert's Rules of Order. We have an important committee for which we have, with some frequency, had problems having a quorum present to act on committee business. We are considering using a proxy letter to allow members who cannot attend to formally give their proxy to a committee member who will be present. Our corporate attorney is concerned that because our bylaws do not specifically state that members have the right to grant proxy to another member that we cannot do this, and that she would prefer that they send a non-committee member to act in their place. We would prefer the use of a proxy to a committee member familiar with the business of the committee. What do you think? Does our reference to Robert's Rules of Order allow us to use a proxy since our bylaws do not specifically forbid this action? We have a meeting scheduled next Tuesday, November 5, 1996, for which this could be an issue. Please respond ASAP! We need your help. Thanks,

Robin Elam, Administrative Aide & Sheree Noffsinger, Manager

Medical Staff Services
UT Bowld Hospital
951 Court Avenue, Sutie 704
Memphis, TN 38103

Dear Robin and Sheree,

    First, I recommend that you each own a copy of ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED, 1990 ed. published by Scott Foresman. A local bookstore should have it in stock. If not, we sell it. Look at these sections: Quorum (p.339), Proxy Vote (p. 421), and Committees (p. 471)

    Your attorney is correct in that Robert's Rules says you can't have a proxy vote unless your bylaws allow for it. However, state laws governing corporations may have passed different rules. There may be a state law in the corporate code that allows for proxy votes in committees. Ask the attorney if this is the case in Tennessee. The Secretary of State's office would know if this were true. State laws supersede the bylaws and the parliamentary authority.

    Robert's says this on page 491, "During actual deliberations of the committee, only committee members have the right to be present." So having a non-member come to represent a member would not help with the quorum issue. A quorum is always a number of the committee.

    Here is what I suggest.

        1) you can amend your bylaws to allow for proxy votes (remember this can become very confusing for those who do not understand this concept, and especially when counting the votes. If you do decide to amend your bylaws to include this, the procedure for counting the votes needs to be written in the bylaws. Proxy voting many times slows down meetings.)

        2) you can amend your bylaws to reduce the quorum number to something reasonable so that you can have enough members present to have meetings. In fact , this may really be the problem -- that your quorum requirement is set too high. (this is what I recommend)

        3) appoint members who can come to the meetings.

        4) have the meetings at a time when all can attend.

    If you would like to consult with a professional parliamentarian, let me know and I will give you the name of one in your area.


Dear Parlimentarian:

    Please explain exactly what "invoking the charter rule" means and describe how it can be used in meetings and how to go about using it. Thank you .

Arthur E. Medeiros
80 Freetown St.
Lakeville, MA. 02347
email to

Dear Arthur,

    "Invoking the charter rule" is not a term that I am familiar with nor were any of the parliamentarians I asked at a conference that I attended this weekend. Is this something that is common to your organization or to the area where you live?

    If you have more details about this, I would appreciate it. Hopefully, I could then answer your question better.

    Not knowing anything else, this is what I thought it might be:

    On page 108 of ROBERT'S RULES NEWLY REVISED, 1990 ed., it states that no main motion is in order that conflicts with federal, state, or local laws, or with the bylaws or corporate charter of the organization.

    On page 110, Robert writes, "A main motion that proposes action outside the scope of the organization's object as defined in the bylaws or corporate charter is out of order unless the assembly by a two-thirds vote authorizes its introduction".

    If someone made a motion that was outside the object of the organization or in conflict with the bylaws, a member has an obligation to point this out to the members if the presiding officer allows the motion. A member would do this by raising a "point of order". The chair would ask him to state his point, and the member would say "this is outside the object of the organization, and needs a two-thirds vote to be considered." Or "it is in violation of our bylaws" (the member would quote from the bylaws) and say therefore out of order.

    This is all I could come up with. If you could give me more details, perhaps then I could be of more help.


Dear Parlimentarian:

    I'm a member of the Santa Clara County Republican Party Central Committee. From time-to-time, someone will offer a motion for such and such. Invariably, someone will be want to offer a 'friendly amendment' to the motion. I would like to know if there is a provision in Robert's Rules for 'friendly amendments. What is the correct way to handle this situation?

    Your comments are greatly appreciated.

Les Gervin,

Member, 3rd Supervisorial District,
Santa Clara County (California) Republican Party

Dear Les,

    No parliamentary authority defines a "friendly amendment". However, the procedure for "modifying a motion" which is an incidental motion listed in Robert's Rules is what people are in fact doing. Here is the definition of a "friendly amendment" that can be found in a new book that has been just released this month. A DICTIONARY OF PROCEDURAL TERMS by Harold Corbin, RP. He defines it this way: (p. 37)

        "A term sometimes used to refer to a suggestion made by another member that a change in language of a motion or an amendment be accepted by the author before it is stated by the chair. This is an informal means of amending which can save time. The proposer must accept the change and there can be no objection from any member for this procedure to be used. The specific term will not be found in all authorities, but a discussion of the method is included in some."

    Here is the parliamentary principle: When a member makes a motion and before the chair states it, the motion belongs to the maker of the motion. He can modify it or withdraw it without the assembly's permission. However, after the motion is stated by the chair, then it belongs to the ASSEMBLY and any changes proposed must be acceptable to the entire assembly. This is accomplished by a motion to amend.

    Robert's on page 111 of the 1990 edition states about the "friendly amendment" procedure, "The application of this method should generally be limited to minor changes about which there is unlikely to be a difference of opinion."

    An example might be making the motion to refer a question to a committee and not naming the committee or the time the committee is to report back. Another member might add the "friendly amendment" that names the committee or the time the committee is to report. If the maker of the motion objects to the change, then the friendly amendment is not accepted at that time. After the chair states the motion and discussion begins then the proposal can be made as the motion to "amend". It needs a second and is debatable.

    So the correct way to handle this procedure is this way. If the chair has not stated the motion and someone wants to modify it, the chair should ask, "Is there any objection to adding........" If no objection , then state the motion in its modified form. If there is an objection, then state the motion the way the maker made it.

    If the chair has already stated the motion and debate has begun on the question, state the friendly amendment as an actual motion, it needs a second, and is debatable and then take a vote on the amendment. If the amendment is adopted then it becomes part of the motion; if it fails it does not become part of the motion.

    I am very much in favor of following the formal procedures of amending after the motion is stated by the chair, because it gives members the opportunity to debate. Often times the chair will ask, "Is there an objection to adding this change?" However, the timid person may not object. But if discussion is allowed, they may speak against it if others have spoken against it before them.


Dear Parlimentarian:

    I am looking for the section of Robert's Rule of order that would pertain to A President(Mayor of A City) speaking out of Order. We have a Mayor who speaks to every issue and interrupts people when the opinion is different from his views.

    I believe that the president/Mayor should set his gavel aside, pass to the vice president, before speaking? Can you direct me in the right direction. Thanks


Dear Pam,

    According to Robert' Rules you are correct. However, your question made me do some further research.

    I called my Mayor's office and talked with the secretary. I was told that our mayor is not a member of the council and does not preside at meetings. The council elects from its members a President of The Council who then conducts all meetings. I then talked with the secretary of the council and the president of the council. I was informed that even though they follow Robert's Rules they have state codes concerning parliamentary procedure that governs their meetings and takes precedence over Robert's. I was sent these codes and found out that many things are the same, but there are some exceptions. One is that debate can be closed by a MAJORITY VOTE instead of TWO- THIRDS. The president told me that in Indiana there are three classes of cities and perhaps in the smallest ones the Mayor conducts the meetings. However, the president told me that he does not speak in debate unless he leaves the chair.

    Here is what I recommend. Call the secretary of the council and ask about the procedures. I identified myself as a parliamentarian seeking answers and they were more than happy to talk with me and to send me a copy of the that governs the meetings.

    Once you find out what the procedures are then you can be of help in correcting them. Are you a member of the council or are you an observer or one who has spoken as a citizen at a meeting?

    If you are a member you can raise a "point of order" when the chair is interrupting members. If you are a speaker, you can politely point out to the mayor that it is not polite to interrupt a speaker and not in accordance with proper parliamentary procedures. You could write him a letter and point out what Robert's Rules says about these things. If this doesn't work, then give the information to the council members and let them take care of it.

    Remember, a presiding officer gets away with whatever the assembly allows him to do.


Dear Parlimentarian:

    I am seeking information on Proxy Votes. Does Robert's Rules outline any specifics on casting proxy votes? I am on a Guidelines Review Committee for a State Commission and we are researching procedures for proxy votes. Thanks for your help.

Jane Polson

Dear Jane,

    Robert's Rules doesn't recommend proxy voting so there are no procedures listed. In fact, the parliamentary authorities I am familiar with do not give procedures on this. However, the National Association of Parliamentarians have a book called, GUIDE TO VOTING that mentions proxies.

    I attended a workshop recently and the parliamentarian who taught the class is very familiar with proxies and works with condominiums that use proxy voting. I am referring you to her. Please let her know that "Parlimentarian" from Robert McConnell Productions referred you.

    Her name is

        Dorothy Buell, PRP
        3200 West 82nd ST.
        Leawood, KS 66216-117
        Her phone number is 913-649-8532
        FAX 913-649-4567


Dear Parlimentarian:

    On our school board, sometimes the following situation arises -- a member of the board makes a motion. The motion is seconded and then there is discussion. Then, before the chairperson calls for the vote, he restates the motion. Sometimes the restated motion is not exactly the same as the original motion. Then the school board votes on and approves the motion. My question is, which motion was actually approved and which motion should be included in the minutes of the school board meeting.

    Thanks for your help!

Dear Ellen,

    The answer is how the motion was stated when the vote is taken is recorded in the minutes.

    Here's a solution:

        1. Require all members to write motions on a piece of paper to give to the presiding officer so that he can read it back correctly. And provide him with paper and pencil so he can write in any amendments.


        2. Have the chair ask the SECRETARY to read the motion back in its final form before he takes the vote.

    If you are the secretary or member of the board suggest this. If you are member of the audience, find a way to suggest it to a receptive board member.


Dear Parlimentarian:

    Can The President of an Organization also be a Chairperson of a committee. Our bylaws do state that the President is a member of all committees except the nominating committee. Our bylaws also state that the Executive committee shall organize and appoint chairpersons of any special and standing committees.

Thank You

John P. Kendall

Dear John,

    If the Executive Committee appoints him as a chairman of a committee he can be one. However, this is not a good way to do business.


Dear Parlimentarian:

    Our Association appointed a committee to update our bylaws. The committee was formed, and we went through the current bylaws, article by article, section by section, amendment by amendment, and made any changes we thought appropriate. They have been approved as presented by our Board, who were given a month to go over them, and send their comments or suggestions to the Chairman, ahead of our Board meeting. Should they have been gone over article, by article at our Board meeting? At the open meeting, how do we proceed? Does our Bylaws Chairman have to go over the new proposed bylaws revisions article by article, etc., or can she move a motion for approval as presented? Do the copies of the new bylaws have to be mailed out to the entire membership ahead of time, or can we have copies ready at the open meeting? I have looked at Robert's Rules for the answer, but I am still confused as to what the correct procedure is, please help. We need this info right away. Thank you so much for your help.


Dear Diane,

    Normally a board doesn't go over the bylaws article by article -- that is for the members to do. There are always exceptions.

    In revising bylaws, it is essential to send the bylaws to all the members before the meeting. Remember this is a group effort. The committee has done a lot of the work but the members have the final say. When I am presenting a revision as bylaw chairman, the committee writes a letter explaining all the major changes and where they can be found (especially alerting them to anything that would be controversial) and I recommend underling all new material. If the committee has deleted something, or changed the order of something, include that in the letter. When the meeting begins, it best to have everyone come prepared to ask questions and make their own recommendations for change through the process of amending the proposed revision. The revision can be amended by primary and secondary amendments. It is important to remember that the organizations bylaws are not are not under consideration. If the revision fails, no change has been made to the bylaws.

    It is also best if your bylaws provide for this, to take this revision up at a series of special meetings. It is also a good idea to inform the members in a letter what is the procedure for the meeting .

    Here is the proper procedure:

        1. The president calls the meeting to order and tells the members what the purpose of the meeting is and it would be good at this time to read to the members what the procedure will be.

        2. The president asks for the bylaws committee to report. At the end of the report, the bylaws chairman makes a motion as follows:

        "By direction of the bylaw committee, I move the adoption of the proposed by law revision." (It does not need a second because the committee has already voted to go forward with it)

        3. The bylaw chairman sits down and the chair says: "The question is on the adoption of the bylaws revision, will the bylaw chairman read Article one?"

    The Bylaws chairman reads article one and then explains if the committee has made any changes and then sits down.

    The chair asks, "Is there any discussion?"

    Now article one is open for debate and amendment. Any amendments made to article one are adopted by a majority vote. When the members are finished with article one THEY DO NOT VOTE ON ARTICLE ONE. The assembly proceeds to Article two.

    The chair says, "Is there further discussion on article one? If not, then the bylaws chairman will read article two."

    The chairman reads Article two and the process begins again. This goes on until all articles are discussed and amended. Then the entire document is opened up for discussion and amendment. This is necessary in case the members changed something in article five that would affect article two. Once you start going forward you don't go back to make corrections until the end. Then the preamble is taken up and amended last. See page 274 second paragraph for details.

    This is a long process but it is necessary to do it this way to achieve a good revision. When the members have finished discussing and amending the entire document then the chair states, "The question is on the adoption of the bylaws revision as AMENDED. All those in favor please rise. Be seated. Those opposed please rise. Be seated. There are two thirds in the affirmative and the revision is adopted and immediate takes effect." Robert's says bylaw changes should be a counted vote and that entered into the minutes. So in taking this vote the a teller committee should be appointed and count off the people as they rise. If it is a very small organization, the chair and secretary could count the vote.

    Or , "There are less than two thirds in the affirmative and the revision is lost. Our current bylaws are in effect.".

    I also want to point out that the very last article should be how to amend the bylaws. I just found this out at a meeting I attended. So if you are following the Internet newsletter about bylaws it is incorrect at the end in the placement of articles. I will have it changed soon.

    Hope is this helps.


Dear Parlimentarian:

    I have searched high and low but have been unable to find anything about the normal functions of a "Ways and Means Committee". I am hoping you can help me on this. Our organization has had such a committee for years but no one has been able to give me a definitive answer to what such a committee is supposed to do. Can you help me?

Bill Hess

Dear Bill,

    I called the Indiana State Library and they gave me this definition from the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, Second Edition, Unabridged, 1987, p. 2152 "1. legislation, method, means of raising revenue for the use of government. 2. methods and means of accomplishing or paying for something."

    And in my World Book Dictionary, p. 2369 it says, "1. ways of raising revenue for current governmental expenditures 2. methods and resources that are at a person's disposal for effecting some object."

    I am only familiar with the term as a legislative term. In the state of Indiana the Ways and Means committee is where all bills go that have to do with money. In the Congress of the United States, the Ways and Means committee is where all bills go that have to do with taxation.

    So by definition it has to do with money. Perhaps if you have investments or other financial matters that concern the organization, they could be refereed to this committee. Or motions that have to do with money expenditures could be referred to this committee. Since I can't find any parliamentary guidelines on this committee and it is unique to your organization, put in the bylaws what you want the committee to do.

    None of the organizations that I belong to has such a committee. I will do some more research. I will be meeting with two different groups of parliamentarians this month. I will ask each group and see what they recommend. When I find out something more definite, I will let you know.

Parlimentarian P. S. I did find out from some parliamentarians, that normally the Ways and Means Committee is the committee to find ways to raise money for special projects.

Dear Parlimentarian:

    First I would like to say that this is a great site. I use it all the time. I have a situation which I hope you could help me with. I belong to a fraternity in which I am the person that everyone comes to with help in parli pro.

    We ran into a problem yesterday during our elections. One of the candidates missed the elections because he was ill and was sleeping up in his room. We had the elections in our fraternity house in which he lives in. We have a Sergeant-at-Arms. We delegated as one of his jobs to knock on everyone's door to get them to come to our meetings. The Sgt-at-arms said that he failed to do this an in turn the candidate overslept his elections. We assumed that he dropped his candidacy since he did not show. We had the election for his position. He awoke an hour later and came down for the rest of the elections. He wants to call a misvote at our next meeting(this Monday) since he stated that the sgt-at-arms did not do his job.

    Please help me. I don't know what to do.

Tom Jovic

Dear Tom,

    I need some more information about your election procedures:

        1) How does everyone know that you have a meeting? In other words how was notice given that Monday, November 11th was your election for officers?

        2) Did everyone know this, and was the Sergeant at Arms just to remind the members of the meeting?

        3) Is there a bylaw or standing rule that says a member needs to be present to be elected to office?

        4) When did the member question the election? Was it after the fact or during the meeting when he arrived?

        5) Is the vote taken by ballot or by voice vote?

        6) Has the person elected to office been notified?

    If you will answer these questions then, I am sure that I can give you an answer to solved this problem.



    Here are the answers to your 6 questions.

    1-we have chapter(meetings) every monday night at 9pm. Notifications of elections were given the past three chapters before the elections.

    2-everyone knew of elections. The sgt-at-arms primary job is to let everyone know that chapter will start.

    3-There is no bylaw stating this but for the past three years that i have been here and as far as everyone else knows you always had to be present if you ran for office.

    4-the member questioned the election as soon as he came to the meeting. he passed a note to the chair. he said that he will not do anything now(monday the 11th) but rather at our next meeting (monday the 18th) before the new officers are sworn in. He arrived to chapter after we voted on for his office.

    5-voting is done by secret ballot.

    6-yes the person elected knows of the situation.

    I hope that this will help you to help me get a better result. I thank you for taking out the time to help me in my time of need.

    On a side note, I have been a student of parli pro for the past four years. I know enough to get by but I want to expand and learn more. Do you know of any seminars or classes offered for this? I heard that you can also become a certified parliamentarian? If this is true how would I go about doing this?

    Thanks for all your help


Dear Tom,

    Thank you for answering my questions. I realize this is a delicate situation and it is going to take diplomacy to handle it. To me it seems like mistakes were made by many, but the election can not be rescinded. Here is an opportunity for the fraternity to learn some basic rules about parliamentary procedure.

    First, the young man knew what date and time of the election meeting. He could have set an alarm clock to wake him for the time of the meeting.

    If I understand you correctly, the sergeant of arms has a very important job -- to let the members know that the meeting is beginning. If the meeting isn't to begin until he lets the members know, then the young man had a right to question the meeting beginning without the sergeant of arms knocking on the doors. However, when he arrived at the meeting that was the time to raise the point of order questioning the election and not wait until the next weekly meeting. On page 250, under the heading of TIMELINESS REQUIREMENT FOR A POINT OF ORDER, it says, "If a question of order is to be raised, it must be raised promptly at the time the breach occurs." On page 251 it says, "The only exceptions to the rule that a point of order must be made at the time of the breach arise in connection with breaches that are of a continuing nature, in which case a point of order can be made at any time during the continuance of the breach." NOW IT'S TOO LATE!

    Another reason it is too late is that once a person is elected to an office and notified of his election, it can't be rescinded. See Robert's page 302, #d.

    Here are some suggestions that can help your organization so that this does not happen again.

        1) I recommend that before the president calls the meeting to order he ask the sergeant of arms if everyone has been notified of the meeting . (i. e. has he knocked on everyone's door) If he hasn't, then don't begin the meeting until he has done this.

        2) I recommend adopting a standing rule that says a member has to be present to be elected and then allowing for extenuating circumstances in cases such as this one. The rule might include the following:

            If someone is sick or has been called a way for an emergency, he can send a letter with someone to let the members know that he can't attend the meeting but if elected he would be willing to serve.

        3) I recommend having the fraternity appoint someone like you to be parliamentarian to sit by the chair at the meetings to help him with procedural questions.

    If you let me know what city you are in, I will see if there is a parliamentary group in your area. If you would like to join the American Institute of Parliamentarians (AIP) send me your address and I will send you a membership application. If you would like, I can send you information about our videos that give a self-instruction course in parliamentary procedure. It is designed for organizations like yours. In fact many student governments and some fraternities have purchased it for their officers and members. Many university libraries have bought them too.

    Have you checked with your speech department for classes in parliamentary procedure?

    There is a classification of "certified parliamentarian". That is the classification AIP uses. The National Association of Parliamentarians (NAP) has "registered parliamentarians". Both take several years of intensive study. Most people join these organizations and then work for registration. I highly encourage you to do this if you are interested in this subject. Because most parliamentarians are over "60", there is a great need for young people like yourself to become involved. Parliamentarians do charge a fee and there are some who make a decent living doing this work.

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


Dear Parlimentarian:

    I have a simple question that I hope you can answer. I have looked in "Robert's Rules of Order" and I have not been able to find an answer. What I would like to know is: If you were a president of a small organization and your secretary quit. The assistant secretary doesn't want to move up to that position. Is it up to the president to find another secretary whether by appointment or by election or do they need to start over and hold another election. I would appreciate it if you could help me with this matter. I can be emailed at Again thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Angela Knife

Dear Angela,

    Your bylaws should tell you how to fill the vacancy. If you bylaws do not give you a satisfactory answer, then write me back and tell me how the secretary is selected. -- by appointment (and by whom) or by election. I would hope the assistant secretary is doing the work during the mean time.


Dear Parlimentarian:

    A recent National organization had a vote on bylaws admendments. There is nothing in the bylaws about Robert's Rules of Order.

    The requirement for a admendment to pass is 2/3 vote of the membership voting. On the ballots the members had three choices, yes, no or abstain.

    The votes came in (sorry but I don't know the actual count). If you include the "abstain" ballots in the total number of votes, the admendments do not pass, but if you don't, the admendments pass.

    Could you please clarify the situation.


Mark Barnett

Dear Mark,

    I promised you that after I met with my two parliamentary groups that I would reply to your question.

    The definition of abstain means not to vote. I believe that you will find this definition in any parliamentary authority. In taking a vote, the chair never asks for an absention. The only time that an abstention is given is during a roll call vote, but it still means " I do not want to vote" and is never recorded as a vote. Now during a ballot vote it is common parliamentary knowledge that a blank vote means "I abstain". Abstain should not be put on the ballot. I do not understand why your organization put "abstain" on the ballot. It was probably done through ignorance.

    Now since your bylaws say that for an amendment to be adopted it takes a two-thirds vote of the membership voting, an absention is not a vote and therefore should not be counted in the votes.

    Since this is a bylaw amendment the number voting should be recorded in the minutes. What I recommend that you do is point out that the amendment was adopted and that the minutes be corrected and the members be informed of this. If your organization does not have an adopted parliamentary authority then you can substantiate this conclusion by going to various authorities and pointing out to your members what each authority has to say on this. To find the answer in ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISIED, 1990 ED. see page 402 and the chapter on "Voting" beginning on page 395. Other authorities to look in are George Demeter, and Alice Sturgis.

    I hope this helps.


Dear Parlimentarian:

    Do you have something which outlines morals and ethics of committee members or club members?

Ronald Holte

Dear Ronald,

    No I don't have any guidlines that outlines morals and ethics of committee members of club members. This is for each organization to decide. I suggest that a committee be formed to draft such guidelines and present them to the membership for adoption. The place for these rules to appear is in the bylaws under the section on membership. If you do this, then there needs to be another section telling what the disciplinary action is if the members do not obey them.

Parlimentarian P.S. On November 29, I found a book for Ronald and all of you about how to write a code of ethics. It is a new book called, 21ST CENTURY ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER, published by Dell publishing. It is edited by the Princeton Language Institute. It is in paper back and cost $5.99. I have not had time to read it or examine it carefully, so I am not necessary recommending it, but letting everyone know it is out there. Everyone still needs to own a copy of the 1990 Edition of ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER, NEWLY REVISED.

Dear Parlimentarian:

    I would like to know if a proxy vote counts as part of the quorum required for a vote? Thanks.

Mary Horner

Dear Mary,

    Good question. To find the answer you need to look in your bylaws to see what the quorum requirement is and under the section on proxies. It all depends on what it says in the bylaws. If you will let me know, then I can advise you better.


Dear Parlimentarian:

    Page 478 of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (1990)

    Quote: Thee is no limit to the number of times a member can speak to a question, and motions to close or limit debate (15,16) generally should not be entertained

    We have a small board of 7 people. If motions to close or limit debate are generally not permitted, how do you cut off someone who would talk all day and prevent vote on a motion?

    There are no limits on number of time to speak, etc as far as I know for a small board.

    How do I control this individual other than calling them out of order and having to back that up?

    Thanks for any info

Bob Wynne

Dear Bob,

    Funny you should ask this question. This exact question came up at our registered parliamentary study group. One of the members suggested that a member move to take a recess and if adopted take the member aside and tell him/her to "shut -up".

    However, remember that the chair still presides and directs the meeting. A good chairman will keep the debate going and know when to take a vote. Remember the presiding officer can interupt a speaker if they get off track and bring them back to the subject at hand.

    In the discussion the chair could say, "is there anything NEW to add to the discussion" ?, if not then take the vote! Many times meetings go on and on because the chair lets them go on and on. If the members are united on this, the other member can't get away with domination. Perhaps the chair can remind the members that there are many items on the agenda and if they don't move along they won't get everything finished.

    Let me also point out if the member is using this to prevent a vote from being taken and is "fillabustering" like they do in the Senate, this is out of order and the chair could tell the member this, and for the member to sum up his remarks so that a vote can be taken. The member would have to abide by the ruling of the chair unless he appealed it. If the other members sustained the decision of the chair the member would have to be quiet and let the vote be taken.

    If this is a continual problem, I believe the members are going to have to deal with this head on and tell the other member that they do not approve of his action. In a case like this I believe the members could set some kind of time limit on the discussion of each question.


Dear Parlimentarian:


    We have two opinions on one incident.

    Our local City Council met. Had a quorum. During Citizen input, several of the councilmembers felt one citizen was getting out of line, so called "point of order". The Mayor ignored the call. Four of the seven councilmembers left the meeting. Therefore, there was no longer the original quorum.

    Councilmembers asked me "Shouldn't the meeting have been adjourned because there was no longer a quorum?" I said "No, but no voting/decision making actions can take place." The City Attorney said "No, but voting could take place because the quorum was established at the beginning of the meeting. A City Council meeting should not be held hostage because of some disgruntled councilmembers."

    Which is correct?

        Meeting continue but WITHOUT voting ability (come on 3 people!?!?).


        Meeting continue WITH voting ability due to original quorum being established.


        Neither one?

    Just curious. Thanks for your input.

Jaicie Kirkpatrick

Dear Jaicie,

    Let's first understand the reason for setting a quorum requirement. Robert says on p. 20, "The requirement of a quorum is a protection against totally unrepresentative action in the name of the body by an unduly small number of persons."

    The correct procedure was to either set the time for an adjourned meeting and then adjourn the meeting; or the presiding officer should have adjourned the meeting. On page 342, Robert states: "The prohibition against transacting business in the absence of a quorum cannot be waived even by unanimous consent...." I'm surprised that the attorney did not know this. Any vote taken when there is no quorum is null and void; and if a city takes a vote and lets it stand, they are opening themselves up for a lawsuit; and the person(s) suing most likely would win. (unless there is some law in your state that allows meetings to continue after a quorum has left.) I am going to send you a brochure about Robert's Rules of Order in the Courts which deals with this kind of issue and please give it to this city attorney.

    If you need a page reference about quorum, Robert's Rules New Revised, 1990 ED. has an entire chapter about a quorum. Our video PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE MADE SIMPLE: THE BASICS also has a section about a quorum and what members are to do when other members leave a meeting and there is no longer a quorum -- that is to raise a point of order telling the chair that there is no quorum present and any business conducted is null and void.

    On page 343 Robert says that when the chair notices a quorum is absent then it is his duty to declare the fact and that the only motions then in order are "to fix the time to which to adjourn", "to recess (to obtain a quorum), or "to adjourn". He then states when a member notices that a quorum is absent he can raise a point of order so long as it does not interrupt a speaker. Debate can continue on a motion until the point of order is raised. Once it is raised then the meeting must adjourn. (members can always set the time for an adjourned meeting before adjourning)

    In this situation the chair could have called for a recess and tried to get the other council members to come back to the meeting by promising them to solve the problem with the citizen; or he could have entertained a motion to set the time for an adjourned meeting; or he could have adjourned the meeting.

    Hopes this helps.


Dear Parlimentarian:

    I am very impressed with your efforts in getting parliamentary procedure on the web. Fine job! I need some advice, if you do not mind. In our small community of 6,000, we have a town council, 5 members. the president does not know how to handle motions and continues to table items which are not even in the form of a motion. I have been diplomatic and proper in my approach of this matter. I have been told that is my opi