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Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 12 December '96

Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 12 December '96
Answers to your Parliamentary Questions

Dear Readers:
 Have  “Dear Parlimentarian” sent to your e-mail box every month. You may subscribe to this column.  The cost is $5.00 per month or $60.00 a year. To subscribe call 1-800-532-4017 and we will e-mail you the column every. We take VISA, MC, and AMERICA EXPRESS. Checks and money orders are also accepted.  Questions are still answered for free.

"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,

This month we have some very interesting problems presented.

    An illegal removal of members
    Members attending board meetings and not leaving
    Reconsidering and rescinding motions without following proper procedures
    Veto powers of president????
    Will the Real Robert’s Rules please stand up.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    I have recently completed a draft revision of our organization's Bylaws. With your help, and a reading of Robert's Rules, I believe for the first time our organization has a document that is meaningful and useful. The draft will be reviewed by the Board of Directors in January, following that I will make what ever changes are approved by the Board. Then we will publish the Proposed Revision in our quarterly publication so the members may review it prior to our Annual meeting in May, at which time we will have the membership vote on the revised Bylaws.

    It has been a grueling task, but with your help via Dear Parlimentarian I feel it has been well worth the effort. My next job will be to educate the membership on the application of the Bylaws and on parliamentary procedure in accordance with Robert's Rules.

    Again let me say thank you for all your help.

Bill Hess
Chairman, Bylaws Committee
Sunshine Region, NMRA

Dear Parlimentarian,

    We have a situation festering in our non-profit organization which has torn our club in two. I'll try to keep this as brief as possible.

    June 13, 1996 - Executive Meeting

    The president's wife (and 'Chief of Communications') read her letter dated June 12/96 to the executive, in which she charged other club members (including 2 of the executive body) with discrimination, slander and 'seditious libel against a governing body'. After she read the it was asked whether it was up to the executive to set the time for the trial once the charges had been read. The President replied that it was up to the majority, bearing in mind that as soon as the charges have been read out the members are under suspension according to Robert’s Rules of Order. No motions regarding the charges were put forward, nor was any consensus requested. The President concluded that the charges will be read out but not voted on at the next general meeting.

    June 15, 1996 - June General Meeting

    The members who were charged were given instruction on how to get to the meeting by another club member. It is normally The President's wife's responsibility to inform the membership of the venue but she felt "uncomfortable talking to the accused". This member was instructed to tell the ‘accused’ members that the meeting was at one location, when in fact it was at another.

    The meeting started at 6:35pm. While the meetings are always scheduled for 6:30pm, historically they have never started before 7pm, with the norm being that we wait for our secretary to arrive with the minutes of the previous meeting. In this case the reading of the minutes was waived, and they proceeded directly to ‘special orders’. At this point (approximately 6:40 PM) ‘charges were laid’ against eleven members. The President declared that, according to Robert’s Rules of Order, all accused were now suspended. There was no motion or vote on this, as it was deemed unnecessary again citing Robert’s Rules of Order. A vote was taken to have a trial on the same day as the July General Meeting (prior to the actual General Meeting) on July 20, 1996 at 10:00 AM. The President stated that if the accused do not show up for the trial they will be immediately expelled.

    Well, there was no trial - the vote for expulsion was held on June 24th and the seven or so members present voted to expel all except 2 (who were deemed 'suspended').

    Our problem is this:

    Is there such a rule in Robert's Rules of order that takes away all rights of members simply by reading charges against them? And does Robert's Rules of Order supersede our own bylaws?

    We'd like to know if these suspensions and/or expulsions were done legitimately.

    Thanks in advance for any time you can give to this matter. We are a community service organization and we haven't got a lot of money to spare.

Robin Angelini

Dear Robin,

    How sad that such injustice is happening in your organization. The entire proceedings was illegal, unethical, and happened because of the ignorance of the members.

    There is no such rule in Robert’s that suspends a person’s membership because of the charges of one member.

    I highly recommend that your buy a copy of the 1990 edition of ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED and read the chapter (its the last chapter) on discipline procedures.

    First of all if your organization has rules concerning disciplinary procedures, that is what should have been followed. Robert’s is followed when an organization has no rules concerning this.

    According to Robert’s, the president was to call to order the member when she charged others with “discrimination, slander and seditious libel against a governing body”. On page 647, Robert says this: “ A resolution is improper if it implies the truth of specific rumors or contains insinuations unfavorable to a member, even if he is to be accused. It is out of order, for example, for a resolution to begin, ‘Whereas, It seems probable that members of the Finance Committee have engaged in graft,....’ At the first mention of the word ‘graft’ in such a case, the chair should instantly call to order the member attempting to move the resolution.”

    He also says if a member proposes a resolution preferring charges unsupported by an investigating committee, another member should move “to postpone the motion indefinitely” and state if the motion is to postpone indefinitely is adopted, he will make motion to appoint a committee to investigate the matter.

    Robert states that all such matters must be investigated by a committee before any charges are made. After the committee investigates, the committee either proposes a resolution to exeronate the member(s) or it prefers charges. The report should be in writing.

    In the case of preferring charges, the resolution includes, the date and time and place of the trial, and that the member is to appear at the trial and show why he should not be expelled from the society. The resolution also includes the charges. The secretary sends a letter to the accused concerning the charges, that there will be a trial, and the date, time and place of the trial.

    Robert says that the trial should happen at an adjourned meeting or a special meeting. The accused should be allowed time to prepare and suggests thirty days as a reasonable time to prepare.

    At the trial the accused is allowed to have counsel. Both the organization and the accused are allowed to bring in witness and cross examine witness. After each rest his case, the accused leaves the room and members are allowed to debate whether to expel the member. A vote is taken on each charge or each charge can be voted on a single ballot. If found guilty, then the members vote on the penalty. To expel a member requires a two thirds vote. (p.654)

    On page 652, Robert says, “If the accused fails to appear for trial at the appointed time as directed, the trial proceeds without him.”

    This is just a brief outline of the procedures. Since the entire procedures were wrong according to Robert’s, if the expelled members want to pursue this, I recommend contacting a parliamentarian in your area for help. (However, check your bylaws first to see if the way your meeting went was the procedure stated in the bylaws.)

    This is what I suggest that you do. Get a copy of Robert’s Rules, study the chapter on discipline and write a letter to the president and board members letting them know what a terrible mistake was made. (If your bylaws state a procedure and they didn’t follow it, then point out to them what the bylaws state.)

    And the next time your president says “Robert’s Rules says”, rise to a parliamentary inquiry and ask the chair to read it from the book. If the chair does not do this or can’t find it, then move to “recess” to find out the correct procedures. The way the chair handled this fiasco makes one think the chair is not well versed in Robert’s Rules of Order.



Dear Parlimentarian,

    On behalf of the members of our club, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your sage counsel in this matter. You have provided us with an excellent solution to a difficult problem.

    You wrote: if the expelled members want to pursue this, I recommend contacting a parliamentarian in your area for help.

    We have found such a person in the Vancouver area and are actively pursuing a solution using him as a mediator between the two sides of this dispute.

    Thank you again for taking the time to respond to our plight and giving us some much needed comfort.

Robin Angelini

Dear Parlimentarian,

    I have a question concerning closed-door board of directors meetings. I have recently been elected to serve on the board of an athletic association. During the last board meeting several general members attended and directed comments to the board. These members were present throughout the meeting. I would like to propose that we allow general members to address questions or comments to the board by prior arrangement, but that we excuse them after those question or comments have been made. Is this a proper act by the board? The bylaws are silent on the subject.

Jack Weakley

Dear Jack,

    Yes, it would be proper to do this. On page 95, of ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED, 1990 ED. , it states this: “In most organizations, except those operating under the lodge system, by practice or sometimes by rule, membership meetings are open to the public, but board or committee meetings are customarily held in executive session. In the latter case, members of the organization who are not nonmembers, may be invited to attend, perhaps to give a report, but they are not entitledto attend.”

    If members want to bring an issue to the board, it would be appropriate for them to write a letter asking for permission to come and present a proposal to the board. If the board granted the request, then the members at the time specified would arrive and present their case. The board could ask questions, etc. When the board members felt they had all the information they need, the chairman could thank the members for coming, rise and escort them to the door. Or the chair could ask another member to “see them out.” This can all be done graciously.


Dear Parlimentarian:

    I am a member of the board of directors for a non-profit, athletic association. One of our major problems is that a few board members will present a motion for vote by the body, and, if their position on the motion is defeated, they will present the motion for reconsideration at the next meeting. These motions for reconsideration continue to be offered until the board gives in and votes for a change. How many times can (or should) a motion be considered by a board until the issue is considered to be dead? By the way, our bylaws are silent on the subject.

J. Weakley

Dear Jack,

    First some rules about the motion to reconsider:

        1. It can only be made at the meeting the vote was taken.

        2. It can only be made by a person who voted on the prevailing side.

        3. The chair should rule the motion to reconsider out of order and tell the members it is a motion to rescind.

        4. A motion to rescind takes a two thirds vote without previous notice -- a majority vote with previous notice.

        5. A motion can’t be rescinded if the action has been carried out and is impossible to undo... for example -- money spent, someone notified of election to office or membership, a contract signed and the other party notified of it.

        6. Members can move to rescind as many times as they want to as along as it is in accord with the rules concerning the motion to rescind. See Robert’s Rules of Order page 299 -301.

        7. Remember the motion to “reconsider” is to “reconsider the vote” on the motion. First the members must vote on the motion to reconsider the vote and if it carries then the motion being reconsidered is before the board as if it had not been voted on.

    May I recommend to you our videos on parliamentary procedure. The newest video, “All About Motions” thoroughly explains the motions to “rescind” and to “reconsider”.


Dear Parlimentarian:

    I am curious what role precedence plays in Rules of Order. For example, unwritten rules which have been used for years.

    The issue is that a new presiding officer feels that because we never wrote in our by-laws that a member cannot sit on two committees, that the member may do so. However, precedence has always told us that one committee per member. This is because we are a 40 member body when filled. We are not filled now, which means we have seats available on committees. What would your ruling be?

Thank you
Jamison J. Gosselin (

Dear Jamison,

    “Custom” or “precedence” can be changed by making a motion. If previous notice has been given either by mail or at the previous meeting, a the motion can be adopted by a majority vote. If no previous notice, is given it is adopted by a two thirds vote.

    If the chair wants to change the precedence then she should ask a member to make the motion and see if the others vote for it.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    I am a Director of an Arabian Horse Association which is over 25 years old and currently has about 700 members. Our by-laws provide that Robert's Rules of Order, Revised shall govern the Association in all cases to which they are applicable, including the Annual Meeting, the Regular Meetings, the Board of Directors Meeting, and all committee meetings.

    Our by-laws provide for a Nominating Committee to present a slate of candidates, who meet certain membership qualifications, at the General Meeting immediately preceding the Annual Meeting. The by-laws also provide that nominations may be made from the floor at this General Meeting. This procedure was followed and the nominations were closed by a vote of a valid quorum of members at the meeting.

    Our by-laws , under "Election", provides that " The Association Secretary shall send to each voting member a ballot listing the nominees for each Association office and positions of Director-At-Large at least ten (10) days before the Annual Meeting. Each ballot is to be arranged so it can be cast through the mail without disclosing the voter's name. Such ballots, to be counted, must be received by the Association Secretary not later than the third day prior to the Annual Meeting or delivered to the Association Secretary at the start of the Director's Meeting on the day of the Annual Meeting. Votes shall be counted on the day of the Annual Meeting by a committee of tellers appointed by the President."

    Our Annual Meeting is December 8,1996. The ballots were mailed with a postmark of November 29, 1996. First question - If that is 9 (nine) days before the Annual Meeting, which I believe it is, is this election valid ? Our members come from all parts of our state and we usually receive about 200 ballots for counting.

    Also, for the first time on any ballot in our 25 plus years, it has been stated that write-in ballots can be cast for candidates not on the ballot. This was added without review or requesting approval of the Board. Our by-laws are silent on write-in ballots. Should such a candidate receiving an appropriate number of votes be accepted as elected and be seated on the Board or allowed to take office ?

    We need your advice, please. Thank you for your help.

Please respond to :

Dear Basheik,

    I understand your concerns about the postmark, but let me say this in the defense of the secretary. She/he may have mailed them several days before the 29th but they may not have been postmarked before then. Your annual meeting takes place at one of the busiest times for the postal season.

    A person does not have to be nominated to be elected. Robert’s always allows for a write in vote. In the “Revised Edition” of Robert’s page 290, the last sentence of the first paragraph, it states, “The voting is not limited to the nominees, as every member is at liberty to vote for any member who is not declared ineligible by the by-laws”. In the 1990 edition of Robert’s on page 431, it states, “ Votes can be cast for any person who is eligible for election, even if he has not been nominated.”

    This is what I recommend. 1. You amend your bylaws to change the days that ballots are to be sent out perhaps to 15 days before the election. 2. To amend the bylaws to change your parliamentary authority to the latest edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised. The edition you are using now is very difficult to find and every member of your organization should have a copy of the parliamentary authority.

    I realize that you want to question the election because you feel the ballots were not sent out in time. If you get a substantially less number than the usual 200 ballots then it would be appropriate to question the time the ballots were mailed. If members did not receive them immediately and could not get their ballots returned in time to be counted, this is taking away an essential right of the members. Before the vote was announced I would rise to a “point of information” and ask the chair how many ballots were returned. If only a hundred were returned then you could point out about the post mark and that it would be in the best interest of the organization to have a new ballot sent to the members and counted at an adjourned meeting, or to postpone the election to an adjourned meeting to see if the secretary received more ballots. (an adjourned meeting is a legal continuation of the present meeting and must happened before the next regular meeting of the organization.)


Dear Parlimentarian,

    If a motion has been made and seconded and passed by vote can that issue be revoted on at a next meeting and changed. Example: Our Band Boosters voted at an October meeting to purchase pep band hats for all new or incoming band members for the 96-97 school year. At the December meeting a member stated she was not present at the October meeting and did not agree with the vote. A motions was made to rescind the vote and move to have the students pay $5.00 toward the purchase of the hat and The band Boosters would pay the rest. This was seconded and passed. So the direction was to purchase hats only for the band members that paid the $5.00 fee. For the 95-96 school year the band boosters purchased for each band member a hat with their name on it free of charge to the band member. Thank you for your reply,


Dear R. Logan,

    Was the motion adopted by a two thirds vote? If not, and the action HAS NOT BEEN CARRIED OUT, then you can raise a point of order and let the members know that a new vote will have to be taken. (It will have to have a two thirds vote for the motion to be changed for students to pay a $5.00 fee.) The reason it takes a two thirds vote is because the people who voted in favor of the original motion may be absent from the next meeting. If previous notice is given, then if they felt strongly about not changing the motion, then they would make an attempt to be at the next meeting to prevent its being changed.

    Here are the rules concerning rescinding an action. If no previous notice has not been given and the motion is not impossible to undo, then it takes a two thirds vote to adopt. If previous notice has been given then it takes a majority vote. See ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED, 1990 ed. pages 299 to 302.

    I suggest that this is an opportunity for you to be informed on proper procedures and defend your rights. Our new video ALL ABOUT MOTIONS has an entire section on the motions to “Rescind” and “Amend Something Previously Adopted”. The maker of the motion combined the two.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    The brief Constitution and By-laws of my church name the standing committees and their duties, and state that those Committee members are to be nominated by the Committee on Committees and elected by the church body. However, the by-laws are silent as to how the various committee chairs are selected, except to say that Robert’s Rules prevail. Should the Committee on Committees nominate a Chair, or should be Chair be selected by the newly constituted committee from among its members?

Thank You,

Mike Hedges

Dear Mike,

    You have not told me what is currently being done. To be practical, the nominating committee should designate the chairman when nominating the members of the committee. The proposed chairman should be nominated first, and designated as such. For example: Jack Jones, chairman, Mary Smith, Bob Meyer, and Alice White.

    If the nominating committee does not do this, the Robert’s says that the assembly can elect the chairman after the committee members are elected and he explains the procedure by ballot and by voice vote.

    Or on page 173 he states, “If a committee chairman is not designated when the committee is appointed, the committee has the right to elect its own chairman.”

    So it’s your church’s choice.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    Our local of the AFSCME union want to incorporate the procedure for absentee balloting in our constitution. WE are just now beginning our research on how to do this and if it will work.

    Thanks for any help you can provide...


Dear Joe,

    The right to vote is one of the most cherished and important rights the members have. So including an absentee ballot needs to be carefully thought out and the tellers appointed to count such a vote need to be thoroughly trained in counting the ballots to ensure an honest result.

    Robert’s says this about absentee ballots on page 415: “It is a fundamental principle of parliamentary law that the right to vote is limited to the members of an organization who are actually present at the time the vote is taken in a legal meeting. Exceptions to this rule must be expressly stated in the bylaws. Such possible exceptions include: (a) voting by mail, and (b) proxy voting. An organization should never adopt a bylaw permitting a question to be decided by a voting procedure in which the votes of persons who attend a meeting are counted together with ballots mailed in by absentees, since in practice such a procedure is likely to be unfair. If there is a possibility of any uncertainty about who will be entitled to vote, this should be spelled out unambiguously and strictly enforced to avoid unfairness in close votes.”

    When providing for a vote by mail the entire membership should vote this way. So if you have an important issue that you want EVERYONE’S input, have meetings when it is discussed, send information about the subject and the pro’s and con’s to the entire membership, then take the ballot by mail. I believe this is a fair way to follow this procedure when the vote is by mail ballot.

    On page 416 of ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED, 1990 ED. by the Scott, Foresman Company, the procedure for conducting a mail ballot is spelled out in detail. I recommend that you buy this book and study these pages on voting and ballot by mail. Then write the procedures in your bylaws. Tellers should be trained in the way to count the votes and those mailing the ballots need to be trained in doing this procedure.

    If you can’t get a copy of this book at your local book store we sell it here. We have plenty in stock. The paper back costs $20.00 (inc. S & H), and the hard cover cost $35.00 (inc. S & H). We can ship immediately.


P. S. You may want to consult a parliamentarian in your area to help you write the procedures. If you need the name of a parliamentarian let me know and I can give you some names.

Dear Parlimentarian:

    I advise a student government at a major urban public university. The student governments constitution gives the President to veto "all actions of the assembly." Since the President is supposed to remain neutral during debate on the assembly floor according to Robert's Rules of Order, he has decided to use his veto as a way of expressing his opinion instead of entering into debate, and allowing the Vice-President to temporarily chair the meeting in his absence.

    In working with the President, he has admitted that using the veto hurts his responsibility to be impartial. But his desire to express his opinion take precedence over being impartial. Therefore, he uses his veto power often, much to the dismay of the assembly, who continue to vote to override his veto.

    My question is what do you think I should do in this situation as the advisor? Assembly members are approaching me and asking me to stop him from using abusing his veto power. The President insists he needs to check the assembly when they vote from personal feelings rather than objectively based on the facts and when that vote hurts the student body.

    Any help you could give me would be helpful.

Paul Chelsen

Dear Paul,

    It think it is very sad when student governments or organizations try to model their constitutions and bylaws after the Constitution of the United States. It usually doesn’t work. This is certainly the case in your school. Since the students are coming to you and asking what to do, and if I were you , I would recommend that the students revise the bylaws and take away the “veto” power of the chair. I have never heard of this being given in deliberative assembly and is contrary to any parliamentary authority that I know. In the Constitution of the United States, the President does not conduct meetings and his veto power is to keep a balance of power. This is a very unusual situation.

    Before the students revise the bylaws, I suggest each student get a copy of ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED, 1990 edition and study thoroughly the chapter on Bylaws and see how to make the organization more democratic. It is helpful to remember that the chair is to remain impartial and only vote to break or make a tie. He can vote when the vote is secret ( a ballot vote) , or when a roll call vote is taken. If the chair feels strongly about an issue, then he needs to relinquish the chair, make his point, and vote. After the vote is announced, he resumes the chair.

    The second PARLIAMENTARY INTERNET NEWSLETTER has guidelines on what to include in the bylaws that will help you do this.

    The only way to stop this abuse of power is to take it away, and that can be done by amending or revising your bylaws. It might be helpful to work with a registered parliamentarian in doing this. If you let me know what city you are in, I can e-mail any parliamentarians in your area.

    If you can’t make the president understand democratic principles, this is the only solution.


Dear Parlimentarian:

    Rumor has it that disgruntled and misinformed homeowners in our community are planning to overthrow our homeowners association Board of Directors and instate their own officers soon. The plan is by means of a petition (by our by-laws a majority vote of all homeowners may be necessary to cast out a director). How should the current Board respond to this attempt, parliamentary speaking--verify signatures, coercion- tactics evidence, to nullify or validate the petition? The last petition they did this year against xeriscaping was obtained by scare tactics and lying to residents that the Board planned to force new landscaping on all residents and remove all grass from our parks. Can't find anything in Robert's. Is there a local parliamentarian in the Albuquerque, New Mexico, area who could help us soon while we await your reply?


Eloise Colocho

Dear Eloise,

    I suggest you call a parliamentarian immediately to help you solve this problem. It sounds like to me there needs to be more communication with the members. If the board will keep them informed of the board’s activities, then a group spreading mis- information can’t deceive the membership. It is important that you have someone help you set up a correct procedure to verify the signatures on a petition and how to conduct the meeting and take the vote.

    Welcome the petition, it shows you have nothing to hid or to fear. If the members feel that you are trying to stop this right to remove a president, you may have “mass rebellion” or a law suit.

    Another thing you might do to “head them off at the pass” is to call a special meeting (if your bylaws permit this) where the membership can ask the board any questions about the rumors that are spreading.

    If you will do everything above board, and follow the procedures recommended by a parliamentarian, you will have nothing to fear and all to gain. And the entire membership will gain, too. I can’t recommend a parliamentarian, but I can give you a list of all the registered parliamentarians in Albuquerque. I ask one favor of you. Will you tell whomever you call or hire, that “Parlimentarian” from the Robert McConnell Web page referred you?

Thank you.

    Clarie Mae Blount 298-6138
    Mrs. Eugene Church 268-2820
    Lucille Eidson 299-6624
    Mary Mcune 897-2874
    Irene Navarro 883-3175
    Celine Raff 821-1749
    Mrs. Randolf Seligmen 255-2445


Dear Parlimentarian,

    I am the chair of the Student Assembly at Binghamton University. I became chair because the former chair became President. I moved up in the chain of command (I was vice-chair) I presided over the election of a new vice chair. The results were 12-10 22 voters. This is not quorum. I did not realize that the voted was taken without quorum, but no one asked about quorum until after the meeting ended. What does procedure say about this. Revote or is the vote good?

    Please help - e-mail me at

Austin Graff

Dear Austin,

    Any business transacted without a quorum is null and void. It is the duty of the presiding officer to find out if a quorum is present BEFORE beginning the meeting. You will have to retake the vote.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    In a vote how are those who abstain counted? If there are 6 votes for an issue, 4 against and 3 abstaining is the issue voted up or down?

Thank you

Dear M. Klainberg,

    Abstentions are not counted. They only time an abstention affects the vote is if your bylaws state that a motion is adopted by “a majority of the members present”.

    If the members present are 13, a majority would be 7. In this case, the motion is lost. (down)

    If the bylaws state a “majority of those voting” or “a majority vote”, then it would take 6 to adopt a motion when ten people vote. In your situation, since the abstentions don’t count, only ten voted and six is the majority, so the motion carries. (up)

    The key here is: “Is it a majority of those present?” or “Is it a majority of those voting?” Only your bylaws can answer that question.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    Excuse the blank communication that came your way--I accidentally hit the return key of my keyboard as I started to type.

    Earlier this year I participated on a task force, the purpose of which was to resolve some controversial issues. The nature of the issues is not important to this communication. I have a question regarding the minutes of the last meeting. During that meeting one of the participants made a statement conveying information which I wanted included in the minutes. When the minutes of the meeting were distributed for review and approval of task force members, that information was not included. I therefore made an official request in writing that the secretary amend the minutes to reflect that information--I did not give my approval of the minutes. I heard nothing more and assumed that the information was included. I recently requested a copy of the minutes and learned that the information was not included in spite of my written request and a lack of my approval. I should point out that this task force was set up to operate on consensus (recommendations had to be accepted unanimously in order to proceed forward from the task force) rather than majority. My question is this: according to Robert’s Rule of Order, do I have a right to insist that the information be included in the minutes. I plan to initiate a protest and want to be sure that I am on solid ground.

    Another point--since the information was conveyed in the last meeting, the task force has never come back together as a group to discuss and approve the minutes. They were to be approved via distribution through the mail and task force members sending their amendments to the secretary through the mail.

    Thank you in advance for your help and expertise.


Dear Mike,

    When the task force meets again ask that the minutes be read and then when the chair asks for corrections, state your correction or in this case addition to the minutes. However, since you are doing everything by consensus (unanimous consent) then all will have to accept your addition.

    Did you see the last Parliamentary Internet Newsletter on the WEB page? It has very detailed instructions on what to include in the minutes. Perhaps printing that out will help the secretary in writing the minutes.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    Hi thank you for your reply, but I guess I need to clarify my question...

    I did take attendance at the beginning of the meeting, and quorum was present. However, evidently a few members had left temporarily when I conducted the vote, and I was not aware of this. No one called the house, or called for a quorum check, and there was quorum at the beginning and the end of the meeting, just not while this vote was taken. Please help, thanks so much...


Dear Austin,

    If a quorum was present and the beginning and the end of the meeting then how do you know there was no quorum present when the vote was taken? If someone has proof of this and is challenging the election, then by all means keep peace and re-take the vote. If no quorum was present when the vote was taken, it is null and void.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    I have just received "Elementary Course in Parliamentary Procedure" and the "Organizational Starter Kit". A quick review of both has me all fired up. Our organization has a quarterly publication to the membership. Since our members reside all over the state and we only have a general meeting twice each year, the quarterly publication is our means of keeping the membership informed.

    It is my intent to include an article in each issue based on the lesson outlines contained in the Elementary Course book. At some point I may also conduct clinics (training sessions) at our semi annual meetings. Is their any objection to this approach and must I obtain permission of the authors to take this action? Again, let me thank you and your organization for all your help in what I originally expected to be a thankless task but with your help it turned out to be very enlightening and exciting.

Bill Hess

Dear Bill,

    You have beat me to the “draw” as they say in the West. I was going to put up a challenge on the Web Page in January asking everyone who wrote in to take an oath to promote correct procedures and democracy through education in his/her organization this up coming year. So you are well on the way!!!!!! I think you have a great idea and I know that your members will love it! You also have permission to use anything on our page too. We would love to have a broader base for the “Dear Parlimentarian” column. So if you see anything there you would like to down load and put in your newsletter please do so. All we ask is that you reference our WEB page and use “Dear Parlimentarian”. I believe the authors of those publications would appreciate a mention where you bought the books. You could also say if they wanted copies where to get them. That would help the authors to sell more of their publications. If you would like to sell NAP publications or the Elementary Course in Parliamentary Procedure at your meetings let us know and we will tell you how to get a bulk discount.


Dear Sir:

    I have a question regarding parliamentary law and was hoping you could be of assistance. My Question: If there is an Amendment to an Amendment already on the floor, is it proper to call for a referral or a postponement? Or does the delegate need to wait until the second amendment has been dealt with?

Stephen Leavell

Dear Stephen,

    If an amendment to an amendment is pending, it is in order to make a motion to refer to a committee or to postpone to a certain time because these are higher ranking motions than the motion to amend.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    We need some additional information about points of order and points of information. The first question is, should points of order and points of information be included in the official minutes of the school board? Secondly, what should we do if a board member, at an official board meeting, refers to something as a point of information but then actually makes a point of order, and acknowledges the error at the following board meeting (after the minutes of the previous meeting have been prepared and are ready to be approved)? Thirdly, what if a board member calls for a point of order or a point of information and then proceeds to use the opportunity to speak to share their views on a specific issue before the board? Thank you for your help on these topics.


Dear Ellen,

    Let’s first define points of order and points of information.

    A “point of order” is the way a member can point out to the chair and members that correct parliamentary procedures are not be followed. When a member raises a point of order, he should state the breach in rules that has just taken place. The chair then rules on the member’s point by saying “your point is well taken” and then the chair corrects the situation; or “your point is not well taken” and we will continue doing what we are doing. Now Robert’s says on page 460, #8 that all points of order and how they are decided are written into the minutes.

    The only time a member can discuss a point of order is to appeal from the decision of the chair -- a motion that needs a second and is debatable “unless it relates to indecorum or a transgression of the rules of speaking; (b) relates to the priority of business; or (c) is made while the immediately pending question is undebatable.” (p 256, #5). If the appeal is debatable each member may speak ONCE to the appeal, the chair gets to speak twice. If a point of order is appealed, that should go in the minutes and how the appeal was decided. (A vote is always taken on an appeal).

    Now the purpose of a point of information is to gather facts that have not come out in debate or in a report so that members can make a good decision. A member could rise and say “I rise to a point of information.” The chairreplies, “Please state your point”. The member asks, “Will member X tell us more about the installation fees ?” The member asking the question then sits down and the chair asks member X to reply. When member X sits down then the member who raised the point of information could rise to debate the question with this additional information. I personally would not put in a point of information unless IT WAS PERTITENT INFORMATION THAT DECIDED THE OUTCOME OF THE MOTION. For example, let’s say it comes out that one of the school board’s relatives is involved with the selling a product that is under consideration, and a member finds this out through a “point of information”, I would then put that in the minutes because it could be a conflict of interest. If it is just to get additional information for debate purposes then I would not put it in the minutes. This is where the secretary needs to use discretion.

    The chair should know the difference between a point of information and a point of order, and respond accordingly; and the secretary should know the difference too so that it can be recorded in the minutes. Now, this is what I suggest with your current situation : when the minutes are to be approved, let the member of the board make the correction at that time and if a majority of the members agree with the correction , then it is put into the minutes.

    If a member uses a point of order or point of information incorrectly, it is the chair’s duty to correct it.

    Did you know that we have a new video called ALL ABOUT MOTIONS? This topic is covered in detail in the two volume video set. And it includes a very helpful tool for secretaries. It comes with a booklet which explains in detail all that is included in the minutes. Plus the actual minutes of both meetings that are in the video!!!! (This booklet is found in volume 2. Volume 1 has a booklet too. There is a short synopsis of the motions discussed in the video and they are page - referenced to Robert’s .)

    If you would like to know more, see the advertisement for it on the WEB page or send us your mailing address and we will send you a brochure. The price goes up January 1.


Dear Parlimentarian,

    Our Naval Airship Association by-laws read: "These by-laws may be amended, repealed or altered, in whole or in part by the majority vote of the members at any meeting of NAA, a quorum being present. Similar action may be taken by the majority vote of the membership in a poll conducted by mail."

    I have read and understand the substance of the Robert's Rules section on voting by mail, but this section does not state whether an affirmative vote by mail would constitute a majority vote of the entire eligible membership or a majority of those who cast votes.

    I would be grateful for any advice on this point. Other sections of Robert's Rules seem to indicate that more than one half of those eligible to vote would be required to amend the by-laws (according to our present by-laws) rather than more than one half of those who cast votes. Is this true?

    Thanks for any consideration that you give to responding to this question.


John A. Fahey
President, Naval Airship Association

Dear John,

    To answer your question: yes.

    The key word here is “of the membership”. Look at Robert’s page 395 and 397- 399.

    Robert says the phrase “a majority vote” means of those present and voting. However, your bylaws qualify the vote by saying “a majority vote of the membership”. So if they are 100 members, it takes 51 ballots in the affirmative to amend the bylaws. If only 75 people return their ballots, and 49 are in the affirmative and 26 in the negative, the amendment would be lost because the majority of the membership is 51.


Dear Parlimentarian;

    Thanks your for your clarification of our Association's vote by mail by-laws article. I am most grateful to you.

    An association member insists that there were Robert's Rules of Order editions in 1978 and 1993. He lists the first: "Robert's Rules of Order, published in 1978. He lists the second one: "Robert's Rules of Order, published in 1993, and revised by Darwin Patnoda, PhD (a past president of the American Institute of Parliamentarians, etc.)" In his communication to me sent to the three other Association officers and editor of our newsletter, he includes a portion of a page of contents that he labels above in ink - "1978" and a second partial list of articles that he labels above in ink "Robert's Rules 1993." The first 1978 list reads "Art. VI-Vote" which he has circled and the second 1993 list reads "Article VI: Voting 74." In the second contents' list he circles Article VI.

    I had based my response to an earlier fax from him on the ninth (1990) edition of Robert's Rules, believing that this is the most recent edition where VOTING is covered in Chapter XIII. I know that the fifth (1943) edition covered Vote in Article VI and the sixth (1951) edition covered Vote in Article VIII. Voting coverage in what I believed was the latest edition (1990) moved forward to Chapter XIII. It is difficult for me to accept his labeled 1978 and 1993 contents pages listing "vote" in Article VI. I do not believe that any edition after the 53 year old 1943 edition listed vote or voting in Article VI as Robert's Rules of Order editions expanded from a few hundred to over 700 pages.

    A response to the following questions would be of great value and assistance to me:

        1. Is the 1990 edition the most recent and current addition?

        2. Did any edition other than the 1943 edition list vote or voting in Article VI?

        3. Are my beliefs stated above on editions and voting correct? I contend that there were no 1978 and 1993 editions.

        4. If the 1990 is the current edition can you tell me where a reference to a 1993 edition revised by Dr. Darwin Patnoda could have surfaced?

    Again thank you for your past assistance. I would be very grateful if I could impose upon you just one more time.

John Fahey
President, Naval Airship Association

Dear John,

    To answer you questions:

    1. The 1990 edition, published by The Scott, Foresman and Company is the official and most current edition of Robert’s Rules of Order. Both the American Institute of Parliamentarians and the National Association of Parliamentarians recognize this as the official book and current edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised.

    2. I am not familiar with earlier editions of Robert’s Rules. My 1980 edition I threw away (big mistake -- at the time I didn’t realize I would be doing what I am now doing). I did find the 1943/1951 ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER REVISED. Voting is in Article VIII.

    3. Scott, Foresman and the Robert family have not published a more recent edition of ROBERT’S RULES. They are currently working on an edition to be release about the year 2000.

    4. Dr. Patnoda probably does have a book out. I have not seen it. However, there are many books in the bookstore having the title of Robert’s Rules of Order in it. I have a book that I just bought entitled ROBERT’S RULES FOR THE TWENTY FIRST CENTURY.

    As you may know that when the copyright on a book has expired, it is in the public domain and any one can publish it, edit it, amend it, add their comments to it, etc. and call it ROBERT’S RULES. This is probably what Dr. Patnoda has done.

    In the bylaws, under the Article of “Parliamentary Authority” , it should state which authority the organization is adopting. If it is ROBERT’S RULES, it is important to state the “CURRENT” edition of ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED. The phrase “Newly Revised” must be added to the title or you will not be adopted the official book.

    To solve your problem you need to go to your bylaws and see which authority has been adopted. Then go to that authority to solve this about voting.

    If you bylaws are vague about this or say “Robert’s Rules of Order” or “Robert’s Rules of Order Revised”, I suggest you amend them to “the current edition of ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED” . By adopting the current edition it ensures that every member can obtain a copy of it!

    The Parlimentarian

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