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Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 27 May '98

Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 27  May '98
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.


I would your opinion on a point of order in the Robert's Rules of Order. At our Society we have a general meeting once a month with 100 people in attendance. We also have an executive meeting once a month with just the officers and  directors present consisting of 12 to 18 people. This meeting is informal where we do the mailing and discuss matters to be brought before the general meeting.

At one of the executive meetings the President made a motion which passes 14 to1 in favor. Now some time later the person that was affected by that motion is contesting the motion stating that the President can not make a motion without stepping down as President therefore the motion is no good.

I would to know if the motion is good so we can resolve a dispute in our Society. Please e-mail your answer to me Thank You

Thomas Creavin.

Dear Thomas,

Robert's Rules states that a point of order must be made when the infraction was taking place. So the person who is calling "point of order" has no foundation for his reasoning.  In a group your size it is not in order for the president to make a motion, unless you have adopted a special rule of order that allows the president to make a motion in a board of your size.  However, on the phone the way you explained the situation to me was that the president was helping the members make a decision after a motion was defeated and he showed them a way to achieve their ends. In this case I do not believe it was out of order what he did -- it was expediting business. Hope this helps.

The Parliamentarian


I hope you can help me with a problem. A civic organization I belong to has had some problems over procedure.  The organization is an incorporated 501(c)3 organization and has a set of by-laws which were incorporated with the State of NJ back in early 1994.   The organization amended their by-laws several times since that period.  It has come to the attention of newer board members that when some of these amendments were adopted and are being followed but; the general membership was never notified of the upcoming vote for the amendments, that proper voting procedure were not followed, nor minutes or records of these changes can not be located.  The organizations Executive Committee/Board of Trustees continues to follow the amended by-laws despite these problems.  We have checked with the State and the only thing on file is the original by-laws filed in 1994.  My questions are:

1) Are the newer by-laws null and void since improper procedure were used.

2) Is the original by-laws what we must work from today?

3) If there were amendments which were adopted, should we revote and follow proper procedure in order to fix these oversights and make sure proper procedure is followed correctly.

4) Is removal of officers warranted if they have not turned over the proper paper work, such as financial records and minutes or prevent a proper investigation to go forward.

Thank you for your time.


Jim Madden


Dear James,

We took up your interesting question at our Registered Unit of Parliamentarians. Here is how they commented.  One of our members who is an attorney said that you have to prove that they are not properly adopted. However, the general thought was that if they can't show where they where adopted or have bylaws that show a date of amendment then they haven't amended the bylaws.  It was suggested that perhaps the best thing to do is have a complete revision of the bylaws and start over again. It is important that the organization follow the proper procedures for amending bylaws stated in the bylaws themselves. If there is no provision for amending and Robert's Rules is your authority then you need to follow that...previous notice and two thirds vote.  Now about removing these officers. This is never a good idea. It's difficult to remove officers unless you have a provision for this. If you don't then you will have to have a trial and prefer charges is this what you want to do? This could be disastrous to the entire organization. Is there anyway to reason with these people? When is the next election of officers?

The Parliamentarian

Simulcik Rebecca Lee wrote:

I belong to an organization that uses the subject book of Parliamentary Procedure as a parliamentarian guide at meetings but I have been unable to find in either bookstore (including yours) or library a Parliamentary Procedure book that bears that name. Can you help me?


Dear Rebecca,

Another person has answered you, but I believe that what your bylaws are saying is that they follow parliamentary procedure. There is no book by that name. Whoever wrote your bylaws does not realize they need to adopt a parliamentary authority which is a book like Robert's Rules of Order, or another authority. so right now you can follow anything.

The Parliamentarian

Dear Sir,

My name is Jay Samuels and I am the President of the Congregational Council for Mount Olive Lutheran Church(ELCA) in Hickory, North Carolina. Recently at one of our meets an issue came up dealing with the pastors ability to use continuing education for a specific purpose. This issue had been reported to the council on several occasions in the past without any questions being brought up. However, at this meeting several members were upset and a motion was made to not allow this time by the pastor to be counted as continuing education time but as vacation time. The motion was seconded and after much discussion it was defeated by a 9-4 vote. Several days after this meeting a member of the congregation sent me a letter asking the council to rescind its vote allowing the pastor to use this time for continuing education and to also not pay any continuing education funds for this purpose. After reviewing this letter, realizing that the member's questions were not what the council had voted on, I decided to respond to the letter, and not present it to the council, by sending a copy of the minutes of the meeting and highlighting the action taken by council.  My question is as to whether or not I should have presented this letter to the council and if any action is required by the council on the letter. Or should that person have asked a council member to make another motion regarding his questions.  Thank you for your help.


Dear Jay,

Yes, the letter should have gone to the "council" for discussion and decision about how to respond to the letter. Even though the letter was personally addressed to you, it asked you to take something to the council for decision.  If it was addressed to you and concerned only you, then you could have answered it yourself.  In my church, all communication about our "board" actions or about something some one wants us to do, is addressed to the "clerk" and presented to the board. No one person has the right to respond to a member's inquiry unless the board directs that person to respond. This is a protection for individual members of the council (board) and the pastor. By the council answering the letter , this prevents repercussions against a member or the pastor.  When we are a member of an organization whether it be a church or a club, unless the bylaws specifically give one person(either the president or the pastor) the right to handle such matters, it is best to have the assembly decide how to answer and handle the situation. In this case, how the council should handle the matter.

The Parliamentarian

Mr. McConnell,

I am on the board of a treasure hunting club. We have a very obstinate member who just resigned his position for no apparent reason.  I also believe this is not the first time he has done so. He now has declared that he is running for the office of president. It is my belief that somewhere, in Robert's Rules of Order, it says that anyone that quits his or her position without good reason, cannot run for an office again. Can you help? Our club by-laws state that anything not specifically therein are governed by Robert's.

Bill & Robin

Dear Bill and Robin,

Robert's Rules does not say that if a person quits his office without a good reason he can't be considered again for another office. However, if this is a person who can't carry through his/her obligations, then why would the membership consider electing someone for president just because he/she has announced to run for this position?   Normally, most organizations have a nominating committee or at least take nominations from the floor, instead of people announcing that they are running for office. Your bylaws should state some procedure. If there isn't any procedure then the members should vote on how they will elect the officers.  If you have a nominating process, for example, a committee and then nominations from the floor, the committee should nominate only "one" candidate for office and it should be the one they consider the "best" to carry out the duties of that office.  The member who resigns and then wants to serve somewhere else needs to realize that promotion within a work situation or in an organization goes to the ones who work, fulfill the duties of their offices, and co-operates with the rest of the membership in fulfilling the goals of the organization.  It should be pointed out to this member how difficult it is for the organization when he/she resigns and another member takes over mid-year. It is not fair to the organization or to the member being asked to fill in. If a member knows that he can't serve an entire term then he should not accept the nomination. This is only common sense, you don't need to have this written in a book.

The Parliamentarian

KT Bowers wrote:

We sort of got it going tonight at our meeting. I guess one of us just needed to be the aggressive one and tell people to stop talking amongst themselves and follow the agenda and Robert's Rule's which we obtained.  thanks for the reply back.


Dear Kt,

May I suggest that you get with the presiding officer before the meeting and help that person understand the control he/she has in the meeting.   Here are some phrase for the presiding officer to use when people get off the subject.

1. Will the member(s) please keep his(their) remarks to the subject at hand. Right now we are discussing.......

2. Another thing is for the chair to ask a question that can only be answered "yes" or "no". That stops discussion and then say, let's get back to agenda item #.

3. If discussion is going on and on, the presiding officer can ask "Is there anything new to add to the discussion, if not let's take a vote."

Did you know we have a free report about making your meetings go more smoothly? Its on the WEB Page. We also have a new video out about How to Conduct a Meeting and it includes agenda planning and ways to conduct a meeting more efficiently. This might help your group.  The other thing I suggest for your to do, if discussion is getting off course, rise and address the chair, and say, "Mr. Chairman, or Madam Chairman, could we please get back to the subject at hand...." then name it.  Be careful not to be "aggressive" it only turns people off from following correct procedures. Your members are just ignorant and don't know how to conduct a meeting or behave in a meeting. The key here is education, gentle education.  In meetings that I'm in and dealing with ignorance and people who like to talk a lot and get off the subject, I'll say, "I know all of us are very busy people, let's get back to the discussion or topic, so that we can all get home and do other things." I also find it helpful to establish the idea that we're going to adjourn in an hour, so we'd better get down to business. Unless an organization has a lot of business to conduct, an hour meeting is sufficient. If people are doing a lot of socializing during the meeting, have a time for that at the beginning and then start your meeting after the social period.

We also sell a booklet entitled "MEETING MANAGEMENT" by the National Association of Parliamentarians. That would help your group.  If we can be of further help, let us know.

The Parliamentarian

Copyright 1998 Robert McConnell Productions, all rights reserved.