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Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 37 March '99

Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 37  March '99
Answers to your Parliamentary Questions

"Dear Parlimentarian" is written by the author of Parliamentary Procedures Made Simple: The Basics, an 80 minute video that tells how to have better meetings.

Dear Parliamentarian:

Could you send information on the process of the "previous question" to

thank you very much


Dear Robert,

Yes, I would be more than glad to give you the procedures of the previous question. We discuss this motion very thoroughly in our new book ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER SIMPLIFIED AND APPLIED. This is one of the most misused motions in a meeting. The other misused motion is "lay on the table".

After some debate a member must rise, address the chair, be assigned the floor and make the motion, by saying, "I move the previous question" or "I move to close debate". It needs a second. It is not debatable and the chair takes a vote on closing debate. Since this takes the rights away from the members to debate, it take a 2/3 vote to adopt. This must be taken by a rising vote. If the motion to close debate is adopted, the vote on the immediately pending motion is taken. If previous question fails, the members continue the debate.

It is out of order for one member to call out "question" and for the chair to stop debate and take a vote on the motion. If this happens another member shout raise a point of order and see that the proper procedure is followed.

Hope this helps

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

I belong to a non-profit organization which has chapters nationwide, and utilizes Robert's Rules as its parliamentary procedure in all meetings. Individual chapters meet bimonthly, then all chapters meet at a biennial national convention in June. Two delegates are sent from each chapter to represent the chapter at the convention.

We are to vote this June on proposed revisions to an article of our bylaw that caused a stir at the June 1997 biennial meeting, and will most likely cause an uproar this year. Both motions contradict each other, and they both pertain to parliamentary rules of order at conventions, not at local chapter meetings.

The first proposed motion is: motions are to be presented by chapter delegates only. A delegate may not second her own chapter's motion which was placed on the floor by the other delegate from the same chapter.

The second motion is: Motions and seconds must be presented by an accredited delegate only. A motion and second may be from the same chapter.

The justification for the first motion, is that both delegates are representing their chapter and are not representing themselves as an individual. The motions placed on the floor come from the Chapter, and Robert's Rules of Order states that you may not second your own motion.

The justification for the second motion is that parliamentary law protects the rights of the minority. In order to discuss a question, two members must provide a motion and a second. What is wrong with a delegate from the same chapter seconding their chapter's motion? Chapters send their representatives to convention to represent the chapter, not the individual, but each chapter has two votes---two delegates, and possibly two opinions. If a chapter has a specific subject that they want discussed at convention, and they are a minority, shouldn't they be able to second their own motion?

I have The New Robert's Rules of Order, from 1994 by L. Rozakis and editors of Merriam-Webster. The only reference I have found regarding Parliamentary Rules of Order at Conventions states that delegates are expected to be aware of the feelings of the group they represent so they will know how to vote on certain matters. That to me implies that the delegates are there to represent the chapter, not the individual.

Therefore a delegate cannot second their own motion. However, I also appreciate that the minority must be heard. Can you please tell me what the parliamentary rule of order at a

convention states in this situation?

Thank you for your help, I love your web page!!


Melissa Milner


Dear Melissa,

I am more than happy to answer your question but first I need to know some particulars about your organization.

1. How are motions presented to the convention right now?

2. When a delegate comes to the convention do they have to state which chapter they are from before speaking? Is it the chapter considered the delegate or the individual members considered the delegate?

3. May I suggest that you purchase the official book of Robert's Rules of Order. ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED 1990 edition published by Scott Foresman. You have a book about Robert's Rules but not the official book. This book has a lot of information about conventions and procedures in conventions because that is what parliamentarians primarily work with.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

Here are the answers to your questions.

1. How are motions presented to the convention right now?

The president will ask if there is any new business to come before the house. She then suggests that a motion on a certain subject is in order. After the motion is moved and seconded, the president repeats the exact wording of the motion and asks if there is any discussion. After discussion, the motion is repeated and the vote is taken.

2. When a delegate comes to the convention do they have to state which chapter they are from before speaking?

We have a roll call at the beginning of the business meeting, at which we have to stand, state our name, our chapter, and either "delegate, alternate, or proxy".  Each time a delegate stands, she must state her name and her chapter before speaking.

Is it the chapter considered the delegate or the individual members considered the delegate?

I'm assuming that the individual member is considered the delegate. Here is a description from our handbook: The voting membership at each biennial national convention.....shall consist of not more than two (2) votes from each chapter.

They shall constitute the legislative voting body. These members must hold proper credentials as delegates, alternates or proxies, and the credentials must be certified by the Credentials Committee prior to the opening of Convention hope this helps. Thank you for your assistance.


Melissa Milner


Dear Melissa,

Thank you for your reply. First of all let’s talk about convention rules. In ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED, 1990 ed., the writers state that normally conventions adopt rules for presenting motions. Second, that many conventions have a committee called the "Resolutions Committee" which all main motions must go through before they come to the assembly. I highly recommend that you get a copy of the is book and read pages 628 to 631. Then you will be informed and armed for discussion of this debate on these proposed motions.

Let’s look at some parliamentary principles involved here.

A convention has a tight schedule and needs to consider the most important business of the organization and so much of it comes from the boards and working committees.

In the two national organizations that I am a member of, unfortunately, we spend most of our time dealing with bylaw amendments. There is seldom time for members to bring forth new business from the floor which I think is rather sad, but none the less, that is the case. In these organizations, when it comes time for new business anyone can make a main motion and anyone can second it. In fact, at the last convention of one organization, I know the maker of the motion and the seconder came from the same chapter.

A second only means that there is another person that thinks it should be discussed.

So let’s consider the first motion that the maker and seconder must be from different chapters. Perhaps the thinking is that if only one chapter is interested in the subject, it is not important to waste the member’s time discussing it. If two chapters are interested then it is worthy of being discussed.

Now let’s look at the second proposal. This is saying that the assembly is not divided in to chapters but that every member is equal. Under Robert’s Rules, a motion needs a maker and a seconder. Also if a main motion comes from a committee of more than one, it does not need a second in the assembly. So an argument here would be that a chapter, the maker and seconder from the chapter, have agreed to bring this before the assembly and therefore is the equivalent as a committee and therefore does not need a second from another chapter.

Again, any assembly may adopt rules of parliamentary procedure that are different from the adopted parliamentary authority. So your organization has the right to decided which way they want to go.

You need to get your debate well thought out and then try to persuade the assembly which is the best way to go. However, since you are presently doing the second motion right now, you don’t need to adopt it. Custom has the force of rule. You just need to defeat the other motion. The members must realize that if they defeat the first motion they just continue doing what they are presently doing.

If they insist on considering both motions, then the procedure should be to substitute one main motion for another. See ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED, p. 150 -159.  If you need further help, please let us know.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

I realize this is very short notice and sure hope you can help me out before Monday a.m.  I am currently serving as chairperson for the Policy Council of Head Start and created a big problem for myself at our last P.C. meeting. Due to a refusal of two members of the executive board to question me beforehand regarding a matter of an unwritten policy before our scheduled meeting, which was I must add a very stressful meeting due to the subject matter being discussed and also our regional on site review team monitoring our meeting, I, as a woman allowed my emotions to rule and at the end of the meeting I stated I was resigning. Will add for clarification that the unwritten policy was concerning the chairperson being allowed to go to conventions which I had not approached the subject myself as never gave it a thought and neither did our director. However, it came to light when I put on our meetings agenda that I would be attending the conference which for the past several years chairperson was selected to go, but never written into our by-laws. Two board members had a problem with me going and what upset me was the fact that they had not bothered to even call to question why I was going and if I had not called a closed executive meeting before scheduled meeting they were going to confront the issue in front of the entire council. Anyway, like I said it upset me and will add that I knew there were going to be problems with the committee when I was told to my face that I should have stepped down from Chair and allowed an active parent to take my position since I no longer had a child enrolled in Head Start, but returned as a community rep and reran for office and was elected. Our by-laws state any past parent of a child enrolled can run for office.

I stray here and what I'm concerned with now is, right after the meeting when I said I was resigning I was encouraged by many, in fact would say majority to reconsider and a meeting of the executive committee was set up for Saturday, meeting held on Tuesday, so we could discuss differences, etc. I stated at this meeting that I had changed my mind and was not going to resign that I had allowed emotions to over rule me. It was also decided that I would send a letter to all the representatives on the council to be sent with our agenda and minutes for our next meeting that I was not resigning and my apology for acting unprofessionally. Anyway, regarding the trip matter it was also decided a mail vote would be taken of the entire council to see what their views were for it and if the majority ruled against it if I decided to go I'd pay my own way. Well last I heard it was a tie vote, I voted yes, the chairperson should be allowed to go.

Now, today I receive in the mail an agenda for a special meeting to be held Monday rather or not to vote to accept or reject my resignation. I, as chair was not notified of this meeting and it states in our by-laws that the chair can call a special meeting or a written request by 20 percent of our members which would make it 14 members had to request it in writing that they wanted a meeting held.

My question is, how, if the committee already knew I was not resigning and the decision was made on how it would be handled can they call a special meeting? And is it a legal meeting and can this be voted on considering they knew I was not resigning? My feelings are it should never have been brought this far. And the director did find out today it was the vice-chair who called the meeting and other members of the committee. Used the excuse that since the mail vote went out concerning the trip that many members were confused by it if I had resigned, however must add that maybe 15 members of the council were even present at that meeting to hear me say I resigned. I know I'm getting railroaded here and being forced out, however I will not leave unless I know my name is clear and the facts are known and the proper procedure is being taken. In fact have pretty well come to the conclusion that no matter how the meeting turns out that for the benefit of the organization and what we are facing with a finding of 75 percent of agency components not being in compliance to federal regulations that working with even one member of the committee who wants me out would not be beneficial to getting things done in a timely matter. And time is of the utmost essence as we have 6 months to become compliant or we get shut down. Meaning 900 children will not be given the advantage of pre school next year.

I would sure appreciate it if you can answer this by Monday so I have something to back myself with.

Carol Wilfret


Dear Carol,

You are right. You are getting railroaded. What do your bylaws state about removing someone from office?

It is your right to call the secretary and see if 14 members have signed a letter asking for the call of a special meeting. If they haven’t, then you have a right to call the meeting to order and then state it is adjourned because 14 members have not signed a letter to call a special meeting.

At this meeting you can announce that normally a resignation is not giving verbally but in writing and since you did not give your resignation in writing that there is no resignation to consider.

Please call me. My number is 765-282-1124. I am always at this number on Saturday evenings. I live in the Eastern time zone and it would best to receive your call between 7pm and 9pm. My name is Janet McConnell.

Please have a copy of your bylaws at hand. If you receive this message today, Saturday, please reply and set a time that you can talk. I am also available during the morning hours today.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

after proper notice and we are now going through each suggested change item by item: do we need 2/3 majority vote, of the executive present, for each change to each item? do we then vote for all changes to total by-laws and does that require a 2/3 majority of those present? and if there is no 2/3 majority vote of total (all) by-law changes, do the item changes also fail? Please propose an item by item method that is the correct procedure and please do not refer us back to our by-laws for guidance. lets pretend that a method is not there, or unclear. thanks for your assistance on this one.........


Dear Paul,

If these bylaw changes are NOT a revision, but a series of bylaw changes, then each bylaw change is presented proposal by proposal. Each bylaw proposal should be presented as a motion to amend the bylaws, debated and voted on by a 2/3's vote. After each is voted on it is adopted and immediately goes into effect. You don't have to vote on all of them again after they've been already voted on. Look at our WEB SITE < under Parliamentary Internet Newsletter. Look under the 1997 issues. There is an article about individual bylaw amendments.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

I need your help. I bought the Robert Rules of Order from you not to long ago. A situation arose with my Homeowners Association and I was looking in the book for information on impeachment and couldn't find anything. Is there any publication you can recommend on how to go about removing someone from office?



Dear Debbie,

There is something in the book, but it is in an odd place. It is under questions and answers and begins on page 314. I am also writing a newsletter on this subject. I am mostly finished. I will try to finish it this week and have it posted on the Parliamentary Internet News letter on our WEB Site < There is the beginning of the article about the impeachment process. It's December 1998.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

We are a high school parliamentary procedure class with a couple of questions...

The purpose of Rescinding a motion is to nullify an action taken and completely remove it from the minutes. If we vote to nullify a motion at the present meeting, should the secretary record that action in the minutes.

I.e. Secretary Minutes:

It was moved to rescind the motion to spend $5,000 on tooth paste. Motion Carried.

If the secretary does record this in the minutes, doesn’t it defeat the purpose of rescinding the action so it is removed from the minutes?

Second Question....

According to Roberts Rules, the secretary should record the vote counts on motions... In addition, the secretary is suppose to record all motions, whether they pass or fail, but only subsidiary motions that pass. If a subsidiary motion fails, but a counted vote was taken on that motion, then does the secretary record this failed subsidiary motion?




First, let's understand the motion to "rescind". It is just to nullify the action of an early vote and a motion that is in affect. When you rescind an action you do not expunge it from the previous minutes because that was the action that was adopted at that time. If you want to you can go back to the minutes where the action was originally adopted, put an * by the action and a note at the bottom of the minutes that says: "this action was rescinded at the January 5, 1999 meeting." (or whatever date it was done)

The only votes that are included in the minutes are those that are actually counted -- those taken by ballot, those by roll call, and those votes that are ordered by the assembly or the chair to be counted. But you should have to count every vote that you take. Only subsidiary motions that are adopted are recorded in the minutes.

Remember if someone calls out "division" after a voice vote. A division only means a rising vote. It is not counted! For the members to want to take a counted vote, there needs to be a motion and second for the vote to be counted, and then the members must vote to have the vote counted.

If the vote is counted and the motion fails then that would be recorded in the minutes. It seems that you might be making things more complicated then they need to be.

Look on our WEB Site <, the Internet Newsletter, August 1996. There is an article about minutes and what should go into the minutes.


The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

Are you able to answer questions about procedure? Is so, here is my question:

I am an officer in the OA, where we want to change our bylaws. We took all the necessary steps to conduct the election, and through the voting of our membership, the amendment failed. The officers want to vote on the same issue again, at our April meeting. If the amendment is still verbatim from the original, can we vote a second (or third, fourth, fifth) time on this amendment? I have Robert's Rules, but my knowledge isn't deep enough to be able to answer my own question. Can you help?

Doug Schulke


Dear Doug,

The answer is yes. This is called "renewing" the motion. However, those wishing to bring it up again, will have to give previous notice to do it. They can keep doing this at every meeting until they get the bylaw amendment adopted. Many times persistence wins the day.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

Here I am again. You have been most helpful . Please comment on the enclosed item quoted from our by-laws. The powers-that-be cannot see it as we do, i.e. that it is a clear statement that any Board appointed seats (to fill a vacancy) must be affirmed (or up forelection) at the following Annual Membership meeting.

Article V, Section 9, Vacancies In the event that there shall be vacancies on the Board of Directors, caused through the resignation, death or other incapacity of a Director, such vacancies on the BOD shall be filled by a member in good standing, who may be an associate member, after nomination and appointment of a majority of the remaining Directors even though those remaining Directors might be less than a quorum. Such persons so appointed shall be a Director unless his successor is elected either at the next Annual Meeting of the Association, or at a special meeting called for that purpose. The replacement Director so elected shall serve for the remainder of the unexpired term, if any, or for a full term if the term was due for expiration at such meeting."

Thank You

Louise Manke



Dear Louise

This is what your bylaws say:

1. That a vacancy is filled by the Board of Directors by first nominations and then an election. It takes a majority vote of the remaining directors to elect --that means of all of the directors left, not just those voting. So if 9 directors are left and only 7 vote, the majority is figure on 9--that would be 5 voting in favor of the person.

2. This person elected by the board fills the vacancy for the rest of the term UNLESS the membership decides to vote for someone different at either the next Annual Meeting or at a special meeting. If the members do not decided to nominate another person for the vacancy, the board's action stands. The membership does not have to ratify this decision.

3. The person only serves for the remaining term. Let's say a board member is elected for a three year term. He resigns after a year and a half. The board elects member Y to fill the vacancy. He only serves for the next year and a half, not forever. However, if at the Annual meeting the members want someone else, and the annual meeting comes after six months that this new member is in the term, then they can nominate and elect someone else. If this is done, then that member only served six months of the term, and the newly elected member will serve the rest of the term which is one year.

So it would finally look like this:

Member Y was elected for a three year term. Member Y resigned after a year and a half. Member A was elected by the Board to fill the remaining term. But the members at the Annual meeting voted to fill the vacancy with Member C.

So Member Y served 1 1/2 years.

Member A served 6 months

Member C served 1 year.

(However, if the term is to expire at the next meeting, then the person elected to fill the vacancy serves for a full term) Does this help explain your bylaws.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:


I got a question that came up at one of the meeting at our national guard meeting. I would like to know tithe responsibility of the secretary to record the amount of money taken up by the treasure at the meeting in progress...the problem we have is that we cannot meet every month, so we take up the dues when we meet. although we have a roster the treasure didn't give an account Of how much money was taken at that meeting. My questions this. If the secretary does not record this monies at this meeting. How can he/she give an accurate account at the next meeting, when the minutes are read?

Please reply to the screen named let me know.

J Willis


Dear J Willis,

It is important for the secretary and treasurer to work together. It is the duty of the treasurer to collect the dues and keep a record of who pays. It is the duty of the Secretary to keep a list of members, their addresses and phones numbers and whatever pertinent information about them that the society needs. The treasurer gives a report at each meeting about what monies come in and what monies go out.

Have membership forms with a triplicate copies at your meeting. On them include name, address, phone, number, other pertinent information that you need, the date at the top and a place for the treasurer to sign to give to the member for a receipt. The treasurer would keep the top copy, you would get the second copy and the member the third copy. This way there would be two records of who has joined, when they paid their dues, and also a record of monies from dues coming in.

That way if the treasurer isn't at the meeting the secretary would have this record. It sounds to me that you and your treasurer just need to work better together.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian,

The nominating committee of our PTA was juggling the positions around and one board member had been asked about being 1st Vice President and later had been told someone else more qualified wanted that positions. This started her and another board member on the warpath. The nomination procedures were explained to them and still at our Foundersday program, one of them interrupted my speech when I was reading the proposed slate of nominations and proceeded to humiliate me by yelling no one knew the nominations where being taken and the other one accused us of rewriting the bylaws. I was shocked, dumbfounded and stammered until I finally said that all nominations are excepted until election a month later. I know now I should of told them they were out of order and if anyone had any questions I would answer them after the program. I called a meeting with our PTA council president, the principal of our school and the two rebels and myself to try to work things out, but they tried to justify their actions and show no remorse for what they did. Now it seems the principal and PTA council president have this attitude that you want people like this working next to you and not against you ( why, so they don't have to reach so far to stab you in the back?) Our PTA is on the brink of falling apart if these two rebels with out a cause are on our board again next year.

This is their first year on the board and they have not fulfilled the duties asked of them. Should these board members be asked to resign since they did cause harm to our organization? Since this is my last year as president, I'd hate to leave this kind of mess for someone else if at all possible not to.  Thanks,



Dear Melissa,

My heart goes out to you and your organization. Such incivility! One way to solve this is through education. If your members knew the rules then much of this could be solved.

First, according to Robert's Rules the nominating committee's duty is to find the best qualified candidates for office. However, after they give their report the members are allowed to nominate people from the floor. Then the members vote.

This is how it could be handled at the next meeting.


The next order of business is the election of officers. At our last meeting the nominating committee proposed the following nominees. The Committee was instructed to look at several things in choosing these nominees (then I would state what that was). However, since this is a democratic organization, the membership is also allowed to propose nominees for office and the board. At this time the chair will entertain nominations from the floor for the office president....

Are there further nominations for the office of president. Hearing none the nominations are closed.

(I don't know how you vote. Is it by ballot or voice? Do you vote on the officers as a slate or individually. In this case you might want a prepared ballot and allow for people to write in the names. If you take the vote by voice then you would handle it this way.)

There are three nominations for the office of president. We will take this by a voice vote. The first candidate to receive a majority vote will be elected. You need to vote "yes" or "no" on each vote taken. (Then begin by taking a vote on the candidate nominated by the committee, then in order that the nominations were made. Announce the first vote. That person could win. "the ayes have it and member X is elected to the office of president. Will member X accept." If member X is not elected, then state the "noes have it and member X is not elected. All those in favor of member Y say "aye". Those opposed say "no". Then announce the vote.

After the election for president then announce. Nominations are now open for the office of Vice President.

You would do this until all elections were finished.

Now may I suggest that you get our new book, called, ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER SIMPLIFIED AND APPLIED. It cost $8.95. You might be able to find it in your book store. We sell it here. Postage is $5.00. But we have an organizational package. (It sounds like every one needs it.) Buy 10 books and get 1 free. The cost of that package is $99.00 which includes shipping and handling. The very first chapter is on democracy and civility. Perhaps if all the members read it, that would help. You can get this by calling 1-800-532-4017. Or see the order form on our WEB Site <

Don't be discouraged or dismayed about the meeting. Sometimes it best to not call a member out of order unless you have the assembly on your side. Then you look like the bad guy.

About removal. Are they up for election this year? If so, then get other people to run for the board. If they do and are elected then the members are no longer on the board and that solves the problem. Or perhaps next year the new board members will work something out.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

I am the vice-president of a professional organization, the California Association of Medical Directors, or CAMD. We primarily represent (but are not a political action committee for) physicians in California who are medical directors of long term care facilities, mainly nursing homes. Our membership categories include physicians (the original category), nurses and administrators of long term care facilities, and corporate sponsors. The latter is a recently added category to accommodate companies and individuals who are not professional providers, but are vendors of professional products and services in the industry and lend financial support to our meetings and seminars. The Board of Directors and officers consist exclusively of physicians, and have a self-nominating process ratified by membership at an annual meeting.

My question is, what is the appropriate role of the Treasurer of the association on our finance committee? Our finance committee currently includes members from all categories, several Directors and the Treasurer, who chairs it. While the Treasurer is responsible for presenting a budget and managing the accounts of the Association, the finance committee serves mainly to provide long-range financial planning and to oversee an annual audit. Does it seem judicious for the Treasurer to chair this committee? The Board has asked me to look into this issue and report back.

We would certainly appreciate your thoughts on this matter; please let me know if there is a consultation fee. Also, I shall be grateful for any other resources or references you should recommend.  Thank you for your kind attention!


Robb Smith, Jr., M.D.
Vice President
California Association of Medical Directors


Dear Dr. Smith,

I’m sorry that it took so long to answer your question, but your e-mail got lost in the October Shuffle. The next time you write, if you haven’t heard from us in a few days please write again. We pride ourselves in answering our e-mail promptly.

Now to answer your question. With most organizations that I am familiar, the Treasure is chairman of the Finance Committee. He usually takes a very active role in the workings of this committee.

However, it is not a function of the Finance Committee to oversee the audit. This is a duty of the Board of Directors. So if you will put the audit responsibility with the Board, you will not have this conflict of interest in the Finance Committee or with the Treasurer being chairman.

Since you are a large state association, I hope that you have an outside auditing firm doing your audit.

Robert McConnell Productions

Copyright 1999 Robert McConnell Productions, all rights reserved.