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Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 47 Jan. 2000

Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 47  Jan. 2000
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:

Can you tell me if information at open board meetings is confidential to people at the meeting if all are not board members. Also if board meetings are open is any of info discussed confidential to the membership?

What is the rule of thumb for minutes of a meeting to be available to the membership when requested?

What does the right to know law say about information during an open board meeting?

Forgive me if these questions sound stupid but this is first experience dealing with parlimentary procedures.

Thanks, Bill Ferriter

Dear Bill,

These are not stupid questions, but very legimate. What kind of a board is this? It is a government board, a homeowner association's board or that of a non-profit organization?

Is there a legislative law that says the meetings are to be open or something the board has decided or that the organization has adopted?

Who can attend these meeting? In otherwords, what does "open" mean. This will help me asnser your question.

The Parliamentarian


 Dear Parliamentarian,

This is a board of a non-profit organization. It is written in our bylaws that the meetings are to be open to the membership. Thanks for your help


 Dear Bill,

The only way for the board to keep anything confidential in an open board meeting is to go into executive session. If that were to happen all non members of the board (unless they were specifically invited to stay) would have to leave. Everything discussed in executive session is confidential -- even the minutes.

So to answer your question -- no. An open meeting is just that. If you are talking about the minutes of an open board meeting, I think the members could argue the case to be able to read them. However, a member can't demand to do this. It must be a reasonable request and at the secretary's convenience.

Remember discussion is not usually put in the minutes. Minutes include only those things that were voted on by the members. If there is a lot of contention in your organization about what happens at the board meetings, perhaps sending an news letter informing the members of the decisions of the board after each meeting would stop it.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

We have a business meeting for the purpose of amending our bylaws. We are required to give 14 days written notice of the time and place. We have done so, but we want to move the meeting from the end of one event, to the beginning another. We scheduled the meeting for 5:30 at the training site, but want to move it to 6:30 at the banquet. Can we do this? If we have a motion that passes to postpone to 6:30 at the banquet site, is that appropiate? Please help clarify the rules if you can.

Doug Schulke

 Dear Doug,

Since your bylaws state that you have to mention the time and place for amendment and 14 days notice, you could move to postpone it to the banquet if the banquet was considered a continuation of the meeting at the training site. If the banquet isn't considered part of the meeting, then you would need to make the motion to have an adjourned meeting at the banquet and postpone the bylaw amendment to that adjourned meeting.

The problem I can foresee is that some members may come to the training site and not to the banquet. May I suggest that the bylaw amendment be presented at the original meeting, allow some discussion and then make the motion to postpone to the meeting scheduled at the banquet. This will allow anyone who can't stay to express his opinion about the bylaw amendment.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

 Does suspend the rules mean the bylaws, or other procedural rules?

Mary Lou Morales, President, Women's Democratic Club, Riverside, CA

Dear Mary:

Suspend the rules means parliamentary rules, not bylaws.

The Parliamentarian


My name is Ernie Terry and I am Principal of Nankin Mills Elementary (Livonia Public Schools) in Westland, MI. We have encountered something new at our meetings. We have two or three 'disgruntled' parents who like to come and make motions at our meetings. They often make motions to change the way various committees have been doing things (although they don't serve on any committees). For example, the Membership Chairperson and committee hung signs at each classroom listing membership from that room. Their motion was to remove all signs since we shouldn't be announcing who belongs and who doesn't. They didn't like the DJ for a school dance and wanted that changed from what the committee had set up.

Can folks make any motion at the general meetings to change things that committees and the Executive Board have already established? Can we run our meetings like an elected Board (City Council or School Board) where only those elected make motions and vote, but there are times for public comment and input? Our by-laws don't really spell out how meetings are ran - can we create policies in addition to the by-laws?

Your help is appreciated. Thanks much.

Ernie Terry, Principal (734) 523-9495 (School)

Dear Mr. Terry,

To briefly answer your questions:

1. Yes members have the right to make motions and change things that committees and boards do. However, it depends on what power your bylaws give to the committees and boards. Members can't reverse what a board or committee has done if that duty has been specifically given to them in the bylaws.

I don't know what kind of school you have which has so much parent involvement but it sounds like a good model. However, from your message it looks like you and your parents need some good training in parliamentary procedure.

If the assembly gave the committee the right to hire a DJ and the committee signed a contract with the DJ or verbally let the DJ know that it was hired, then the parents can't reverse this decision. In ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED it has the conditions under which motions can be rescinded or changed.

2. Yes, you could set yourself up like a school board, but then you might be defeating the democratic process and open dialogue that you now have going on in your school.

The best defense is education. Learn parliamentary procedure. Teach the parents and students parliamentary procedure. You will be happy you did and you will be preserving the democratic process in your school, community, and the nation. We do sell videos, books and work books on this subject. If you are interested I can put you in contact with people in Michigan that can help you set up some kind of a program for teaching. Many schools and school boards have bought our videos and books to use to teach this subject matter.

3. You can create policies, rules of order, standing rules etc. But these all must be adopted by the members of the organization. The members also have the right to propose amendments and make changes to anything you submit to them.

The Parliamentarian

PS. If you have further questions please contact us.


Dear Parliamentarian:

If the Chief of an organization runs unopposed is an election still required.


Dear Mark,

Yes, you still have to have an election. A nomination does not constitute an election. The election can be taken by voice or acclamation when only one person is "running" or has been nominated. However, if the bylaws state that the election is to be by ballot, then the organization must have a ballot vote even if only one candidate has been nominated.

Someone else's name could possibly be written on the ballot and it is possible that a written in candidate could win..

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

So assuming the bylaws say nothing about election practices no one is allowed to go from nomination to office without an election?


Dear Mark,

Yes, you still have to have an election. A nomination does not constitute an election. The election can be taken by voice or acclamation when only one person is "running" or has been nominated. However, if the bylaws state that the election is to be by ballot, then the organization must have a ballot vote even if only one candidate has been nominated. Someone else's name could possibly be written on the ballot and it is possible that a written in candidate could win..

The Parliamentarian


Dear Mr. McConnell,

I am a Councilman for the borough of Elco, Pennsylvania. After our recent borough reorganization meeting, an error in procedure was discovered. A candidate for appointment to our police board (a non-paying position) was denied consideration because a second was not made on his nomination. Afterwards I discovered according to the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs that no second is required when motions for nominations are made from the floor. Thus no vote was held for the position and the only candidate who recieved the second motion was chosen for the position. My question is can this meeting by motion of the council be reopened? If not can anything be done to give the other nominee a chance at the position. If you could give me any suggestions on this manner, it would be greatly appreciated.


Larry J. Pollock Elco Borough Councilman

Dear Mr. Pollock,

It is our opinion what was done is done and that you have learned a valuable lesson from a mistake. Can this other person be considered for another position?

What members of organizations need to understand about the nomination process is this:

To nominate someone to an office is basically an assumed motion that ____ be elected to office or a committee. It is a form of the motion to "fill the blank". It does not need a second. After all the nominations are made, then a vote is taken. The first nominee to receive a majority vote wins.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

I have just been elected the chairperson of a steering committee at my school. My principal has declined to be the
chairperson because he is against the formal committee. Before we restructured, all personnel from the school were invited to come and share their thoughts. It was not effective. I have already heard complaints from some of my peers that they would like a chance to share during the meetings. My question is: If there are people present who are not members of the committee, should there opinions be heard. If Yes, when is the proper time to allow them to speak? I would appreciate any feedback you can give me.

Sincerely, Teresa

Dear Teresa,

What is the purpose of your steering committee? Is it to gather information and then present it back to the membership? Please give more information.

The Parliamentarian

Dear Parliamentarian:

The purpose of the Steering committee at a school is to make decisions to improve the school such as decisions about the budget, personnel, improvements, and anything else that has a major effect on the school as a whole. Previously, anyone on the faculty was free to come and add to the meeting. Unfortunately, at times the meetings would end in chaos with no decisions being made. We have elected 10 representatives of the school who will now vote on these decisions as representative of their grade levels or subject areas. However, someone on the faculty who is in the minority may have something important to add to the meeting. We are a small school, and we have some very opinionated people who try to push their views on others.

Should the meeting be conducted with just the voting members, or should others be invited to speak before any voting takes place? If the answer is yes, then at what point during the meeting should I allow them to express their views?


Dear Teresa,

There is a very simple solution to this problem. Send the Agenda for the meeting to all faculty members letting them know what issues you will be discussing. At the very beginning of the meeting, allot so many minutes for the non members of the committee to give imput on any of the subject items or to bring new ideas. Encourage them to have it in writing!!! Allow each member to speak only for two to three minutes each and them thank them for coming and for their imput and then go on with the meeting. Have someone kindly escort them to the door. If they protest then allow them to stay explaining to them that they must keep quiet. They are not members of the committee and do not have a right to make motions, participate in discussion or vote.

Or another approach if others are attending the meeting, is to allow them two minutes to speak for or against the proposal before voting. But keep the amount of time they speak to a minimum. If they are that interested then they should run for election at the next meeting.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Sirs,

We are an Electrical Service Company that is in the process of growing and becoming incorporated. We are starting weekly meetings and would like to get the most out of them.

We would like to learn the proper procedures in conducting these meetings as well as the proper format for processing minuets. If there software that has this information.

Please let me know.

Mike Wilson, E-mail

Dear Mike,

Know there isn't any software on this subject. However, did you see all the free and helpful information on our WEb Site < ? If you go to the Internet Parliamentary Newsletter, you will find helpful articles on writing bylaws, minutes and other useful information. There is also a free report on "How to Make your meetings go more smoothly. We also have a bookstore with many helpful books and videos on this subject.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Sir,

If someone makes a nomination from the floor, on what grounds can objections to this person being nominated be made.


Dear Deenie,

The only thing I think a nomination could be objected too is if the person doesn't meet the qualifications for office. For example, if there is a requirement that a person be a member of the organization for a certain amount of time, and the person hasn't been a member for that length of time. Or if a requirement is that they have served in another office or committee before being considered for a position.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

We are foster parents in washington parish, louisiana. We have a local foster parent association, and we are becoming involved with the state association who are more established and more savvy than we are.

Would it be possible to just get a copy of roberts rules of orders? We would love to buy your products, but we can't even get our kids christmas presents. We have no money--we are one of the poorest parishes in la., one of the highest in HIV/STD rates and have a predominantly black population, and we won't even talk about the state of our's unbelievable and sad.

Our local president was elected parlimentarian at the state association and we just need a copy of the rules. i hope you can help us. thank you for your consideration.


Margie Rogillio WPFCA secretary 504-839-8940

Dear Margie,

Thank you for your letter and request. Right now we our currently out of stock of our book.

But this is what I recommend. That you go to your public library and request that they buy the videos and books for the community. Or get them for you through inter library loan. Many parish libraries already have a copy of our books and videos. If people request that their library purchase something, they usually do. But if they don't then ask to get it for you through interlibrary loan. If you send us your addresses we will send you some very useful and helpful pamphlets on this subject that will at least get you started in the right direction.


The Parliamentarian


Dear The Parliamentarian,

Thank you for your reply. we re a 24 unit association, One of 309 in a large adult retirement person insists his name and his remarks always be in minutes.he doesnt motion. His remarks are usually inappropriate and uncalled for.he keeps arguing this point with The secretary who tells him we do not have to record every word he says. We need help. thank you for all you could give us. I am the president of our association and concerned.

Fay Bromberg

Dear Fay,

At no time can a member have his discussion put into the minutes unless the members vote to allow this. Why don't you go to the WEB Page < and print off the useful information about what goes into the mintues. If this member can have his comments put in the mintues, why can't other members? Then it becomes very complicated and the secretary will have to tape the meeting and write everything into the minutes. These are called "published minutes". What the member is asking is unreasonable.

I also recommend that you buy the official book on Robert's Rules. It's called ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED, 9TH ED. Look on pager 458 for the rules concerning the minutes.

The Parliamentarian


To whom it may concern:

I am an elected Union Officer who is trying to introduce discipline into

our membership meetings despite the nay-sayers who resist with the arguement, that the membership is not "sophisticated" enough to grasp Roberts Rules of Order.

I would appreciate any help in my endeavor because of the importance I place on the strengthening of democratic principles within the union.

How can I instill in the membership a working, rudimentary knowledge of the basics of parlimentary procedure?

Thank you, Bill Mooney


Dear Bill:

Tell me more.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

Thank you for responding,

I hold two offices in the Transport Workers Union, Local 100, Westchester Division. I am the Division Vice-Chairman and Vice-Chairman of a section (garage) The Locals by-laws call for the use of parliamentary procedure but the practice has fallen into dis-use because of membership apathy and dis-inclination to do anything by previous Officer administrations.

As backround, we had come into office in Jan of '98 with the intention of turning things around. We have made some strides, but unless we "institutionalize" the changes by making the membership the generator of union activity, not officers in temporary positions, we my lose any gains we have made.

When the membership can go to union meetings, voice their will and have the union officers held accountable for their actions-and inaction, which parliamentary rules bind them, then we will have a viable union and be able to more capably face the problems that confront Labor, in these times.

Thank you again,
Bill Mooney


Dear Bill,

Thank you for replying to our question. Why not begin with the officers and have a training workshop on meeting procedures for the officers and temporary officers. Then have another workshop for interested members. In advertising it, stress that knowing and following correct meeting procedures enable the members to accomplish their business in a minimum amount of time, ensures that everyone will have the right to speak, protects the rights of the members from any ignorant or willful practices that cause disruptions in meetings or lead to tyrannical practices.

If you need help with this we do sell books and videos on this subject. There is a lot of free information on teaching parliamentary procedure on our WEB Site < Look under the "Competition Section" --Teachers' of Parliamentary procedure and the articles under that section. There is a section for school teachers. I've been writing about each of the motions and how to teach it. The other articles are for high school students about the motions and procedures. But it is written in simple language so that all can understand it.

If you need a parliamentarian to come to you and give a workshop, let me know where you are located. Hhopefully I can help you find someone in your area to help you with this. Our videos are self-explanatory and are written with the workshop setting in mind. They come with little booklets with a table of contacts and time code at the beginning. So if you want to show how to make a main motion, you can look at the table of contents, fast forward the video to that time segment and show it.

We also have this simple pamphlet that is illustrated with cartoons called the ABC'S OF PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE. It is simple and easy to understand. It can be bought in large quantities. I can tell you the name of the company where we buy it. You could call them to get large quantities of the pamphlet.

The only thing that I know to help organizations is for the officers to practice it, the president to insist on the members following certain basic procedures like:

1. rise and address the chair when wanting to speak 2. following the times limits of debate...if a member goes over the chair should interrupt the speaker and let him know he has to sum up his remarks quickly and sit down.

3. alternate debate on hot issues. Ask for pro and the the con.

4. insist that members keep their remarks to the topic of the motion and not

bring up other subjects.

5. have the president write a meeting script and follow it. If the president can stay on track, he will keep the members one track.

I don't exactly know what kinds of problems you are having, but if you again look at our WEB Site and print off the free report on "How to Make YOur Meetings Go More Smoothly" that will help to some degree. Conducting a great meeting is a work of art and well as a science. It can only be done by those who are conscientious enough to take the time to learn the procedures and practice them.

I appauld you for wanting to do learn this subject.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

 I am the President of a newly established PTO at a private school. We have voted to use Roberts Rules, and are covering membership.....Normally this would be an easy or somewhat less of a challenge than it has become....The organization started in November of 1988, I am the second president. After speaking to last years officers, the principal and superintendent, we have a problem. We are seeking an outside view point. We have a parent that was and has become a major problem. The parent had resigned their membership and evolvement in the PTO about 2 months ago....the parent constantly interrupted the meetings, created confusion, and was not going to see the organization do anything they could not control or put their name on with no participation on the parents part except at the meetings to disrupt. Point of order was used many times, they left the meetings, but always returned. All events, functions, fundraiser were all called of as a result of the disruptions. The organizations is attempting to start over this year, with eager and willing parents. The parent is now causing problems by insisting they are a committee head or committee participant headed to gain control of the event again, even with the committee head in place. It is my understanding they resigned there membership, The Vice President and Secretary agree with myself, the treasurer is a little more kind about the situation than we are saying we should give that parent the opportunity to participate even though the membership was resigned....we are attempting to define membership in a clear and unbiased way.

Sure hope that this is clear to you, and you can give some direction or advice.

Thank you,

Susan ---


Dear Susan,

How kind of your treasurer to want to include this person. I have been in an organization where we had a similar problem. We did not allow the person to rejoin unless he was willing to follow the rules. Since he wasn't willing to follow the rules, we didn't accept his membership.

It is not fair to an organization to have one member prevent events from going forward because it is not going "his or her" way. Organizations are democratic and not tyrannical. This member want's to be the tyrant.

If you have a written letter of resignation or some other written proof, it could be in the minutes, then you can tell the person that they have resigned and can't re join until they follow the rules.

I recommend two defenses. One is for the members to be thoroughly familiar with correct parliamentary procedures. The Second is to talk to this person and try to reason with the member.. Has anyone sat down and talked with the person about true democracy? Perhaps this person is totally unaware that the rest of the members see him/her as being tyrannical and wanting to run everything? Why not try to reason with the parent and see what skills and abilities this parent can bring to help the organization?

What you have here is really a behavioral problem and not a parliamentary problem. You could refuse to take the dues of this parent until the parent behaves in a more dignified way.

Then the other members are going to have to be strong and not let this parent dominate by insisting that the rules of the organization be followed. This will take a well informed membership and a firmness of purpose. And lastly you could refuse to allow the parent to join.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian--

This is the issue in question:

Section 1. Additions, Alterations, Amendments or Exceptions to the Bylaws

Any additions, alterations, amendments or exceptions to these bylaws must be submitted to the officers for approval. The general Council shall vote on any revisions to these bylaws. Each revision must be approved by a two-thirds (2/3) majority of all Representatives present and voting at two (2) consecutive meetings.

You may either email me at or call me at 901.397.3214

when you have an answer.. Thanks,



Dear Skip,

I don't know what the two consecutive meetings of the Council is. This is very ambiguous. It sounds like the bylaws must be approved at two consecutive meetings of the Council. This bylaw should be more specific about what meetings. If you have submitted other amendments prior to this one, then follow your previous procedure.

I would recommend that you revise this amendment. Usually bylaw amendments are approved with previous notice at a regular meeting. The only thing that I can think that this bylaw means is that at one meeting it is presented to the membership to read (previous notice) and then at the next consecutive meeting it is vote on. If this is what it means then the bylaws needs to state that. Right now it doesn't make sense.

You asked me on the phone if the proposed bylaw amendment could be sent to the board by e-mail. If your bylaws don't say how it is to get to the board, then I don't see why it can't be sent by e-mail.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

Thank you for the time you gave me today on the phone. I really appreciate it.

We are trying to do a better job for our residents on our street, as we are an association of Home Owner's. We all live on a private road that is fully our responsibility to maintain. We pay our dues to the Association, ($40.00/year.) and those funds pay for the snowplowing and road maintanence. We have been electing our officiers from the floor at our annual meeting/picnic, and subsequent to that those elected decide among themselves what position they would like to serve at. This method has worked well to date, however this last year, some feelings were hurt which precipitated this new initiative to elect officers differently. I believe you answered my basic questions today. But a follow up would be, what would you suggest we should do if no one is nominated to a position, or there are not enough people nominated to fill the positions?

That would be the responsibility of the nominating committee. They would first ask nominees if they are willing to serve. If so, they would add them to the proposed slate of candidates. What has been your experience with volunteer association?

Paul and Judy Dreiske


Dear Paul and Judy Dreiske:

If you show the members how important this is, how money is involved which they could lose if they are not careful, they will participate seeing their own self interest a well as the community interest.

P.S. Look on the left hand side of our web site for the heading "bylaws." This should give you a good idea of what needs to be done. Call or email with further questions. Good luck.

P.P.S. Our books and videos present a good introduction to Parliamentary Procedure. If your members need to get "up to speed' on this subject, this is a good way to do it. Look in the "bookstore," also a heading on the left side of the web page.

The Parliamentarian

Copyright 2000 Robert McConnell Productions, all rights reserved.