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Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 48 Feb. 2000

Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 48  Feb. 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:

Are people grandfathered under old by-laws? If a person takes a leave of absence before by-laws are revised, but knows that the by-laws are being revised are they granfathered under the old or have to abide by the new?

In our preamble, it states "These By-laws, as contained herein are revisions and amendments of any previous By-laws dated or un-dated of this organization and as such supersede any former issue". Does this mean that the new By-laws are followed and the old ones are no longer in effect?

Thank you for your assistance,

Pat Pfingst

Dear Pat,

To "grandfather" something into the bylaws, it either has to be in the revision or a proviso adopted that states when something is to take affect. Or a proviso can be adopted by the assembly that can grandfather someone in.

Whenever you adopt an amendment to the bylaws or a revision, it becomes the governing document. All other documents are "history" and have no binding authority on the organization.

The Parliamentarian


Hi Robert

-- I enjoy your web page. I am on the Board of a an organization that has relatively new members serving on a non-profit board. We want to educate them on two issues.

1. How to give a committee report and what goes into it.

2. What types of issues need to come before the Board for action. Do you have any information or resources that you can email to us? I would greatly appreciate it.

And keep up the good work with your web site. It is very helpful and educational!

Kristin Andreasen


Dear Kristin,

What goes into the committee report depends on what kind of committee and what the report wants to convey to the membership.

All committee reports should be written in the third person. If it is a standing committee that is giving a yearly report, it should include the major activities of the year. If it is a report that includes a motion or wants the organization to decided something from its report, it should include as much background information that the assembly needs to make the decision. The motion comes at the end of the report.

If the committee has been ask to investigate something, then it should report its findings--all sides.

I don't know what kind of issues need to come before you board because I do not know anything about your organization and how it is structured.

You might want to buy our book WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD: ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER SIMPLIFIED AND APPLIED. It costs only $8.95 at your local book store. It is written in simple terms and has the type of information that you are requesting. We sell the book here but are currently out of stock.

We also sell some booklets from the NAP on Boards and Committees. Each booklet is $5.00 each. We also sell videos on this subject. Hope this helps.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Sir,

Please send me any information on parliamentary procedures and how to establish by laws for an organization.


Judy Taylor

Dear Judy,

Look under our bylaw section of our WEB Site < It has all the information that you need to set up bylaws. It includes how to write them, what to include in them, and how to conduct the meeting. If you have any questions as you are writing the bylaws, please ask us specific questions.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian                                                                                                                         February 5, 2000

I recently had an dispute with the president of my union. The chair E-mailed me the section below. The chair claims to be able to make decisions without a vote using the section below. I feel this section below is in reference to rulings of a vote, not to arbitrarily make decisions for the union. I'd sure like to know who is right. The way it is now it seems more like a monarchy than a union. Fortunately when the chair E-mailed me this little section there was a clickable word left over that I could use to access the web site and origination of this Simplified Version.

Please let me know if anything further information is needed.

Martin Collette


Dear Martin,

I do not know what kinds of decisions the president is making without a vote. The president only has the authority to do what the bylaws of your organization has given him the right to do or the assembly allows him to do without their consent.

What you have quoted to me has only to do with appealing the ruling of the chair at a

meeting. If he is binding the organization to contracts without the consent of the organization or spending money with the consent of the organization, then he is truly out of line.

By your letter and the quote that he is using to substantiate his arguments, he clearly doesn't understand proper democratic procedures. If you can give me a more concrete example that would be helpful. But first go to your governing documents to see what it says are the duties of the president.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian,                                                                                                  February 7, 2000

First thank you so much for your speedy answers.

Below are the two paragraphs that I think pertain to the issue of who makes the decisions for the union, also the question that arose.

The question came up because: Two years ago we formed what we call Building representatives. These people basically relay information back and forth among the twelve buildings and the Executive Board.

These people are chosen by vote in each building. This was voted in by the membership. This has not been included in the Constitution. Because it is not in the Constitution, the president says it is not legal therefore abolished it. We have lots of things not in the Constitution.

Article 5

The President shall preside at all meetings of the Federation and of the Executive Board. He/she shall be an ex-officio member of all committees, shall sign all necessary papers and documents, and in the absence of the treasurer shall sign checks, and shall represent the local when and where necessary. He/she shall make a report to the membership at least once a year summarizing the accomplishments of the Federation and outlining plans

for the next year. He/she shall be responsible for maintaining a full compliment of functioning union stewards where needed. With the consent of a majority of the Executive Council or the membership, the President shall perform such other duties as are consistent with the goals and policies of the local.

Article 6

The Executive Committee of the Federation shall consist of the following:

a. all elected officers
b. stewards

The Executive Committee shall administer the policy of this Federation as set by the membership at regular meeting. It shall have the power to act for the good of the Federation in emergency situations consistent with local policy and objectives. The chairperson of the Executive Committee shall be the President of the Federation.

I hope this gives a clearer view of what is happening, if you need any further information please feel free to E mail. Again thank you



Dear Martin:

Here are some rules that apply:

Simplified Rules of Order

Procedures Used in Meetings

Challenging a Ruling of the Chair

Any ruling of the chair can be challenged, but such appeals must be made immediately after the ruling. If debate has progressed, a challenge is not in order. Although Robert's Rules of Order allow debate under certain circumstances, the practice of some groups is to allow no debate.

Robert calls a challenge to the chair an "appeal" from the chair's decision. When a member wishes to appeal from the decision of the chair, the member rises as soon as the decision is made, even if another has the floor, and without waiting to be recognized by the chair, says, "Mr. Chairman, I appeal from the decision of the chair." The chair should state clearly the question at issue, and if necessary the reasons for the decision, and then state the question this way: "The question is, 'Shall the decision of the chair be sustained?'" If two members (mover and seconder) appeal a decision of the chair, the effect is to take the final decision on the matter from the chair and vest it in the meeting.

Such a motion is in order when another speaker has the floor, but it must be made at the time of the chair's ruling. As noted above, if any debate or business has intervened, it is too late to challenge. The motion must be seconded, is not amendable, but can be reconsidered. A majority or tie vote sustains the decision of the chair, on the principle that the chair's decision stands until reversed by a majority of the meeting. If the presiding officer is a member of the meeting, he or she can vote to create a tie and thus sustain the ruling.

(See also the section on Voting Rights of the Chairperson.)

It should be noted that members have no right to criticize a ruling of the chair unless they appeal it.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

I am filling in for the City Clerk in our town for a few months and I am working on my agenda for the Council Meeting. Can you tell me which comes first on the agenda. New Business or Old Business. Thanks for your help.....

Betty Shader


Dear Betty,

First of all, "old business" is an incorrect term. In parliamentary terms, its called "unfinished business and general orders". "Unfinished" means that which was left pending or on the agenda which the assembly didn't get to at adjournment. Also motions that are "postponed to the next meeting" are put on the agenda under "unfinished business and general orders". Our book WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD, ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER SIMPLIFIED AND APPLIED explains all this in pages 18 - 23.

To answer your question: Unfinished business comes before New Business. Chapter 2 of our book has a thorough discussion about the order of a business meeting. So does our video "How to Conduct a Meeting.".

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

In a general election by secret ballot, if no one candidate receives a majority of the votes cast. how do we determine who is to be on the runoff ballot? In the past, we have arbitrarily selected the top 2 or 3 vote-getters. I have not seen any definitive statement regarding this procedure.

In the following scenario (fictitious), who goes into a runoff when a majority is not achieved on the first ballot?

Candidate A gets 375 votes

Candidate B gets 275 votes

Candidate C gets 75 votes

Candidate D gets 800 votes

Candidate E gets 475 votes

Is it just D & E? Or A, D & E? Or A, B, D & E? Or all of them?

I have tried Robert's Rules of Order and tried to search the Internet for answers. Could you steer me to the correct source for this? Any help would be appreciated.

Kenneth L. Griffin, Executive Secretary, Association of Texas Small School Bands


Dear Kenneth:

According to "Robert’s Rules of Order," all names stay on the ballot until someone is elected unless you have bylaws or standing rules to the contrary.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

Thank you so much for your reply. So we must keep voting using the same ballot until one of the four (or six or however many are on the ballot for that particular office) receives a majority?

Our bylaws state "The general membership shall vote by secret ballot. If there is no clear majority, a secret ballot will be cast, with the individual receiving a simple majority of the total votes cast being declared the winner." Does this mean that if no one receives a majority on the first ballot, we all vote again (using the same ballot with the same candidates on it) and the one with the MOST votes cast wins?



Dear Kenneth,

You must continue voting until one of the candidates receives a majority vote. You can use the same ballot over and over again until someone receives a majority. Usually what happens is that after several ballots those getting the lower votes will withdraw their names.

It's not who gets the MOST votes that wins, but the one that gets a MAJORITY of the votes that wins.

The Parliamentarian



Can you explain to me what it is to deferred voting is? At the MockCon at Washington and Lee University this last weekend the delegates were deferring their votes to the next states. Several states did it. George W. Bush ended up winning by over 1800 votes. But I am curious what the deferring is all about. Where can I find more information on the rules for nominating conventions such as the MockCon?

Thank you,

Dear Brenda,

I am completely unfamiliar with what you describe. Can you contact the presiding officer of this Mock Con and ask what deferring the vote is and have that person explain to you the voting procedure? Who sponsored this event? Perhaps someone in the sponsoring organization can give you this information?

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

The minutes of 5/2/98 contained items not discussed at meeting and items discussed omitted. Minutes not acceptable. on 5/9/98 secretary said. 'I decline to read minutes as they are in the hands of an attorney" though she was asked for minutes she kept them till 11/20/99. Now, reading unread minutes we find many false statements. Can we do anything to punish her or fine her for actions unbecoming a secretary in an adult retirement community? We are a 24 unit association. Please give us your unbiased opinion. Have you ever come across this type of actions by a 75 yr. old lady before? Outside of correcting the falsehoods in the minutes, what else can we do? Thank you .

Fay Bromberg


Dear Fay,

I understand your problem and sympathize. It is hard to believe that person is still secretary if problems with the minutes go back to 1998.

My first suggestion would be to show the secretary in ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED, 9TH ed. or WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD, ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER SIMPLIFIED AND APPLIED, the pages about what to put into the minutes. I would begin with assuming the woman is ignorant rather than dishonest.

You, certainly need to correct the minutes to reflect what happened at the meeting. The minutes are the legal record for the organization at what happened at meetings. Everyone needs to understand this and act accordingly. Many people have problems with taking and writing minutes.

If she can't do the job, then why not remove her and find someone who can do the job.

Is a new secretary appointed or elected every year?  Surely the organization has provided for rotation in this office and has term limits.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian,

Thank you for your reply. Sorry I did not make myself clearer. Secretary resigned 2/98. Since then we have a good secretary and was re-elected in 2000. Is there a punishment for ex-secretary for withholding minutes for a year? We the board of directors feel there should be, but what? Does "Roberts Rules" say anything about that? Thank you -


Dear Fay,

No there is no punishment. In this case let bygones be bygones and don't put that woman in an office again!!! The organization has learned a lesson and I'm sure this woman has too.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

Thank you for your reply. but it looks as if she will not stop. She has reported our Association to Bureau of Condominiums claiming our recent election was illegal, which in fact, it was not. We have responded to complaint and we could face a stiff fine. This is a friend from hell.

Fay Bromberg

Dear Fay,

Tell me where you are located. It sounds like your organization needs a parliamentarian to work with. I can look in our association books and give you some names to call, if you so wish.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

I thank you greatly for the much needed info. But I still would like to know the proper wording of how to open a meeting. The president don’t just say lets get this meeting under way. That is what I need to know. I have been to a lot of meetings and they all have been opened and closed different. If you could tell me where to find this info of how to open and close a meeting with the right wordings, I would be very thankful.


Rod Gwinn.


Dear Rod,

There is only one correct way to open a meeting. The presiding officer stands in front of the assembly and states: "This meeting will come to order." (If he has a gavel he then raps it once and waits for everyone to sit down.) Then after that there are several things that can happen. Some organizations have opening ceremonies. this could be a prayer, a pledge to allegiance, or whatever is unique to the to organization. After opening ceremonies, some organizations have a roll call of members. If neither of these are done, then the first order of business is the reading and approval of the minutes of the previous meeting. Following is a standard order of business:

1. Call to order

2. Opening ceremonies (if any)

3. Roll Call (if any)

4. Reading and approval of minutes

5. Reports of officers

6. Reports of Committees

7. Special Orders

8. Unfinished Business and General Orders

9. New Business

10. Announcements (if any)

11. For Good of the Order (some organizations have this)

12. Adjournment.

During the meeting, members can make the motion to adjourn at any time. If it is adopted then the chair adjourns the meeting.

However, in most cases, when it looks like the members are through with discussing

business, the chair (presiding officer) can ask, "Is there further business? (pause, look around the room, and if no one is standing, state) Hearing none, the meeting will be adjourned. (pause and look around the room, because Robert's says before the meeting is adjourned 5 things can still be brought up) (if no one rises, the chair then states) This meeting is adjourned. (raps the gavel once).

So to begin a meeting the chair states: "This meeting will come to order."

To end the meeting the chair states: "The meeting is adjourned".    I hope this helps you.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

Can any member of an organization tape record an open meeting?

Donald Torma


Dear Donald,

I think you might have to let someone know that you are recording it.  I will have to research this.  Sometimes the bylaws state that it is or is not allowed under certain circumstances.  Check your bylaws.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

I'm advisor for a BPA chapter in Indiana. We read your articles in the Communique and find them very useful.

We have two questions?

1. Do you mention calling for the orders of the day in the minutes? In our team competition, the rules states the secretary must turn in proceedings of the meeting in English, longhand, on a blank sheet of paper, and submit his/her handwritten notes to the judges immediately after the presentation. Minutes will be verified for content only.

Could you give us some suggestions as to what the secretary should do. Do they just write notes or put the minutes in sentence form. What do you think. Do you have any suggestions as to what should be in the minutes.

We think: name of group, date, time, place, who presided, the secretary present, quorum present, minutes, treasurer's report, and committee reports dispensed by general consent, motion with name of person making motion, appeals, pts. of orders, withdraw if not allowed to withdraw, counted votes, and adjournment time. Do you have any other ideas?

Pam Sims, Advsior, Heartland Career Center


Dear Pam,

I'm glad you are enjoying the articles in the Communiqué. I hope you are finding the companion articles in the "Local Advisor" helpful, too. If someone calls for the orders of the day, then yes, that would go into the minutes because you have put aside what you are essentially discussing and gone to the orders of the day. If someone calls for the orders of the day and the members vote not to go to the orders of the day, then that too would go into the minutes.  I think you have everything covered as far as the minutes go. I would suggest that you write it in complete sentences. If we can be of further help let us know.

The Parliamentarian

PS have you seen all the information on our WEB Site for competition teams?


Dear Parliamentarian

At a recent meeting it was brought to the attention the group that a chair of a committee violated our policies and by laws in doing there duties. The group voted for the executive group to censor them. Our By laws and policies are silent on this issue. The executive board feels that this person should be removed from being chair of that committee and we should appoint someone else to be chair. Is there a correct procedure for doing this? Thank you for your time.



Dear Nancy,

Why don't you read our Parliamentary Internet Newsletter Volume 5, Issue 1. It is about censure and removal. After you read it, then tell me

1. who appointed this committee person

2. what do your bylaws say about the removal process

3. is this person ignorant of bylaws and policies or being willful about them

4. how long much longer does this person have in this chairmanship?

5. how disastrous was what the person did?

6. has the censure made a difference or is the person continuing to disobey the bylaws and policies.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian,

My organization's Bylaws state that the "Bylaws may be amended at any convention" and also that the "Bylaws Chair shall present proposed amendments to the Mid-Winter Board of Directors Meeting."

My interpretation has been that the amendments are read at the Mid-Winter Board of Directors Meeting for information purposes and to answer members' questions. They are then voted on at our convention held in June.

A question has been raised as to whether the proposed amendments can be "amended" at the Mid-Winter Board of Directors Meeting. Is this possible?

Thank you for your help.



Dear Mack,

It is my opinion that if the Board of Directors wanted to amend the proposed bylaws by the committee that it could only be done at your annual meeting. What the Board could do is offer a proposed amendment to the submitted bylaws at the annual meeting. They would have to give notice just like the Bylaw committee.

For example: Let's say the Bylaw committee submitted Amendment A. The Board wants to make changes to proposed Amendment A. When the notice goes out to the members, it would state proposed bylaws changes this way: Amend A submitted by the Bylaw committee (give the entire text); then proposed amendment to Amendment A by the Board of Directors (give the text of the proposed amendment to Amendment A). Here's a more concrete example. The Bylaw committee wants to raise the dues to $45.00 to be paid by January 1. The Board thinks that the members will need more time. So they want to set the date to February 1.

So when the letter goes out to the members it would state: Bylaw proposed changes. Article III. Members. Section 3. Dues. to amend by striking out $25.00 to be paid by January 15. and inserting $45.00 to be paid by January 1." The Board of Directors proposes the following amendment to the amendment submitted by the bylaws committee. To amend by striking out "January 1" and insert "February 1"..

What if the Board doesn't like Amendment A at all and wants to submit a substitute amendment? Then notice would go out. Proposed bylaw changes:

Amendment A submitted by the Bylaw Committee; substitute amendment to Amendment A proposed by the Board of Directors. Let's take the same example as above with the dues. Only the Board of Directors wants the dues to be $50. a year and paid by February 14th and a delinquency charge for every late day. The letter would go out this way: Bylaw proposed changes.

Article III. Members. Section 3. Dues. to amend by striking out $25.00 to be paid by January 15. and inserting $45.00 to be paid by January 1." Then the notice would state that the Board of Directors will be submitting a substitute amendment that would read: "$50.00 to be paid by February 14th and a fine assessed of ten cent a day for being delinquent."

It is my opinion that this is the most democratic way to handle this and then let the members decided which bylaw proposal they want.

However, if the Board of Directors finds an inaccuracy with any proposed bylaw submission then it is my opinion that they can either reject the amendment and send it back to committee for correction, or amend it at the board meeting to conform with the rest of the governing documents.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

I hope you can help me with this problem. if there are seven people voting on something and you need a two thirds vote to pass it , how many votes do you need??    Thank you for your time.



You need 5 votes.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian

Should you specify a amount to be pay in the by-laws. If this amount is stated to be a donation? Are should any amount be specify in the by-laws. Can a member cast and absence vote?


Dear Rean,

Dues should definitely be set in the bylaws under membership. To change the dues requires a bylaw change. This is put in the bylaws to protect the members from dues raises without notification and the member's right to vote on the increase. An absent vote is usually not allowed unless the bylaws provide for this as a proxy vote or as a mail absentee ballot.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian

Thanks, For your quick reply. I must make myself clear on the amount: The bylaw state that the organization will donated a $$$$ to an officer for attending a meeting. Is this amount to be paid to the Officer no matter what happen? Or can the organization not paid the amount as stated due to the officer because such officer did not performing other duties as stated in the bylaw. Yes, the officer did attend to meeting and did not perform those duties. My question is the wording of DONATION should explicit amount for a donation by stated in bylaws.



Dear Rean:

Before I can answer further you must tell me the whole story. What exactly does the bylaw state about a donation to an officer of attending the state meeting. Please send by e-mail the exact wording of the bylaw. Then tell me what happened. What do you mean he went to the meeting but didn't perform his duties?

The Parliamentarian


The bylaw state The secretary shall receive a donation of $$$$$$ for state meeting.

The secretary attended the meeting but did bring the minutes of the state meeting back her monthly meeting after returning. The minutes were place in the lodge log book.


Dear Rean,

Let me see if I understand what your bylaws correctly.

If the secretary attends the state meeting, the bylaws state that she will receive a donation of X amount of dollars for attending. YES Now it still isn't clear from what you have told me, do the bylaws say the secretary has to bring back the minutes of the state meeting and give them to the club? NO Does the club have any rules or was there a motion made about what the secretary was to do at the state meeting? NO Does a motion or bylaws or some other rule of the organization state that the secretary is to give a report to the club when she returns or bring the minutes of the state meeting back with her when she returns? NO I take it from your message that she did bring minutes back with her from the state meeting. That she put them in the lodge book but did not read them to the assembly. Is that correct? YES Now if she has done everything she is supposed to do what is the exact problem? How can we avoid this situation from coming up again. If it to be a donation should the amount by specify in the bylaws? The reason being if the club does not have the amount as specified in the bylaws to paid and would be the wording be to append the bylaw. To state that the minute much be present at the next meet to received the donation. Is the club refusing to pay the amount specified in the bylaws? YES

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

When is the proper time for installation of new officers? Do they take the office immediately during the meeting they are being elected in or is there a certain time period they have to wait?

Also, if a motion is made, seconded, and voted on by the members, can it be changed later in the same meeting if some of the members have left (possibly even the one who made the motion)?



Dear Randall,

Officers take office immediately after the election if your bylaws do not state a specific time that they take office. The organization should decide when the installation is to take place. Many organizations have the election and then state that the officers take office at the end of the annual meeting or some such thing. Usually the last thing on the agenda is the installation of officers if it is to be done at the meeting that the officers were elected. However, it could take place at a banquet or immediately after the election. If the bylaws don't give procedures for an installation, then adopt rules of order concerning this procedure. See the new Parliamentary Internet News Letter, last issue, on this subject of rules of order on the WEB Page.

Now about the motion. If a motion is adopted at a meeting, members can't go back and change it unless they vote to "reconsider the vote". To do this, a member who has voted on the prevailing side can make a motion to reconsider the vote. It needs a second and it debatable. The members then discuss whether they want to re-take the vote on the motion. Perhaps some new information that the members didn't consider has come to light and it really does make a difference about how members could have voted. If the motion to reconsider the vote is adopted, then the motion is now before the assembly again as if it had never been voted on. It doesn't matter if the person who made the motion is present or not. Anyone who voted on the prevailing side can make the motion to reconsider the vote. This is a complicated procedure and recommend that you read about it in a book. It is also discussed on our video ALL ABOUT MOTIONS and in our book WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER SIMPLIFIED AND APPLIED.

If members have left and there is no quorum then the motion can't be reconsidered at that meeting, but at the next meeting. Like I said, this is a complicated motion and one needs to be well informed about all the ins and outs of this motion.

The Parliamentarian

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