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Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 52 June 2000

Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 52  June 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:

I'd like to find information concerning the founder of an organization.

1. What power does the founder have Vs the president?

2. What guidelines are used if the officers in an organization are appointed by the founder instead of being voted on?

3. What guidelines are used when forming by-laws for an organization so that the founder always has a say in the organization "for the good of the order"

Your assistance will be most appreciated.

Thank You Johnnie C. Smith

Dear Johnnie,

If the founder wants this kind of power, it should be specifically spelled out in the bylaws. If it is not spelled out in the bylaws, then the founder has no more power than any other member of the organization.  Please tell me more. Are the bylaws specific on any of this?

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian

My name is Paul, and I am our "parliamentarian" for our student council. I would just like to know in what types of situations would you need a motion for, when discussing. For example Billy wants to have a set of blue balloons given to our teacher of the month. Or Tom wants to add a new bulletin board outside of the office. I just added those to kind of let you get an idea as to what I am asking.  A response would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks, Paul

Dear Paul,

Whenever the members want to do something, they need to make a motion to so. Then they discuss it. It is incorrect to discuss a subject first then make a motion. Instead, make the motion first, discuss it and take the vote. So if Billy wants to give balloons to the teacher of the month or Tom wants to add a bulletin board outside the office, they need to make a motion first.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

At a recent meeting a member rose to make a particularly important motion, which was immediately seconded. The parties who made and seconded the motion sat down. The next to rise moved to call the question. There was a second. The vote was called (under the protest of many!) and was carried by a two-thirds majority.

This unfortunate situation has left many of us puzzled. Can there be a legal motion to close debate before the debate has begun. In essence, no one had spoken either for or against the motion before the vote. I would so very much appreciate your help.


Dear Raughley

Want was done was absolutely an illegal procedure. It is too bad that the president didn't rule the motion out of order or a member raise a point of order. When someone makes a motion, the member making the motion has the right to speak first to the motion. If it is controversial, at least one person has the right to speak against the motion before someone makes the motion to close debate.

In our book WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER SIMPLIFIED AND APPLIED, we have a chapter in the book called "Meeting Strategies" that tells how to counteract such a situation.

If your members knew the rules, then this would not happen.

The Parliamentarian

PS. Were the president and the member making the motion in cahoots on this? How

did two thirds of the members vote to close debate? If the motion was adopted, and members don't agree with it, they might be able to rescind it. If the motion was lost, then make it again at another meeting.

<< PS. Were the president and the member making the motion in cahoots on this? How did two thirds of the members vote to close debate? If the motion was adopted, and members don't agree with it, they might be able to rescind it. If the motion was lost, then make it again at another meeting.


Dear Parliamentarian:

Thank you so very much for responding to my question! I am really very appreciative of your time, and plan to look into ordering your book. The matter came up at our church. We were calling a minister of religious education, a very big deal. The president and member were not in cahoots, and in fact the president tried to stop the move to Call the Question by saying something like "I'm sure that motion was made in jest..." but was cut

off by our parliamentarian. The motion to Call the Question was, I'm sure, made out of enthusiasm, and was not an attempt to quell dissent. In fact, the vote to call the minister then passed with one abstention and NO nays.

Those of us left feeling so concerned were troubled that we, as a congregation, voted to do something so very important without any public discussion, and without providing the CHANCE for any dissenting voices to be heard...and we were also concerned that if we had unwittingly called our new minister in an illegal manner, the issue might return to haunt us down the line. Thanks again for your help,

Cilla Raughley


Dear Parliamentarian:

If there is a resolution in the agenda to be considered at a board of education meeting and the board president indicates that the resolution will not be considered without making a motion to postpone, rescind, lay on the table, etc., how is this handled in the minutes? Does type on the resolution, "Resolution postponed until next regular meeting. No motion; no vote." I am in a quandary as to how this should be handled in formal minutes.

A reply to this question would be greatly appreciated.

C Mangia,

 Dear C Mangia,

If the resolution is postponed or laid on the table, that is put into the minutes. You would write who made the resolution and that it was postponed to the next meeting or that it was laid on the table. If you go on our web page <<>, scroll down on the blue side bar to "minutes". This will tell you what to put into the minutes. Also our book 'WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER SIMPLIFIED AND APPLIED" has a chapter for secretaries and a detail of writing minutes, plus sample minutes for you to follow.

The Parliamentarian


In this case it sounds like the chair made a ruling which would be written into the minutes "The chair ruled that the resolution could not be blank until a motion ‘do_____’ was made. Now if no one made that motion to postpone and the chair went on to the next business, that resolution still needs to be decided.


Dear Parliamentarian:

for Parliamentary Procedure made simple, and any other free materials re Robert’s rules (I'm president of a homeowners assoc) would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your website!

Rob Price 4914 23rd Avenue West Everett, WA 98203-1529 425.513.9271 voice 425.290.5552 fax 425.418.8863 cell email

 Dear Rob,

Thanks for writing. We have just moved into a homeowner's association. We now have been elected to the board. Are you aware of an organization called, Community Association Institute? They specialize in homeowner and condo organizations and their multitude of problems. I have just purchased a book from the state organization that has all the state codes concerning homeowner and condo associations. Many of these codes have to do with open meetings, approving budgets, etc.

Because of our knowledge of parliamentary procedure and the laws we were able to stop a board from enforcing an illegal assessment that the board adopted.

I highly encourage not only you to learn the proper procedures but also the rest of your board members and anyone else in the association that is interested.

If your group would ever like a workshop let us know. We are not very far from you -- Gig Harbor.

We will send you out a brochure, plus catalog, and a handout that we give people who buy our book.

Thanks for writing. We post new things to the page once a month, so keep coming back. I will be updating the homeowner's section of the page as our work continues and we resolve a lot of problems.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

Thank you for your website and e-mail. I am using your text, Webster's New World Robert's Rules of Order Simplified and Applied, and I find it to be both informative and practical.

I am a member of a homeowners association which consists of four village associations plus a master association. My village board claims to follow Robert's Rules of Order. However, I question several procedures, such as:

1. the board meeting, open to homeowners, consists of the agenda items e.g. business meeting, followed by homeowner comments, etc., called Good and Welfare (questions and answers). This is the only time at which homeowners may speak.

At the last meeting, without explanation, the board changed their procedures:

From a) business meeting (agenda)

b) good and welfare (q&a: homeowner comments)

c) adjournment

To a) business meeting (agenda)

b) adjournment

c) good and welfare (q&a: homeowner comments)

I contend that based upon the original format "good and welfare,"

was part of the meeting and homeowner comments and board responses had legal standing.

I further contend that under the revised format the meeting has been adjourned and the "good and welfare" with homeowner comments and board responses has no legal standing as the meeting has been adjourned. I contend that this "section" following the adjournment is simply "conversation" and is not part of the meeting.

In addition I contend that under the original format, "good and welfare" (homeowner comments) should be part of the minutes for the record, but that under the revised format, e.g. after adjournment, it is neither in the minutes nor part of the record.

I would appreciate your evaluation of this matter which I consider to be an erosion of our homeowner rights.

2. re minutes, corrections to: The board president refuses to recognize homeowner members re corrections and/or additions to the minutes. She recognizes only board members. She claims that corrections may be made at any time, e.g. at "good and welfare."

While I agree that under parliamentary law corrections may be made at any time, I contend that any delay in making corrections should be due to when a need for a correction is discovered, e.g. if a correction is not known at the time of the reading, it is permissible to make this correction at a later time. I further contend that if a correction is known at the time of the reading, opportunity should be granted to both board members and homeowner members to effect this correction at the time of the reading prior to approval.

Corrections made after approval require a 2/3 vote to be included as opposed to an immediate correction which requires no vote.

a) should corrections, if known, be made at the time of the reading prior to approval, and

b) should both homeowner members and board members be provided with an opportunity to make corrections/additions to the minutes prior to approval?

I would also appreciate your evaluation of this matter which I consider to be a further erosion of homeowner rights.

I have read Volume I, Issue 1 of your "Homeowners Associations" brochure and I am curious to know if on May 1, 2000, you had a homeowners association meeting regarding the budget, assessments, and election of board members as noted on page 5?

I truly appreciate being given this opportunity to correspond with you and I eagerly await your response to these questions of parliament law/Robert's Rules of Order.

My e-mail address is: or

Thank you.


Irwin Katz 11569 Cherrybrook Lane Boynton Beach, FL 33437 561-733-1897

 Dear Irwin,

Thank you for writing.  The Good of Order should be included in the meeting and not after adjournment. This is considered an "order of business" which can only be done when the meeting is in session. After the meeting adjourns its just a gathering. Board members don't have to stay and certainly any remarks made after a meeting are just hearsay.

By allowing the members to speak during the meeting, it gives credibility to the remarks made by the members. And hopefully board members take the remarks seriously, If your organization go by Robert's Rules, then show them page 357 of the 9th edition.

What I am so astounded about officers in Home Owners Associations is the mis-conception that they rule the roost and the homeowners have no voice. Yes, we had our meeting. I need to write about it. The members that came voted against the assessment and the budget had to be changed much to the President's chagrin.

We voted to increase the Board to seven members and elected board members. My husband and I were both elected to the board. All the members elected are very concerned about having open board meetings and a continual dialog with the other owners.

We have divided our neighborhood into seven districts. Each board member is assigned a district as the board contact for those members.  I will be continually updating the page.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

Our church recently voted to do some repair work on the building. Yesterday our Pastor was unable to hold services, and some other members were out of town for various reasons. A few of the members met with the chairman of the Board and voted to cancel the work. I seem to remember something about a motion to reconsider must be made by a member of the prevailing side when the question was first voted on. Can you confirm this or straighten me out? Thanks,


Dear Jerry,

First all the motion to reconsider the vote can only be made at the meeting the motion was adopted and must be made by a member of the prevailing side. What they really should have done was make the motion to rescind the action, but it has rules concerning it, too.

First of all the motion to rescind, to be adopted by a majority vote, needs previous notice that it is going to be made at a meeting. If not then it takes a two thirds vote to adopt.

Second, if a contract was signed then it is difficult to rescind this unless some clause is in the contract that it can be canceled.

Third, was this a special meeting, who had the authority to call it, and were all the members notified? If a few members got together without letting others know about this meeting, I think the action taken could be contested. If it wasn't a valid meeting, then the action isn't valid either.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian

When within an organization there are 3 of 5 directors leaving and the bylaws states that an audit be done by July 31st can an emergency amendment be done so that an audit can be done mid July or earlier so the books can be closed and a budget can be put together by a committee. There will be 3 new directors coming in and there is no special provisions for when directors are leaving especially when 2 is in charge of one group and the other in charge of another group by themselves. With new directors coming in and also an incoming treasurer could this amendment be done? If so can it be done at a regular meeting with a 2/3 vote or does it have to be brought up at the meeting and then to the general membership and then a date set for vote? It is very important to find this information out before June 6 by 12:00 noon. This just arose and I was trying to get the information from the internet and ran some copies of helpful tips in order to update (whether it be amendment or revision of the by-laws)

Thank you


Dear Dinah,

You don't need to amend your bylaws. Your current bylaws state that the audit be "done by July 31st." That means it has to be completed by that date and no later. It doesn't say that it can't be done earlier. Just make a motion that the audit be done earlier. When a new treasurer takes office, that person should not take responsibility of the books until they have been audited. So if the organization needed to audit the books in mid year they could do so without amending the bylaws. If the Board is responsible for seeing that the books be audited then this can be decided at a Board meeting without taking it to the general membership.

Again you don't have to change your bylaws to have the books audited earlier. The Bylaw is really making sure that the books are audited and that it is done by a certain date.

The Parliamentarian






Dear Smith:

Many people who work in Fire Departments have asked us about Atwoods rules. I have never seen a copy nor do I know where to get a copy. I do not know what he says about a "closed vote". Do you want to know how to take a vote by ballot--is this what you mean by a closed vote? Or do you mean taken in a closed meeting with only members present?

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian

Thanks for the quick reply. I actually meant a secret ballot. Some said a   vote had to be just more than 50%, while others said a two-thirds vote was necessary to have secret ballot.  Thanks again for your help.


 Dear Smith

To take a vote by ballot is considered an incidental motion. It only takes a majority vote to take the vote by ballot. Someone needs to make a motion to take the vote by ballot, it needs a second. The motion is not debatable so the chair takes a vote right away. If the motion gets a majority vote, more than half, then the vote is taken by ballot.

May I suggest that you get our book, WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD, ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER SIMPLIFIED AND APPLIED. It answers such questions as these. It also give the principles behind parliamentary procedure. So even if Attwood's book isn't around, the principles of all parliamentary procedure remain the same. It would help your organization. I also suggest since no one can get a copy of ATTWOOD'S rules, then amend your bylaws and choose a parliamentary authority that everyone can get a copy of. It is everyone's right in an organization to have a copy of the rules that govern them. Our book costs $8.95 at your local bookstore or you can buy it here. However, we have to charge shipping and handling of $6.00.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian,

I am a member of a non-profit organization and we are faced with a situation where the majority of the board members (including myself) feel that we are going to have to ask our President to step down. If there is nothing in our by-laws addressing this particular situation can you please advise us of how to go about this. He has lied to us as a board on a number of occasions and has lost the trust and respect of the majority of the board as well as the membership of our organization. We are meeting again on June 18 and we really need to take action on this ASAP if at all possible. Thank you,

Anita Tucker, Secretary, Mineola Youth Foundation, Inc.

 Dear Anita,

Someone has just given me your e-mail. I hope this information can still help you.

The first thing you need to do is look in your bylaws to see what the member's term is: does it say "or until his successor is elected?" Does it say "and until his successor is elected.?"

Does it say "the member will server for ____years?"

If it says "or until his successor is elected" then you can rescind the election. This motion will need previous notice and a majority vote. The person whose office is being rescinded is able to participate in discussion and vote.

However, if you do not have this provision then you need to have a trial. I have a very

detailed description of this on our WEB Site < Look at our Parliamentary Internet Newsletter" March, 1999. If you have to have a trial please buy the following book, ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER, NEWLY REVISED, 9th ed. See the last chapter on discipline. If you can't find it at the bookstore, we sell it here.

As a judge you know the importance of following rules and procedures. This a particular important case. Henry Robert gives it the same importance as a court trial.

If you have further questions, please write. You can print of the Parliamentary Internet

Newsletter if you wish and share with your members.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

I am curious as to the proper procedure for re-addressing a motion that has passed at a previous meeting. I have seen references to motion to reconsider which looks to me like it applies to the during the meeting whereas a motion to rescind seems more appropriate. I question what would be the proper motion and who needs to make it. To give you some background - proposed amendments to our by-laws were presented to the board at our monthly meeting and passed with not all members of the board present. The fact that they were not there is not the issue but the meeting had been changed to a night different than what had been. Some members of the board were not present as they did not realize the meeting was on that night. In addition there was no prior agenda sent out all but two members of the board (the chair and co-chair) were unaware that the proposed changes were on the agenda. The chair stated to take a vote on all of the amendments together when it was interrupted for a chance to open the motion for discussion prior to the vote being taken. Some key members of the board were not present and when the motion did not pass with first go around (two members abstained from the vote), the chair and co-chair started talking to the two who had abstained and told them it was no big deal and that they were not voting on the proposals but whether they would go to the general membership. The vote was recalled and those two had abstained voted for the motion. Now - ethically there are several things wrong with this situation: There was no proper notice to the meeting, to the agenda or to the amendments to be considered. In addition, the amendments were voted together versus individually which made it an all or noting kind of vote. I also believe that the chair and or co-chair should have either explained in the beginning of the presentation as to what was going to happen and they should have said nothing to the two people who abstained from the initial vote. Now, there seems to be reason to readdress the proposed amendments and vote but what exactly is the proper procedure to do so and can you identify any basis in what I said to do so. I kindly thank you for any help that you can give me before a special meeting is called of the board.

Regards, Barbara Herbig (h) 301/863-3209 (w) 301/342-6358 (personal) (business)

Dear Barbara,

Thank you for the information. However, what is the status of the proposed bylaw amendments? Were they incorporated into the bylaws or are they now going to be presented to the membership?

If they are going to be presented to the membership for a vote, why do you want to rescind the action of the board? Is it because the procedure was incorrect or because the proposed bylaw amendments need more work?

What do your bylaws state about amending the bylaws? Who has final approval?

Do they have to go to the Board first before they go to the assembly?

The Parliamentarian

 Dear Barbara:

The proposed changes were approved by the board to go to the general membership for vote. The by-laws say: "Proposals for changes to the Articles of Incorporation or By-laws may be made by the board of governors, or by petition to the Board of Governors signed by not fewer than twenty-five percent (25%) of the eligible votes, or by proposal and approval by two thirds vote at a general or special meeting with a quorum present. Upon receipt of such petition, the Board of Governors is bound to schedule such proposals for vote at or before the next annual meeting, employing the notice/absentee ballot process described below."

I am inquiring about rescinding the action for both reasons. I am not sure that proper procedure was followed (but it could have been), and some of the proposed changes were very ambiguous. I brought up in discussion that fact and that I thought they should be clarified prior to their presentation to the general membership. If we as members of the board are representing the membership, and the membership when receiving the proposed changes in ballot, is under an impression that the changes are something that the board asked for, or stand behind, it is NOT an accurate representation of the Board, only of those board members present at the meeting. Some of the changes affect members of the board directly (not me). That is why I am concerned about them being thrown into a lump vote versus individually.

I hope this helps - I am not a stick in the mud or not for change, I am just concerned about some possible "hidden agendas" that may affect the integrity of the Board and the association.


 Dear Barbara,

Thank you for the information. However, what is the status of the proposed bylaw amendments? Were they incorporated into the bylaws or are they now going to be presented to the membership?

If they are going to be presented to the membership for a vote, why do you want to rescind the action of the board? Is it because the procedure was incorrect or because the proposed bylaw amendments need more work? what do your bylaws state about amending the bylaws? Who has final approval? Do they have to go to the Board first before they go to the assembly?

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian,

The proposed changes came from a committee appointed by the Board chair. The members can discuss among themselves but they go out in ballot July 15th and no changes are allowed or proposed. They are mailed. The only means of discussion allowed at this point, is for myself or other members of the board who have seen the changes, to provide comment in the July newsletter that deadlines this week. I made a request to the person who chaired the committee to get all members of the board copy of the proposed changes and a chart of the new organization which really none of the members of the BOG have seen, and was turned down. He said that since his committee was appointed by the Board chair that the Board chair needs to get them to the board members. Unfortunately - they still have not been received or viewed by all board members and there were only two copies of the chart present at the meeting (we barely got a glance). This is getting really frustrating.


 Dear Barbara,

Thank you for responding. Who sent the proposed bylaws to the board? When this goes to the membership do the members have a right to discuss them, propose further changes before taking a vote? Or is this just sent out in the mail?

The Parliamentarian

Dear Barbara,

Thank you this is helpful. I will now look at all this information and see if there is anything that you can do to protect the members.

The Parliamentarian

Dear Barbara,

After re-reading this e-mail and the others that you have provided me with, I believe the best way to handle this is to rescind the motion to send the bylaws to the members. Give the reasons that you gave to me. Really the chair had no business taking a second vote. If a motion is defeated it can't be renewed in the same meeting unless it is changed substantially. Then once the motion is rescinded decide what to do with the bylaw proposals. Do they need to go back to committee? Does the board need to take a further look at these? Would it better serve the membership to adopt them at an annual meeting where the membership can be present to discuss these proposals? Perhaps some of the changes are not necessary.

Be sure to give notice that you are going to rescind. If you don't, the motion will have to be adopted by a two thirds vote or a majority of the entire membership of the board. If you give previous notice, it only takes a majority to adopt.  Hope this helps.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Sir/Madam

My name is Alida Booysen. I am writing from the National Assembly, Parliament in the Republic of Namibia. I would like to know if you have a code of conduct between members and staff. In other words; how a member and staff member respond to each other.   I would appreciate it very much if you could let me know as soon as possible. Thank you

Regards Alida E-mail:

Dear Alida,

Thank you for writing. We don't have a code of conduct for such a situation, but let me do some investigating on this subject. I will get back with you in a few days.

The Parliamentarian


Dear The Parliamentarian

Thank you very much for replying. I appreciate it very much. I thank you for making an effort on investigating this subject.  Hope to hear from you soon.



Dear Parliamentarian

I am the President of a small golf course (member owned) in NC. On the vote on a motion, one member of our board requested to abstain from voting. One other member stated that a person abstaining is a vote for the motion. I can find nothing pro or con in the Robert's rules of order book which we have a rule to use in conduct of meetings.

Chas. Maimone President
Minnesott Beach Golf and CC

Dear Chas. Maimone,

To abstain means "I don't want to vote." An abstention is not a "Yes" vote or a "No" vote.  It is not a vote at all. Now an abstention can affect the outcome of the vote if the vote is qualified in any way. If your bylaws state "by a majority vote." The abstention has no effect at all because this means of those voting. Since the person abstaining did not vote, then it has no effect at all. The votes counted would only be of those voting.

If the bylaws say that the vote must be by a majority of the entire board, then the person abstaining is still counted in the number of votes but neither as a yes or no vote. For example, let's say that you have a board of 9 members. A majority vote of the entire board is five. So for every motion to be adopted five board members must vote in favor of the action. Let's say that 4 people vote for the motion 3 voted against it. One person abstained and the other was absent. In this case the motion failed because it didn't get five votes. The person who abstained could have voted yes and the motion would have carried. However, if the person vote no, then the motion still would have been lost because it didn't get the five vote requirement. An abstention usually helps the prevailing side whether that side is the affirmative or the negative.

I hope this helps. If you want to get a clearer understanding of voting procedures may we recommend our book, Webster's New World, Robert's Rules of Order Simplified and Applied. It's available on our Web Site <> or at your local bookstore.

The Parliamentarian

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