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Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 86 April 2003

Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 86  April 2003
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.

Roger D. Erwin, Attorney at Law wrote:

Dear Parliamentarian,

 I am the past president of a non-profit volunteer high school organization.  Our bylaws provide that the past president continues as a member or the board, but as a nonvoting advisor.  For at least the past five years, this has meant that the outgoing president and then advisor has participated in discussion and debate just as any other member.  One issue that has been unclear is whether the non-voting member advisor may make or second a motion.  Another issue that has been raised by a new member of the board is whether the non-voting advisor is entitled to speak unless spoken to, with the concern that the non-voting, advising member of the board is participating too much in the decision making process, even though not voting.

 Your thoughts please?



Dear Roger,
    A similar question was answered in the "National Parliamentarian", Volume 62, page 6.  The answer given was the following:  "RONR (10th ed) p. 572, 1. 9-15 provides, 'A prohibition or limitation prohibits everything greater than what is prohibited, or that goes beyond the limitation, but it permits what is less than the limitation, and also permits things of the same class that are not mentioned in the prohibition or limitation and that are evidently not improper.' A member of an assembly, in the parliamentary sense, is a person having the right to full participation in its proceedings, the right to make motions to speak in debate on them, and to vote."  
    The article then goes on to say that if a member is given a non voting status they still have the right to make motions and to debate.  This would also include seconded motions because these are of lesser limitation than the right to vote.  So to answer your question, the non voting members may have full participation except the right to vote.
    If the non voting members are prohibiting others from having in put into the decision making process, then may I suggest that the board go back to formal rules of debate?  That means that each member of the board must be assigned the floor before being able to speak.  The presiding officer should then solicit others ideas and not allow a minority to dominate the discussion.  Perhaps the presiding officer needs to be more informed on how to conduct board meetings.  That may solve the problem right there.  

 The Parliamentarian wrote:

Dear Parliamentarian:

Builder & developer were Board Members until Meeting held
last month.  At the meeting it was stated that He had placed and noted in print in the handed out budget that they were donating $4000 for resealing the interior streets of the development.  After they were voted off the Board & new Board was established same night, the Board voted to unanimously close our gates to the Community 24/7days a week.  The Builder who owns 1 home in the development wants the gates open all weekend from 10-6:00 for access for open houses etc.  He has threatened to take back the $4000 for resealing of the streets if we do not acquiesce in his demands.  I feel it is illegal for him to do this and would not win in a court of law.  I would like an opinion.
Thank you
Sharon Holland

Dear Sharon,
    We given opinions on points of parliamentary procedure.  This is a case for an attorney.  I am sure there is a way to resolve this harmoniously which will benefit all.
    Thank you for writing.  If  you ever need help with procedural problems that come up in a meeting please write back again.

The Parliamentarian wrote:

Dear Parliamentarian:

I was just wondering using parliamentary procedure is the secretary allowed to call additional meetings without first discussing it with the president. and if a person enters a meeting late and discovers that the nominations are over can they still put their name into nomination even though nominations had been closed by a motion.


Dear June,
    The bylaws should state who can call a meeting.  If it doesn't allow the secretary to call additional meetings on his own then he can't do it.  
    The only way to reopen nominations is through a motion to do so.  It takes a majority vote of the those present to reopen nominations.  If the members allowed the person to put their name on the nominations without taking a vote to reopen the nominations,  then they basically reopened the nominations  by general consent.

 Parliamentarian wrote:

Dear Parliamentarian:

I am the incoming President of our local PTO.  We have an executive board
 (President, 1st Vice-President, 2nd Vice President, Secretary, Treasure)
who form the "Executive Committee" and are voted into office by the
membership for a one year term.

The incoming Executive Committee, with help from the nominating committee
will appoint persons from the general membership to head up various
committees, such as Fundraiser, Care and Concern etc....  

We have been calling these appointed positions "Committee Chair" {various
committees} and designating these chairpersons together with the elected
Executive Board to be the "Board of Directors".   The Executive Board
holds monthly meetings, the "Board of Directors" hold monthly meeting
with the President presiding, and then we hold General meetings for the
entire membership.

I suspect that under Robert's Rules, we do not (or are not) permitted to
create this three tiered system.  That there should not be special
privileges for 'appointed' members (only so called Board Members, i.e.
appointed chairpersons, are permitted to address the assembly at the
monthly meetings)

I believe that we should have regular monthly meetings for the entire
membership and that is the appropriate time for the chairpersons to give
their reports and that we do not need to have separate Board of Directors
meetings for the purpose of conducting regular business of the

Am I correct?

Thank you

Tricia Demarest


Dear Tricia,
    The organizational structure of  your PTO should be in your bylaws.  If the bylaws do not provide for a Board of Directors then no group of members, committee chairman or officers can act as one.  The bylaws should state that there is a Board of Directors and who compose it.   The same is true for the Executive Committee.  If you have a board of directors (or executive board) in small organizations there is no need to have an executive committee.  
    Executive Boards are helpful when the membership only meets quarterly or less often.  The purpose of the Board is to handle the affairs of the organization between meetings.  
    If your PTO members do not want to be involved in the detailed administration of the organization then a board of directors would be helpful.  Usually the board or the president appoints the committees and oversees the entire operation.  
    AT meetings the members then hear the reports of the committees, the board, and officers.  Usually the members can rescind any action of the board unless a specific duty is given to them in the bylaws.
    I know this is a round about way to answer your question, but what I am trying to say is that your bylaws state the structure.  I don't have a copy of your bylaws in front of me so it is difficult for me to agree or disagree with what you have written.  
    If the bylaws do not state that there is to be a board of directors  then you can point this out to the officers and members and get them to have more regular meetings so that the members have more input.

The Parliamentarian wrote:

Dear Parliamentarian...
Our church bylaws were initially written in 1917 and have been revised seven times in the intervening years.  We have had six amendments since 1999.  The question is:  When the amendments are approved by the membership and incorporated in the Bylaw document, do we have to "asterisk and date the amendment in the body of the bylaw text"?  It would seem that this just "muddles" up the document and doesn't really provide information of value.  Your guidance will be appreciated.


Dear Richard,
    It is a good idea to put at the bottom of the page that  the bylaw was amended and when.  If this is cluttering up your document, then  may I recommend that there be a page at the end of the document that says what Article and section of the bylaws have been amended and when?  That way there is an accurate record of the changes.  And, if some people don't get the changes, the members can look in the minutes to see what the change was and the correct wording that should be in the bylaws.

The Parliamentarian wrote:
Dear Sirs:

What does it mean when it says that  at a special meeting  the only things that can be discussed is what is on the call of that meeting?   How much am I limited as to what I want to discuss?



Dear Robbie,
    The purpose of a special meeting is to hand very important business that may come up between regular meetings or to take up one item of business that takes more consideration than time allots at the regular meeting. It is also to limit business to one item or a series of related items.  So in the call to the meeting, the letter that announces the special meeting, its time and place must also state why the meeting is called.  That defines what the members can discuss.  So if the meeting is called to discuss  the purchase of a furnace for the building then discussion and motions can only be brought up concerning the furnace and nothing else.  However, if in discussing  the purchase of a furnace it comes out that the furnace room needs to be enlarged before putting in the new furnace then members could discuss that because they would have to enlarge the room to get the new furnace.  So anything related to the furnace and its purchase could be discussed.  If some one wanted to also include the painting of the outside of the building that would not be allowed.

The Parliamentarian

Dear The Parliamentarian:

Thanks for your quick response to my question about special meetings.

I have one more question, if you don't mind.  I know it looks long but PLEASE read it, as this is very important.

My organization (a small boat club) finds itself in a sticky situation for the first time (that you have probably seen many times before) where we are now confronted with a Board of Directors who feel that the membership is subordinate to them and not the other way around.

I have previously served on this Board for many years, including being its Chairman, and I totally disagree with their assumption, but my insistence that the Board is subordinate to the membership is being dismissed, and I am being branded as a troublemaker and someone who "just can't let go and let someone else run the Club."

Our By-laws read: "The Board of Directors, shall, subject to the limitations hereinafter imposed, have entire authority in the management of the affairs and the finances of the Club and shall have general control of all its property."

Also, after all the usual things found in our By-laws, at the very end it states (under EXCEPTIONS): "For any provisions not covered by these By-laws, refer to Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised."

I pointed out ARTICLE IX, Part 50 of RROD and specifically the parts about being "subordinate to the body that appoints them" and the part where it states " is customary and necessary to delegate....all its authority, with slight limitations, to be exercised between its meetings", and I tried to explain the intent of this statement.

This Board's new interpretation is that the part "entire authority" means just that, and takes precedence over RROR, and they can do what ever they want; including disregarding any motion made at a membership meeting if they don't feel like doing it.

We used to have monthly membership meetings and an annual meeting (in November) when I was Chairman and found that except for the annual meeting, 90% of the other monthly meetings never had a quorum, so the membership voted to change the By-laws to go with just the annual meeting.   This backfired because the Board is now doing all sorts of questionable things that the membership cannot address until the annual meeting, when it's too late.

Our By-laws state: "A special membership meeting shall be convened at a time and place convenient for the purpose, when one of the following conditions have been met: 1) Majority vote of the Board of Directors in favor of such meeting; 2) Request of the Commodore (who is the Chairman of the BOD-ed); 3) Request of seven (7) members in good standing."

Since the membership questioned many of the actions the Board has taken recently, without membership approval, we wanted to have more opportunities to become more involved.  The thought was to have two additional membership meetings in May and September.

At our last annual meeting, we put that wish in motion.  The minutes from that meeting state:

"Bill XXXXXXX made a motion that the Board begin the process of amending the By-laws to have two general meetings.  Jay XXXXX (a current Board member-ed) stated that forcing the Board to amend the By-laws was inappropriate. Gene XXXXX (the Commodore-ed) asked for a sense of the meeting before the Board would act.  Instead, seven families asked for a special meeting to be called in May and September of 2003 (a procedure outlined in the By-laws)"

We requested this meeting officially (see attached) but to our surprise, the Board changed the date from a week-day evening when most of the membership would be available to a Saturday.  We feel that 1) No person or group can modify a properly submitted meeting request and 2) This was a maneuver by the Board to have a minimum amount of members show up, because  at this meeting,  a By-law changed is scheduled to be voted on affecting the Board, and on a Saturday morning many of the members are going to be out sailing or getting their boats ready for their seasonal launching, and would result in not having enough members present (2/3)  to carry the vote of this proposed By-law amendment.

Our By-laws currently state that the Board will select the five members to serve on the Nominating Committee and that the Commodore and another Board member are ex-officio members of this Committee.  What we have experienced now is that two of the five Nominating Committee members are current Board members and they are selecting three additional cronies who simply nominate them.  History has shown that most of the club members do not know the nominees well enough and have always voted the people nominated by this committee. We feel that it is inappropriate that any Board, and especially this hostile one, should be the ones to select who is going to nominate them for reelection and no Board member should be a member of this committee.  This By-law change was going to correct that, so you can see why the Board would like to see a minimum number of members showing up at the meeting.

When we complained that it was illegal for the Board to change the date of this properly submitted request, they said "the membership has the right to request a special meeting; they don't have the right to pick the date of the meeting."

When I stated to a Board member that the By-laws say the membership can request this meeting and nowhere does it say "subject to the approval of the Board",  this Board members replied, (yes, you guessed it-ed)  " We can do this because the By-laws say we have entire authority."

What do we do about this "entire authority" interpretation and does it mean just because the society gave the board total authority, does that mean that the society has given-up all of its rights and privileges?  That the membership is indeed subordinate to the Board?

We have a Board that now essentially votes themselves into office each year, and thinks that they can override or add additional requirements to our rules because they think they have entire authority.  The members seem to run into a brick wall in their arguments when this "entire authority" thing is put in our faces and they are frustrated when their attempts to correct some of these things are sabotaged by actions of a Board.  Because this has all been made so frustrating, many members just loose interest in challenging this situation and just go out in their boats and lets the Board continue with their antics.

I apologize for this somewhat lengthy communiqué, but I had to give you the whole picture so you can fully understand what we are up against.    Any ideas on your part would be most appreciated, as we seem to have a real problem here, and you have been the only one kind enough to answers my questions.  

Thank you for your time



Dear Robbie,
    It is unfortunate that your members do not understand the importance of self-government and the necessity to attend meetings.  When you amended the bylaws to have only one annual meeting a year, you in essence put all the control of the organization in the Board of Directors.  The members in essence said to the Board of Directors, "You manage the affairs of the club.  We just want to go sailing."   If you really want to get control back into the members hands, amend your bylaws to have four meetings a year, and lower your quorum requirement so more members will attend.
    Now about the special meeting.  Since the members called the meeting, they should be able to set the time, date and place of the meeting if it isn't at the club house.  What you need to start doing is talking with the members of the club.  Make yourself known and get back on the board.  The  nominating committee is to be impartial and the Commodore has no business being on that committee and neither do other board members.  
    What I recommend for the Saturday's meeting, is to get as many people there and change the bylaw.  If you have a low attendance, they make the motion to have an adjourned meeting (which is a legal continuation of the meeting).  Set the time and date for an evening when you know people will come.  If the motion is adopted,  then immediately moved to adjourn the meeting.  If the members present vote to do this, then you will take up business at the adjourned meeting.  Make sure that everyone knows about it and will come so these things can be resolved.

The Parliamentarian wrote: wrote:

Dear Parliamentarian:

I need to know if an association board can sell a unit if the owner is unable
to pay association and assessment fee for ten months?
There have been some question ask throughout the last two years on who makes
the orders to asses assessments on going? Does the owners have any say on any

The only By-laws the association board use is what the one owner of about 22
units out of about 73 units tell them to do. The management company was
selected by this owner. Most of the other owners are old and on fix income.
what to do in a case like this?

Thank You!

Worried Owner:

Dear Worried Owner,

    Yes, the board can usually forclose on a unit and sell it without the association members permission.  Get out your covenants and bylaws and read them!  It will tell you there what powers the board has and when they can foreclose for non payment of assessments.  This is why I don't like condo associations or homeowner associations.  
    Normally assessments are figured on the yearly budget which members have to adopt.  What sate are you in?  If you are in Florida I can put you in touch with an organization that may be able to help you with this.
    What can you do?  Get informed.  Get active and get the other condo owners involved in the running of their condo association.

 The Parliamentarian

Dear Parliamentarian,


Our organization's Board of Directors has a standing Bylaws Committee.
While the bylaws state that they can be "amended by a majority of those
present & voting at any meeting, provided that the proposed amendment
shall have been included in the call for the meeting", it is not
specified in the bylaws WHO can introduce a proposed amendment.  We have
been told that only the Bylaws Committee can propose amendments.  A
number of us would like to ask the Bylaws Committee to propose a specific
amendment.  Is it proper to do this in the form of a motion at our next
general meeting, directing the Committee to consider the specific
amendment and report back or in some way act?  Is there a particular way
that the motion should be phrased?
Thank you for your help!



Dear Joy,

    I  question this ability for only the bylaws committee to present amendments.  If it isn't stated  in the bylaws or rules of order that only the bylaws committee can propose amendments or that members must submit any bylaw changes to the committee, then I doubt whether they can present the members from proposing a bylaws amendment.
    At the meeting,  I would first raise a parliamentary inquiry about the bylaws committee to have exclusive right to present amendments and where in the bylaws or rules of order does it say so.  IF they give no concrete place, then point out that the committee then has no exclusive right to propose amendments.  Then give notice that at the following meeting the following bylaw will be submitted for discussion.  I would have it signed by several people so that they know that more than one person wants to discuss it.
    It is not right that a small committee should hold governing documents hostage.  This is a form of tyranny.  One of our basic rights is to consent to be governed.  That is why bylaws can be amended.  We are withdrawing our consent on a bylaw and proposing that we are giving our consent to be governed by another bylaw.  Members need to understand this concept.

The Parliamentarian

Dear Parliamentarian,





Dear Friend,
    Go to our site <>.  Under links go to "SHORN'" that site is for homeowner associations in Florida.  He would be able to direct you to the law.  If the law says business must be adopted by a majority of those present then the absention may have affected the vote.

The Parliamentarian

Dear Parliamentarian,

 Our bylaws state that if a member is absent for two meetings then the
individual is subject to suspension or removal from the Council.

The Council also allows proxies, in the event that a member of the Council
has been absent for 2 meeting and they send a proxy, is the person sending
the proxy considered present at that meeting or absent thus being subject to
removal or suspension?

We have an individual on the Council that has been appointed and has never
been to a meeting but she sends her proxy on her behalf. Is she considered
present at the meeting or absent?


Jason Morris
Administrative Assistant
KY Council on Developmental Disabilities

 Dear Jason,
            I would have to see your bylaws to give you an answer to this.  Robert’s Rules   has certain rules to interpret the bylaws in this kind of situation.  If you would like to fax me the bylaws and circle the areas concerning this, our number is 253-265-1550.

 The Parliamentarian

Dear Parliamentarian:

I am currently an officer on the Council for the Winnipeg Association of Non-Teaching Employees. According to our by-laws, we conduct business using Robert's Rules of Order. The current practice of the Association regarding "Notice of Motion" is that the notice is sent out to members in writing prior to the Annual meeting if the motion affects our constitution or by-laws, all within accordance to the by-laws. My question is that the motion is never moved and seconded at the Annual meeting. In fact, people vote on the motion with secret ballot at advanced polls. Is this not defeating the purpose of making a "motion". To my knowledge, the purpose of a motion is to make a change to a standing rule, by-law or constitution by bringing it forward, seconding it, debating it and voting on it. I didn't think you could just put something in writing and vote on it? How do people become informed of the issues surrounding the motion? There is nothing in our by-laws saying that we can do this, therefore, is it not unconstitutional to conduct business in this manner? Any information you could provide would be of great value.


Dear Heather,
    You are correct.  Look at pages 574-578 of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised 10th ed.  A  notice of amendment only means that notice is being given--that is all.  Someone needs to make the motion and someone second it (unless it comes from the bylaws committee or another committee. IF that is the case then it doesn't need a second.)  The chair places it to the assembly for discussion and further amendment.  Amendments must be germane and within the scope of the notice.  Why don't you photo copy those pages in the book and send it to the president with this e-mail.  If they don't make changes, then raise a point of order at the meeting.  I am surprised that they don't have a registered parliamentarian at the meetings to advise them on this one.

The Parliamentarian

Dear Parliamentarian:

Who can vote at a board meeting that is governed by robert's rules?

 A Friend

Dear Friend,

Everyone who is a member of the board unless you have rules to the contrary.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian,

I am a member of the International Association of Administrative Professionals and at the last meeting a incidence occurred that I need clarification.  I was not present at the meeting first of all. According, to various members the floor was opened for nominations for officers. Half of the members say they heard the presiding President open the floor for these nominations, others did not. The Secretary, who does not have it as a part of the minutes nor does she have it recorded, says even she did not hear the floor opened.  The President says the Secretary and other members were either talking or not paying attention.

The individuals who did not hear the question to the floor, say they have people that they wanted to nominate for various offices, but the President is taking a firm stand by refusing not to let anyone nominate anyone else for an office.  She has instructed the Secretary to correct the minutes to show that floor had no nominations.  The Secretary says she really doesn’t know how to include this correction in the minutes because she did not hear the motion put to the floor?  What are your suggestions?


Dear Barbara,
    As always, the members decide what go into the minutes.  When the chair asks for corrections then a member can make the correction.  IF there is disagreement about the correction, the chair takes a vote.
    If you haven't voted yet on the nominees, and if the vote is taken at the next meeting, then the chair can still open the floor for nominations or the members can make a motion to open the floor for nominations.  If a member makes a motion to open the floor for nominations, it needs a second, the chair immediately takes the vote.  It takes a majority vote to open the floor for nominations.

The Parliamentarian

Dear Parliamentarian,

Is there a difference between Assistant Superintendent and Assistant to the Superintendent.

My perception is the Assistant Superintendent steps in and acts as the Superintendent when the Superintendent is absent.

The Assistant to the Superintendent would assist the superintendent in whatever the superintendent needs assistance with, be it clerical/administrative etc.

Please give clarification.


Dear La Wanda,
    I would definitely agree with your definition.  

The Parliamentarian

Dear Parliamentarian,

If a motion was brought to the floor and voted against, can the same motion be brought up again and voted on?


Janet Grey

Dear Janet,
    It can't be brought up again at the same meeting, unless it becomes a substantially different motion, or some one who voted "no" moves to reconsider the vote.  However, it can be brought up again at another meeting.

The Parliamentarian,

Dear Parliamentarian,

I am under the impression (derived from a course taken long ago on parliamentary procedure) that if a meeting is called to order and business is transacted and decisions made in the absence of a majority or quorum, the results of that meeting are valid and binding unless someone at that meeting has made a point of order that there is no quorum present.  This question arises out of the following circumstance: we have a committee where it is frequently the case that less than fifty percent of the members are present, making it repeatedly impossible to do business.  I have said, and have been challenged on the basis of Robert's Rules which govern our meetings, that if no-one makes a point of order that there is no quorum present, and that the rules are being breached, then we can meet, make decisions, and that they are binding once the gavel has descended adjourning that meeting.  Am I right or wrong?

 A Friend

Dear  Friend,
    If business is transacted without a quorum it is invalid.  If your committee is having a hard time getting a quorum, then the bylaws need to be changed to lower the number required for a quorum.  Surely the committee operates under the guidance of an organization where the members do have meetings that have a quorum so that the bylaws can be amended.  By continuing to have meetings without a quorum is not addressing the real issue which is that you need to get more people who are really interested in serving on the committee and doing its work.  Or that you are choosing days and times that are not convenient for most of the members of the committee.  

The Parliamentarian

Dear Parliamentarian,

I have a question.  There are 21 eligible voters.

The election results are

person a - 6 votes

person b - 10 votes

person c - 1 vote

person d - 1 vote


We have varying differences of opinion.  It says "blanks do not count"  Does that mean they are not counted toward your majority count?  i.e., does the simply majority now drop to 10, since votes cast are 18?  Or does it mean that the 10 votes are still not a clear majority, and we need to re-vote?



Dear Brian,
    If your bylaws state that a majority elects then the blank ballots don't count at all.  So in essence only 18 people voted and 10 is the majority.  If the bylaws state  a majority of those present elects, then you would  have to have another election because the majority would be 11.

The Parliamentarian


 Dear Parliamentarian,

 Well, I've looked everywhere I know including your website, and do not find a definite answer to a simple question:

If someone makes a motion, and it is NOT seconded, does the motion get put into the minutes?  Somewhere I am sure I heard that the answer is NO, but I want to make sure.

 Thanks much and hope all is well with you,


 Dear Betsy,

            The answer is no. The reason is because it was never placed before the assembly  by the presiding officer.   Only those motions which are voted upon are recorded in the minutes.  Motions that are made,  seconded, placed before the assembly, and withdrawn at the same meeting are also not recorded in the minutes.

The Parliamentarian