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Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 88 June 2003

Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 88  June 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.

Dear Parliamentarian:

I desire an opinion on a resignation issue.  If a person submits a letter of resignation, but rescinds that resignation before an action is taken, what has Roberts Rules to say on the validity of the resignation or lack there of?  Our By-Laws are governed by Roberts Rules of Order.


Brink Cobb

Dear Brink,

            Please tell me exactly what happened before I give an answer.

brinkcobb wrote:

Dear Parliamentarian,

 A standing committee chair submitted a written resignation to the President of the association. No action was taken by the President nor did he even acknowledgement that the resignation had been received.  At the urging of members of the Board of Directors, the chair rescinded his resignation three days later.  The president later acted on the resignation but ignored the rescinding of the resignation. Our association has three executive officers and a fourteen member Board of Directors.  Our Constitution and Policy manual does not address resignations, but our By-Laws do say that Roberts’ Rules will govern unspecified matters.  Nothing like this has happened in the past, so there is no precedent. Let me know if you have any more questions to clarify anything.



Dear Brink,
    One more question.  Do your bylaws give the President the sole authority to appoint chairmen of standing committees or does the Board of Directors have to approve them?  Also does the President have the power to remove them if they are not performing their duties?

The Parliamentarian
brinkcobb wrote:

Dear Parliamentarian,

Just to clarify or maybe not, the question at hand is not whether the BOD or the Pres has the authority to remove members.  If this person had simply been fired by either the BOD or the Pres, this would not be contentious.  The resignation and rescinding of it has muddied the waters.  We need to know if the resignation is still valid if it was rescinded before any action was taken by the BOD or the Pres.  The BOD does not want to anger the Pres by declaring his action of accepting the resignation and ignoring the rescinding of it null and void for no reason, but the  BOD may want to keep the committee person if it has some backing by RRs to declare the resignation void.




Dear Brink,
    I will give you the facts from Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 10th ed.  When a person wants to resign from an appointment he or she submits a letter in writing to the appointing officer.(page 279)  I assume that is the President.  This is where your bylaws will be helpful to you on this one.  The appointing officer then accepts the resignation.  If the bylaws state that the President appoints committee chairmen, then he usually has the power under common parliamentary practice to also remove committee chairmen unless your bylaws state differently.  
    Now this is where it all gets complicated.  Robert's does not address someone wanting to withdraw his resignation.  However, there is a motion to withdraw. (page 283) If this were happening at a meeting,  a person would submit his resignation which is basically making the motion to be excused from a duty.  Before the chair stated the motion the person could withdraw it without anyone's permission.  If the chair stated the motion to the assembly, then the person could ask the assembly permission to withdraw his resignation.  However, the assembly does not have to give this permission.  If they didn't give permission to withdraw, then the motion is before the assembly to either adopt or defeat the motion to accept the committee chairman's resignation.
    So in taking this principle and applying it to your situation, the president decided not to accept the withdrawal of the resignation and decided to accept the resignation, in effect removing the person from his chairmanship.  This is why I asked if the president had the power to remove without a vote of the Board of Directors.
    Now,  Robert's Rules  states that if a resignation has been accepted and the person notified, then that decision can't be rescinded.(298)  However, your bylaws will tell the story on this.  So you need to thoroughly study your bylaws and see if they tell a different story than the parliamentary authority.  If they don't, then there is nothing no one can do about this.  If  Board really wants this person back as chairman of the committee they could try to persuade the president to re-appoint him.  That is all that I can  see that can be done at this time unless your governing documents state differently.

The Parliamentarian wrote:

Our bylaws state that the presiding co-dhair can vote only in case of a tie or in 2 limited circumstances. Also, proxies can only be cast in case of tie vote.

In the heat of in important vote, the presiding co-chair cast a vote which made a tie vote and then the proxy vote was cast which made it a 5-4 yea vote.

No one challenged the ruling of the co-chair at the time.

It is an issue about integrity and credibility and so it is of the utmost importance that this be done correctly.

Should the co-chair (now several days after the fact) declare the vote null and void, let it go, or what.

I would certainly appreciate any help to cut through this mess so thank you in advance!

Ruth Bennett

 Dear Ruth,
    Robert's Rules of Order comes to your rescue.  When a breach of the rules is of a continuing nature, for example, in this instance when the bylaws have not been followed, it can be corrected at any time.  What you need to do is point out that the bylaws were not followed and the vote taken was an illegal vote and there fore the result is null and void.  
    If you have the Tenth edition of the official book, Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, you can find this information on the following page, 244.  
    Now I have a question for you, in parliamentary law, the chair can make a tie vote as well as break a tie vote.  Do your bylaws prohibit the chair from making a tie vote?    
    If your bylaws prohibit the chair from making a tie vote, then the chair has a legal obligation to declare the vote null and void and let the members know that.

The Parliamentarian  

PS. This needs to go into the minutes of the next meeting. So the chair should make mention of this after the minutes are  read of the meeting .  After the minutes are approved, the chair should state that the action taken at the last meeting concerning null and void because according to the bylaws the president can't make a tie vote, but can only break a tie vote. wrote:

Dear Parliamentarian:
In October 2003 we are to have a new Sectional Director.  The chairperson of
the nominating committee has informed the body since March 2003 of such a
The most recent nominee is the Lay Person who is like the Vice President to
the Sectional Director.  In most cases her candidacy would be acceptable
however our sectional Bylaws and National Bylaws state that YOU cannot HAVE TWO
position of Director and that is a National Officer.  Our National President
comes from the same Branch. An appointment to that position or an election to the
position would be illegal.
 According to Parliamentary Procedure, how should that situation be handled?

Dear Friend,
    Since you know all the facts about this,  I recommend that you point this information out to the both the Nominating Committee and the powers that be.   If this person is nominated and elected, since this violates the bylaws,  the person can't legally serve.  It is best to point this out now instead of after the election.

The Parliamentarian

Curt Blackwell wrote:

I have your book, Webster's New World Robert's Rules of Order, Simplified and Applied, 1999.  I have read all my CC&R's.

I have a dictator for a leader (Chair of the Board).  And five bobbing-head Board Members who allow:

I raised my RRO and said they state that the Secretary is to read the minutes out loud.  The Chair's reply, "You are out of order."

While a Homeowner had the floor, one Board Member (not the first time) had turned the back of their chair to the audience and mumbled under their breath.  This Board Member mumbled on until the speaker stopped and said, "Shut up, Terry."  The Chair told the speaker that language wasn't allowed and I said you should be telling Terry to shut up.  The other Board Members sat there.

Our organization is informal.  Although we generally do not say "Point of Order", we do make points of order.  Then we are ruled out of order.  Because she doesn't want to hear what we have to say.  End of meeting.  Do you have any idea how many attorneys have written to our Board about the actions of this Board Member?  We tried a recall election of the Property Management company gave the recall notices to "The Board" to mail.  Some Homeowners did not receive the packet.  The Board Members have the authority to place officers.  She kicks Homeowners out of meetings that we have always been able to attend.  The Board Members sit and smile.

Although the minutes have what might legally be considered appropriate, I have taken minutes for years and put in rude comments and actions or inactions of Board Members.  I have appealed to the board members to do something at a previous meeting and they sat there and looked at me and didn't do anything.

I could go on and on and on.  Thanks.

L. Blackwell


Dear L Blackwell,
    Did you see our saga at our Homeowners Association on our Web Site,  If you can get enough homeowners behind you, you can vote the current board out of office.  I am sorry to hear that the members are so rude to each other.   By the way we have a new edition of our book out.  It's called "second edition" and can be found in bookstores.  We've add some more helpful information  and even mention HOA and board meetings in it.

Thanks for writing.

The Parliamentarian


Christine wrote:

To Whom It May Concern:


I live in Chicago, IL and my husband and I just bought a condo in a 6 flat new building.  The owners of our building have not yet met.  We are meeting for the first time on July 13, 2003.  At that time we will need to decide upon a Condo Association Board of Directors.  This will be all of our first times in establishing a Board of Directors and being apart of a condo association.  What positions do you recommend we have and what are the responsibilities of each position?  We really need some guidelines to follow.  Also, if none of us know one another, what is the best way to vote others into their positions?  Again, there are only 6 units in our building.  Thanks for your help!


Christine Paupore

Dear Christine,
    Did the developer leave any bylaws?  Or do the condo covenants say anything about the government of the association?  Condos are brought into existence by state law.  Before any of you make any big decisions be sure that you are all familiar with your covenants.  Bylaws and other laws governing Condo Associations.  If there are six of you,  for right now I would elect a president, a secretary and a treasurer.  Then all of you get busy and become informed about your responsibilities of being a Condo ASsociation.  If you don't have bylaws then get the help of a registered parliamentarian to help you with this.  I can recommend some names in your area if you need someone to help you.

The Parliamentarian wrote:

Our booster Club runs under the Robert's Rules of Order. I am a newly elected President and would like to attend some Committee meetings so that I may feel like an active part of the Booster Club. There is nothing in our By-laws to address this except that it says we follow Robert's Rules. I have been told that the President cannot go to Committee meetings, However in other groups I have been in the President can go to any Committee meetings. I have never heard of such a thing that the President cannot. Do you have a take on this?


Dear  Annbello,
    The reason you were able to attend committee meetings in other clubs is because there was a phrase in the bylaws that says "the President is ex officio member of all committees."  Look in your bylaws and read them carefully.  If this phrase is in the bylaws of the booster club, then you can attend committee meetings, if it is not then, you can't attend unless the committee invites you.  May I recommend a spirit of conciliation?  If the members know that you intent is one of helpfulness and supportiveness,  I am sure they will welcome you with open arms. wrote:

My church is being incorporated with new bylaws.  Our last bylaws were done in 1991.  Should our 1991 bylaws have been amended or rescinded by 2/3 vote of the members present BEFORE or AFTER the incorporation of the church, and/or BEFORE the construction of new bylaws?

Dorothy Dunnings


Dear Dorothy,
    Are you having an attorney help you incorporate or are the church members doing this on their own?  Also in which state are you incorporating?  Do they have guidelines to follow in this process?  Depending on the state law and is process your current bylaws might be acceptable as is, or you may have to make a few changes to bring it into agreement with the state incorporation laws.  If you have not sought any legal or professional advice on this process, I highly recommend that you do so.  If you can't find an attorney that knows this or who is only helping you with the incorporation, then I suggest that you hire a parliamentarian in your area to help you revise the bylaws.  
    I am currently working with my church on revising bylaws.  We have been incorporated for years, but we are bringing our bylaws into agreement with the corporate codes.  If you go on our Web Site :  you will find a section entitled "bylaws."  There is a wealth of free information there for you to print out that will take you step by step in revising your bylaws and how to handle the revision in the meeting.  

The Parliamentarian

wayne dow wrote:

 At my local city council meeting this week my union vice-president requested to be placed on the agenda to address the city council on the proposed budget cut recommendations by the city manager.  He was placed on the agenda as action item 7, with recommendation to receive and file.  The city manager was placed as action item 8, receive, file and discuss his recommendations for budget cuts.  When the vice-president began addressing the council, the mayor cut him off and advised him that what they were doing that night was receiving and filing his letter.  The mayor would not allow any discussion on the matter because they were going to be having a public hearing on the matter in 3 weeks and he would be allowed to speak there.  The mayor said he had received dozens of requests to address the council on the matter and to be fair had consistent they would also have to be heard at the public hearing.  A three minute time limit would be enforced at the public hearing.  The city in question is Dubuque, IA.  If this aids in your opinion.

 My questions are:

 1.   The vice-president is item 7, not item 8.  Therefore, should he have not been allowed to speak on the matter of the budget cuts?  Since he apparently got on the agenda before the city manager.

2.   The mayor refers to the fact that they will be having a public hearing on the matter in 3 weeks.  That is in item 8.  How can he know that the next item will pass and that date will be set without prior collaboration with the council?

3.   What might be some possible recourse for my vice-president?  Public apology, address the next council meeting, no time limit at the public hearing, fines, etc.



Dear Wayne,
    It is important to remember that in city government we elect people to represent us and enact laws and make decisions we hope are in our best interest.  When we attend city council meetings we are attending as observers and have no rights to participate in the business of the council.   Government meetings are under open meeting laws.  That means these agencies have to let us know when they have their meetings so we may attend.  But all we can do is observe.  If the governmental body gives us an opportunity to speak, it is only done under its rules and not parliamentary rules.
    If we are unhappy with an enactment or how the council members vote on an issue, we can gather grassroots support and lobby to change the action, or we can remove them from office, or we can support a candidate that will represent our ideas in the next election.  
    The Mayor conducts the meeting and decides the final agenda.  The only recourse your VP has is to attend the special hearing and to  hope that the Mayor will allow him to speak.   One other thing that I can recommend is that your VP do some politicking himself.  He can speak to each individual council member and even the Mayor in private to show them why his issue is important.  Remember honey gathers flies.  If you start a battle now, you might not win anything at all but create a lot of hostility.

The Parliamentarian
Doug Dye wrote:

I am on an 8 member board and if we are required to have a 2/3 majority to table a motion are we required to have 5 or 6 affirmative votes?


 Dear Doug,
If it is just of those voting then it would be a two-thirds of that number. If it is of eight then it would be six.

The Parliamentarian

Georgia Hoffmeister wrote:

Our non-profit organization recently voted for new officers, and the chair of the nominating committee announced the winners, but stated she was not allowed to announce how many ballots were received by each candidate.

Our Constitution/By-Laws and Standing rules reer to officer elections shall be held in accordance with Roberts Rules of Order, and that the Chairperson of the election board shall notify the officers elect as to their election, and that newly elected officers will take office at installation.  It is silent as to how the voting general membership shall be notified, and if the ballot count for each candidate can be reported.  The membership was recently told that the actual count for each candidate was a secret to be known only by election board.  Can you clarify this for me.  I can find no reference to it in my copy of Roberts Rules and as stated, our regulations are silent on this issue other than as stated above.

 Thanks for your assistance.   G. Hoffmeister

Dear Georgia,
    Unless  the organization has adopted a rule that the number of votes each person receives will not be made known, or it has become a custom not to announce the number of votes, then the proper procedure is to announce the number of votes each person has received  and who is elected.  Usually a Tellers Committee counts the votes and records them on a form.   After the votes are counted,  the chairman of the committee comes to the front of the assembly and lets the president know that he is read to give his report.  He reads the report which includes how many ballots were cast, the majority to elect, and then each nominee and the votes received.  The Chairman of the Tellers Committee then hands the report to the president who then repeats the report only this time telling who is elected.
    Now, may I recommend for your organization our video "Nominations and Elections" and our book Robert's Rules of Order Simplified and Applied.  Both will help you with this entire process.

The Parliamentarian wrote:

Dear Parliamentarian,
             What a great websight! I sure hope you can help us.
       Our monthly meetings of our homeowner's association have turned into angry free-for-alls, and the Board is unable to get anything done. All of this is because of one resident who showed up at an anual meeting with a pocketful of proxy votes and elected himself to the Board. This resident, who is in this country on a temporary visa, went door to door, tricking the mostly Asian Indian homeowners into giving him their proxies. He is not allowed to work in this country which leaves him plenty of spare time to try to control every aspect of our lives. When the majority vote of the Board was not going his way, he started a campaign to get rid of two fellow members in order to appoint friends who would vote with him on key issues. He was so mean and nasty that one member resigned because he did not need the aggrivation of this voluntary position, and the other sold her home to get away from this man.
       Unfortunately, this man has quite a few supporters because he has promised them a club house/community center. The zoning laws won't permit this, and he knows it, but this lie is getting him alot of support. He is also telling residents that our property management company is stealing rediculous amounts of money from our association. He thinks that if we fire the management company, he, himself can do that job and have even more control. We have audits done every year and the management company has not taken one dime but alot of residents no longer trust the company.
       Our by-laws do not allow for the removal of a Board member without 50% of the member votes but most residents won't get involved, and the rest are split between those who support him, and those who want him removed.
       We are losing contractors we have trusted for years because he insists on only hiring  cheap workers who have already damaged our pool, and surface of our roads, and last month, the contractor who removes the snow quit because of his constant interference. He now intends to hire cheap snow removers who can't possibly do the job correctly for the amount he is willing to pay.
       Our community is now divided, the common areas look terrible, and the Board can't get anything done unless they agree with him.
       Is there anything we can do to get rid of this man before he ruins our homes and property values??    Thanks for any help you can offer.   Jamie

Dear Jamie,
    Yes, there is something that you can do and that is tell the truth.  You need to start informing the association members of what is going on.  You need to start putting everything in writing and mailing it to the members.  The first thing I would do is record your board meetings and have them transcribed, discussion and all.  (Usually this is not done, but in this case the members need to see what is going on.)  I would mail the minutes of the meetings to the members.  I would keep them informed on everything that is going on.  Remember the only way this man is getting away with this is because the truth is not getting to the members and they are believing a lie.  The fastest way to get rid of a lie and a liar is the truth.  
    Do the members know that this man is on a temporary visa?  Let them know.  Get a letter from the Zoning board that say you can't build a club house.  Inform, inform and inform.  The presiding officer needs to learn parliamentary procedure and rule the man's motions out of order when he proposes something that is not correct.  
    Start a truth campaign and don't let up until he resigns.

The Parliamentarian



Dear Friend,
    The Vice President becomes president.  I do not know what Florida law states about this, but look in your own governing documents to see if it provides for filling the vacancy.  Usually the board in this case appoints someone to fill the vacancy for the rest of the term.  If you go on to our site <> , go to "links" and click on SHORN.  This person is in Florida and helps with HOAs.  

The Parliamentarian wrote:


I have a question for you regarding my HOA.

I live in a community of one home per 5 acres which is rare in Arizona, it is an equestrian area and many of us have horses on our property.  In our CCR's it states that the barn should not exceed 600 square feet, all property owners that have horses have ignored this rule and built whatever size barn they wanted to, some exceeding 2000. square feet.  There has never been a complaint regarding the size of the barn structure either.  My problem is I am selling my home which includes a 1600 square foot barn.  The perspective buyer would like to expand this barn to 2000 square feet, but once they read the ccrs they backed off.  How legal is that rule when everyone in the community has ignored it and many others....  thank you for your time


Dear Oliver,
    This is something for an attorney to answer.  If everyone is breaking the rules, I would suspect it would be difficult to enforce the rules,  but that can't be guaranteed.  Look at you CC&R's and see if they provide for amendment.  Then go to the board of directors and ask them to present an  amendment to the CC &R's about the size of the barns that can  be built to the other Homeowners.  If the amendment is adopted, then everyone's barn will conform to them and you will have an opportunity to sell your property.

The Parliamentarian

George Dalton Odom wrote:

If a motion is made and seconded, can a vote be taken without questions and discussion at that time?

The case in question involves a situation where it is announced that a time will be allowed for questions and discussion on a set date.  The ballot will be voted on even later.


Sandra O.

Dear Sandra,
    Yes, if no one objected to not having discussion.  If a main motion is made, and the presiding officer immediately takes a vote without discussion, a member should rise and  interrupt the presiding officer by calling out a point of order.  It is a right to be able to discuss a motion.  Debate can only be taken away by a member making the motion to close debate and a two thirds vote of the members in favor of not having debate.   If no one objected or made a point of order at the time this was done,  then the members allowed their rights to be taken away.  

The Parliamentarian

George Dalton Odom wrote:

A committee plans to introduce a prospective employee to the full organization to be interviewed (questions and answers) by that group.  It has been announced to the group that this is the time to meet the individual and to ask any questions.

  There will be  a special called business meeting the next week for the sole purpose of the  members present to vote on hiring or not hiring this person.  It is announced even before the introduction day that there will be no discussion on the day of the vote.  The only business that will take place on this day is the actual vote by secret ballot--no discussion.

Is this correct according to rules of parliamentary procedure?

Does discussion have to be offered on the day of the vote?

Dear Sandra,
    Are the members going to have any opportunity to discuss among themselves if they want the candidate before the vote is taken?  If not, who has given the directive that there will only be a vote without discussion?  Did the persons making this decision give reasons why?
    If this isn't clarified before the vote, then this is what you do on the day of the vote.  Immediately rise to a parliamentary inquiry.  To do this you rise, and address the presiding officer and state:
    Mr. President (Madam President)  I rise to a parliamentary inquiry?
    The presiding officer should recognize you and say: state your inquiry. (If he doesn't then just ask your question.)
    Your reply would be:  Isn't the correct parliamentary procedure before we take a vote on this to have discussion?
    If he says no. Then sit down.  When the presiding officer states we will now vote on Mr. X.  Rise and state:  Point of Order.  
    The president should say:  Please state your point.  (if he doesn't do this, then state your point.)
    Mr. President.  We currently have before us a main motion to hire Mr. X. All main motions are open to discussion.  To take a vote without discussion is taking away the rights of the assembly.  To take our right to debate, someone has to make a motion to close debate, it needs a second, and a two thirds vote.
    If the president states "Your point is not well taken."  Then you make the motion "to appeal from the decision of the chair."
    Hopes this helps.

The Parliamentarian wrote:

Dear Sir,

I was recently in a meeting as a member of the First Baptist Church of
Lumberton, TX, in which I brought up a piece of unfinished business from a meeting
four months prior.  The original motion had been made and seconded to consider
the issue of raising our Minister of Youth's status and salary from part time
to full time.  The motion was referred to the Personnel Committee with the
stipulation that they would address the issue the following month.
In four of the five subsequent months, someone raised the matter of Old
Business concerning this motion, but the Personnel Committee had not yet acted on
it.  When I raised the matter in the last meeting, the Moderator said, "That
was never a motion!" and in response to the apparent shock on my face appended,
"Don't look at me that way!"
The minutes of earlier meetings are clear that the matter of the Youth
Minister was one of unfinished business.  What is the proper procedure in dealing
with a belligerent moderator?

Don Shirley

 Dear Don,
        I am assuming that you remained silent which was probably the best way to handle the situation.  Now what to do about the motion that was referred to the Personnel Committee?  It sounds like some one has deep-sixed the motion.  What you need to do is get a copy of the minutes where it shows that the motion was made and referred to the Personnel Committee.  It probably states when the committee was to report back to the assembly.  Since they have not done their work then you need to make the motion to discharge the committee and have the assembly take up the motion. This motion is in the hands of the committee and is not unfinished business.  So you need to take it from the committee because they haven't done what they are supposed to do.  This can only be done by making the motion "discharge from a committee."  Get a good book on Robert's Rules which explains how to discharge the committee from its duty.  Also inform a few friends that you are doing this and explain to them the proper procedure so that they can support you at the next meeting.
    At the next meeting I would state the minutes where the motion was made and explain to the assembly that since the Personnel Committee has not completed this task as voted upon by the assembly, you are therefore making the motion to discharge the committee.  The motion is stated this way, " I move to discharge the Personnel Committee from the business referred to it on ____date to investigate increasing the Minister of Youth's increase of salary."  It needs a second.  If the chair denies the motion again, rise and ask,  Mr. or Madam President,  are you making a ruling the motion that I made by saying it is out of order?"  If they answer no, then state, "please place my motion before the assembly for discussion."  If they answer yes, then say, "I appeal from the decision of the chair."   This also needs a second and the members decide if the motion is in order.  I would recommend that you look up the procedures concerning this motion, too.
    The key is to be courteous at all times.  If the chair is discourteous, don't react and be kind.  You will come off looking good.    

The Parliamentarian


wayne dow wrote:

I am a member of the International Association of Fire Fighters and my local recently had a meeting of its Executive Board.  May a member in good standing attend this meeting?  Is the member allowed to participate in discussion and attend a vote?  Obviously he is not allowed to vote.


Wayne Dow

 Dear Wayne,
    Unless your bylaws provide for open board meetings your are not allowed to attend meetings of the board.  If you are allowed to attend you can not participate in any discussion, nor make motions.  You are only allowed to observe.   In open board meetings, sometimes the board allows a time for members to speak--give suggestions about the business.  But in this case you can't speak unless you are called upon by the chairman.

The Parliamentarian

Dr. Michael Taylor wrote:

Could you please provide me with a list of rules that guide the conduct of ex-officio members of boards or committees , or members of boards that have observer status only . Thank you . Mike

 Dear Mike,

Do you have a copy of Robert's Rules and which book?   I can give you page numbers for you to find those answers.

The Parliamentarian

Dr. Michael Taylor wrote:

The 21st Century Robert's Rules of Order copy right 1995 .

Dear Dr. Taylor,
    In your book look at page 60, # 6 for ex officio members.  For those people who are not ex officio but are able to attend a meeting, for example a meeting required to be open to the membership or public, these people are observers only.  They can not speak, make motions, or vote.  They are to be quiet observers unless there is a time allowed in the meeting for them to speak and make comments.

The Parliamentarian

McDougle, Stephen H. wrote:

Dear Parliamentarian,

Our organizations Constitution, ByLaws, and Policy Manual are very vague as
to the responsibilities and authority of committee chairs.

What control does a committee chair have over the committee's agenda?  Does
the chair have to accept any and all proposed items?  If the ByLaws require
rationale for a proposed change to the Constitution, ByLaws, or Policy
Manual, can the chair decide if the rationale is adequate ?  Can the chair
determine the order in which items are discussed?


Dear Stephen,
    The chair's power is determines by the size of the committee and its purpose.  In committees under twelve the chair is the driving force of the committee.  Although a chairman has a great responsibility in a committee,  he should never drive other members away by being tyrannical or he will end up being a committee of one.  The chairman may prepare the agenda and present it to the members but he certainly can ask others for in put and certainly should encourage it.  The reason we have committees is so that we can get ideas from many.  One person doesn't know it all.   Usually a committee votes on things.  If you are trying to decide rational for bylaws it seems to me the committee members certainly should vote on that.  
    Usually an agenda has a logical order.  I would say the chairman conducts the meeting and his preparation of the agenda determines the order.  But remember, members can move to suspend the rules and take business out of order on the agenda.  It takes a two thirds vote to do this.
    Now, if the committee is over 12 members, the meetings need to be conducted like a regular assembly meeting.  The chair must follow the rules of that kind of meeting and be impartial as a presiding officer.  
    I hope this helps.

The Parliamentarian

 Marysville Fire Department wrote:

Dear Parliamentarian,

 I am the President of a small Union (10) and we operate under Atwood's Rules for Meetings.  As President, I have abstained from voting on motions unless I am the tie-breaker.  Recently it was brought to my attention that all the past minutes to our meetings have shown me voting, when in fact I had not.  I have been asked why I don't vote and if it is proper procedure to do so.  Our Constitution & By-Laws do not address this issue and I cannot find in in Atwood's.  Can you tell me, is it appropriate for the President to vote on a motion or abstain, and also is it appropriate for the President to make or support a motion?  Thank you.

 Paul McNichol

Dear Paul,
    Look on page 197, right above #17.  It says:  "The chair can vote on any motion if he wants to do so, whether by show of hands, standing vote, ballot or roll call."  
    But let me say this.  Under Robert's Rules of Order,  the chair only votes to break or make a tie vote,  make or break a two thirds vote, and in a ballot vote.  The principle behind this is that if the chair votes he is influencing the other members.  Some people will do whatever the chair does--like Simon says.  The reason he can vote in a ballot vote is because his, like everyone else's, is secret. He can't influence other members.  So with that information you decided under your parliamentary authority.
    Now about motions.  In a board  under 12,  the president can usually vote, make motions and debate.  However, when presiding at an assembly meeting, the chair does not make motions.  About debating, see page 199, #22, in Atwood's. That answers your question.

The Parliamentarian wrote:

I wonder what this Article from the By-Laws means.  It says the "written Proxy", which I would wonder if that limits the votes to announced motions for which a vote has been sent with the carrier?

3.  PROXIES.   At the meeting any Board of Director is entitled to vote by written proxy.  The proxy shall be in the form prescribed by the Executive Committee and shall name a voting member in good standing to act as proxy.  The signed Proxy shall be presented to the Hunting Retriever Club, Inc. Secretary prior to any vote.  In the event that a Director attends the meeting after a proxy has been issued, the Proxy shall be null and void.

All of this seems to be saying that only the votes in writing may be counted, and if a motion is presented at the meeting, the carrier cannot cast a vote, because the proxy was turned in prior to any vote.

Thanks again,


-- Dear Bob,

    A proxy is allowing someone to act as your agent.  In the bylaw that
you quoted, it means that the board must design a general proxy and it must
state who is the proxy holder.  It must arrive to the secretary before the
meeting.  A general proxy allows the proxy holder to vote any way he or she
sees fit.  A limited proxy actually has a place for the person filling in
the proxy to vote on certain issues.  The proxy holder in that case must
vote the way the proxy has been filled in.

The Parliamentarian

Eric Thomas wrote:

Dear Parliamentarian,

How does one break a "filibuster" by means of a 'Parliamentary Inquiry" on a motion that has already been "called' ( as in Move to call the motion).

Eric Thomas

Dear Eric,
    This procedure is not allowed in most organizations.  Are you with a student government that allows filibusters?  If so the only thing that I know that could break a filibuster are any motions that allow one member to interrupt another member--one would be a point of order.  Others are parliamentary inquiry, point of information,  appeal, raise a question of privilege and call for the orders of the day.

The Parliamentarian

 Sandy Belz wrote:

I have a question about our association.  A regular board meeting for our
non-profit organization was held back in September 2002 wherein we offered a
paid position to one of the past presidents.  At that time he declined the
position because of financial constraints.  Within the last couple of weeks,
he has inquired about the offer we made back in September and has stated
that he wants the position now.  Many things within the organization have
changed since September 2002.  Without holding an official meeting or an
official vote, the officers and some directors held a discussion and the
consensus was that the offer from September 2002 was valid only at the time
it was made, and is no longer valid.  Would you agree with this conclusion?

 Dear Sandy,
    Yes, I would agree with this decision because he refused the position.  If the board wants to offer it to him again, someone will have to make a motion at a meeting,  and the board will have to decide by a vote.

The Parliamentarian

Dear Parliamentarian:

 I was appointed Parliamentarian for a Grand session of a Fraternal Organization.  I also belong to several other Fraternal Organizations.  At the grand sessions in question a motion was proposed seconded and passed by 2/3 majority regarding raising the per capita tax 1.00.  After the motion was passed I was asked as parliamentarian if the motion was proper and should it be rescinded.  I ruled that it was proper (I based this ruling on my experience in other organizations). I might add that I was not questioned on the floor of the meeting but behind closed doors during a recess.  The Grand session has now closed and will not meet again until next year.  I now find that I was in error and that since this motion constituted a change in the Constitution of the Organization it must be a Notice of Motion presented 60 days before the Grand session convened. This is or course so that the Motion could be circulated to the subordinate Chapters and then voted on at the current Grand session.  How now is this handled?

Does one just accept that the motion was passed and though not proper collect the new per capita amount?  Or does one contact the newly administration, concede that I was in error and notify the subordinate Chapters that they do not have to collect the newly proposed amount?  The position of Parliamentarian in this organization is an annual appointment and as such I am no longer parliamentarian but am anxious to correct an error I may have made. . Can you advise me as to the proper method to handle this?    Thank you.


Dear Len,
    We all make mistakes.  Since the per capita is in the bylaws, the motion adopted is null and void.  In Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised 10th and in our book Robert's Rules of Order Simplified and Applied, it states that any motion that conflicts with the bylaws is null and void.  Even if it is adopted by a unanimous vote.  
    I am sure that the organization will appreciate your honesty and integrity in correcting this mistake.  It is better that you correct it than someone else. I would write a letter to the new administration pointing out the mistake and that no one caught it at the meeting. However  in reviewing your notes of the meeting you found the mistake and it is your duty as a parliamentarian to point this out.  I would then recommend that you also tell them of the procedures that they need to follow to raise the per capita tax.   If the organization decides to go ahead and take the per capita tax  increase, you will at least have done your part in correcting the mistake.


The Parliamentarian

nor44 wrote:

with no requirements in by-laws (or state statutes) what does it take to pass a simple motion in this case-----9 member board---8 present---quorum 5---2 Ayes---5 abstain---chair does not vote-----motion claimed to be defeated although the actual votes were 2 Aye---0 Nay               thank  you


Dear Friend,
    Robert's Rules of Order states that a majority vote means of those voting.  In the scenario that you give, only two people voted.  They both voted in the affirmative.  There weren't any "no" votes. That means that the motion is adopted.  Abstentions do not count.  Since five people decided not to vote the two members voting decided the issue for the nine member board.

The Parliamentarian wrote:


Dear Linda,
    There should be something in your bylaws about filling vacancies concerning resignations.  If there is nothing and you are incorporated as a non profit then go to the codes in your state and find out what it says.  Usually the board of trustees can replace one of their own.  However,  in some cases they can only do it until they  can call a meeting and have an election for this position.  In other cases, they can fill the vacancy for the remainder of the term.  It all depends.  First begin with your bylaws.  If the term of the trustee is only one year, and you are incorporated, then you probably can fill it by appointment for the remaining term.  If it is for more than a year, then I suggest that you call a meeting of the membership and take nominations for this position and then vote.  
    I am just giving you general information about this.  Each organization is different.  A parliamentary principle that applies in this case is that the body that elects is the body that fills the vacancy.

The Parliamentarian

Terry Tower wrote:

Our condo association has been in place for several years.  I have served as President for two years and election is upcoming.  Our Vice President has agreed to accept the office of President and the Secretary and Treasurer have agreed to remain in their respective positions for the upcoming year.  I have called 9 members to form our Nominating Committee, however, have not been successful.  What procedure do we now follow??  I require your advice ASAP as our meeting is on Wednesday evening, June 4/03.

With thanks,

Terry Tower

Dear Terry,
        Those who are willing to serve on the nominating committee ask them to come up with a slate of officers.  If you can't fill the slate then be sure to ask for nominations from the floor.  
    I just help a homeowner's association with its election.  We had a lot of people nominated from the floor and some of those were elected.

The Parliamentarian

 Terry Tower wrote:

Hi The Parliamentarian,
Thanks for your quick reply - the problem is that we are unable to get a nominating committee, however, the officers presently in place from this year are agreeable to remain in their respective positions except the Vice President will advance to President.  Are we therefore required to have a Nominating Committee and what procedure do we follow without a Nominating Committee?  Thanks, Terry


Dear Terry,
    Have the secretary present the nominees, (those on the board willing to serve) and then take nominations from the floor.  Since those on the board are willing to serve they are considered nominees for those positions.  Be sure though that you take the vote by ballot and have impartial people on the tellers committee.  If no one is nominated from the floor then (if there is nothing in your documents that preclude this)  take a voice vote on the slate.
    Here's the procedure you should follow:
    1.  When it comes to the time that you are to nominate and elect on your agenda, the presiding officer says:
    The next business in order is nominations and elections.  Will the secretary read the nominations.

    The secretary reads the nominations for board and officers.

    The presiding officers repeats the nominations:
    So and So has been nominated for president.  Are there further nominations for president?

    (if there are some, then  write them down.)

    The state:  The following have been nominated for the board.  (read the names, then say)  Are there further nominations for the board?  

    (if there are some, write them down.)  
    Then ask:  Are there further nominations?   hearing none, the nominations are closed.  The chair will read again those who have been nominated for President, (read them)  and for board (read them).
    Then take a vote.  Did you send out proxies for this meeting?  Do you have a ballot already prepared?   The best thing is to take it by ballot.  You can prepare a ballot and leave space on it for write- ins.
    Your Condo may want to get for future reference our video on "Nominations and Elections."

The Parliamentarian