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fixter

Pausing the meeting

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We have a unique situation that a search did not yield any answers on. We are a volunteer fire company. At our last meeting we had an emergency call in the middle of the meeting. In the past we have just paused the meeting and continued when we returned. This particular time two members were gone longer then the rest because they rode with the patient to the hospital. The rest of us came back to the meeting room and since well over a quorum was present, continued the meeting. There was one particular item that was voted on that one of the two members that did not return wanted to discuss more and possibly oppose. The motion had passed unanimously but this member was upset and brought it up at the next meeting. He wanted to motion that we not start meetings back up until all have returned. My counter to that is sometimes people may not return at all. We eventually tabled it until I could research and answer from RONR.

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In essence the meeting was in a recess and the assembly has every right to reconvene and continue the meeting and conduct business when a quorum is present, regardless of who is or isn't there. The rule that was proposed is not a good one,as you have noted.

Edited by George Mervosh

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It is troubling, though, that members can be excluded from a meeting because they are doing the work of the organization.  Imagine this:  on the scene, an officer who strongly supports a motion that will arise later is called upon to decide who, among those eligible, should go with the ambulance crew, and purposefully selects a person known to oppose the motion.  I agree that the motion as proposed is not well written, but it seems appropriate to me to not allow the meeting to return to order until the response is completed.

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7 hours ago, Godelfan said:

It is troubling, though, that members can be excluded from a meeting because they are doing the work of the organization.  Imagine this:  on the scene, an officer who strongly supports a motion that will arise later is called upon to decide who, among those eligible, should go with the ambulance crew, and purposefully selects a person known to oppose the motion.  I agree that the motion as proposed is not well written, but it seems appropriate to me to not allow the meeting to return to order until the response is completed.

That argument would be stronger if the two members' votes could have affected the outcome, but as the vote was unanimous without their hypothetical opposition, that is apparently not the case.

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59 minutes ago, Gary Novosielski said:

That argument would be stronger if the two members' votes could have affected the outcome, but as the vote was unanimous without their hypothetical opposition, that is apparently not the case.

What they said in debate might have swayed others, though.  It's far more worthwhile, often, for a person seeking to avoid controversy to keep out those who would speak in opposition than to keep out those who might simply vote in opposition.

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Under the circumstances mentioned in the original post, here is what I have to say:

As the two members were still dealing with the emergency that caused the recess, the better option would have been to wait until their return to continue the meeting.  An argument can be made that the other members deliberately infringed on the two members' rights to participate in the meeting.  Both members have the right to enter into debate on every single motion for which RONR (and/or the By-laws) allow debate on.  And those members have the right to vote.  Both rights were denied to those two members as the other members knew they were still tied up with the emergency and chose not to wait for their return.

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3 minutes ago, Rev Ed said:

As the two members were still dealing with the emergency that caused the recess, the better option would have been to wait until their return to continue the meeting.  An argument can be made that the other members deliberately infringed on the two members' rights to participate in the meeting.  Both members have the right to enter into debate on every single motion for which RONR (and/or the By-laws) allow debate on.  And those members have the right to vote.  Both rights were denied to those two members as the other members knew they were still tied up with the emergency and chose not to wait for their return.

Well I don't think I can agree with this.  Would the same apply if you know I'm in the bathroom?
What Rev Ed and I are getting at, though, is that this strikes us as different from going to the bathroom for two reasons:  first, because they were obligated to do the work of the organization, and second, because that work had to be done immediately.  In my opinion, there's no rule accommodating for that difference between this organization and most organizations - I might have reasons to be absent from the bowling club meeting, but it's unlikely that it's because I had to perform emergency services for the club - and even if it is, the fact remains that I would not be breaking a law or risking a lawsuit if I abandoned that bowling club work (probably) but would in this instance.  Therefore, I think the organization would be well-advised to create such a rule, although the one proposed has some logistical problems.

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Godelfan, aside from possibly being a bit unfair to the busy responders, do you see any parliamentary error in post #2? (Excluding my last sentence, of course)

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2 hours ago, George Mervosh said:

Godelfan, aside from possibly being a bit unfair to the busy responders, do you see any parliamentary error in post #2? (Excluding my last sentence, of course)

No, I don't see a parliamentary error (which is my dispute with Rev Ed, supra).  I was only disagreeing, in part, with your last sentence.

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So as far as RONR goes, I was not wrong to continue the meeting once the majority were present?

  To expand on this a little more the two that went volunteered to help the other organization because their driver was unsure of the quickest route to the hospital. One drove the ambulance and the other followed to provide a return ride for that driver. The rest of us returned to the meeting.

 I like the debate on this question and it may help us form a rule for the future. There normally would not have been a problem except this person wanted to voice their opinion. When asked what he wanted to voice during the good of the company he remained silent but still upset.

 It was also pointed out that next time this happens he would not leave but would stay to vote in a different direction. I am really leaning toward continuing the recess.

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On 2/8/2017 at 10:23 AM, fixter said:

We have a unique situation that a search did not yield any answers on. We are a volunteer fire company. At our last meeting we had an emergency call in the middle of the meeting. In the past we have just paused the meeting and continued when we returned. This particular time two members were gone longer then the rest because they rode with the patient to the hospital. The rest of us came back to the meeting room and since well over a quorum was present, continued the meeting. There was one particular item that was voted on that one of the two members that did not return wanted to discuss more and possibly oppose. The motion had passed unanimously but this member was upset and brought it up at the next meeting. He wanted to motion that we not start meetings back up until all have returned. My counter to that is sometimes people may not return at all. We eventually tabled it until I could research and answer from RONR.

 

On 2/8/2017 at 10:29 AM, George Mervosh said:

In essence the meeting was in a recess and the assembly has every right to reconvene and continue the meeting and conduct business when a quorum is present, regardless of who is or isn't there. The rule that was proposed is not a good one,as you have noted.

When an assembly takes a recess, it's usually for a specific amount of time or until called back in to session by the chair. We don't know what rule this organization has on the subject and what was declared at the time the meeting "paused." I don't think the issue is whether everyone returned or whether a quorum was present. The issue is how and when the meeting was scheduled to reconvene. Also, this break seems more in the nature of an adjournment than a recess.

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On 2/8/2017 at 10:23 AM, fixter said:

He wanted to motion that we not start meetings back up until all have returned. My counter to that is sometimes people may not return at all. We eventually tabled it until I could research and answer from RONR.

If a member wants to make a motion, then it's the chair's duty to either allow the member to do so or to say why the motion is not in order. It is not the chair's job to counter with reasons against the motion. And there is no such thing as "tabl[ing] it until I could research."

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9 hours ago, Shmuel Gerber said:

 

When an assembly takes a recess, it's usually for a specific amount of time or until called back in to session by the chair. We don't know what rule this organization has on the subject and what was declared at the time the meeting "paused." I don't think the issue is whether everyone returned or whether a quorum was present. The issue is how and when the meeting was scheduled to reconvene. Also, this break seems more in the nature of an adjournment than a recess.

My opinion was based upon this statement - "  In the past we have just paused the meeting and continued when we returned.  " .  That seems to me they recess until called back to order by the chair, and this seems to be a common practice, but I see what you're saying.

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Fixter, my own view of this is that what your company has been doing in these situations ("we have just paused the meeting and continued when we returned") most closely amounts to the declaration of a recess until the meeting is called to order again by the chair (RONR, 11th ed., p. 232, ll. 9-15). The length of these breaks does tend to indicate that an adjournment is being declared to meet again "at the call of the chair" (RONR, 11th ed., p. 244, ll. 9-15), but if you look at RONR's comparison of the two (11th ed., p. 85, ll. 5-25), I suspect that what is happening is best described as a recess. Fortunately, it very seldom makes much of a difference which it is (see the footnote on p. 85), and in either case there was nothing wrong, as a matter of parliamentary procedure, with your calling the meeting back to order when you did.

 

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Guest Nancy N.
On 2/9/2017 at 9:05 AM, George Mervosh said:

in post #2?

You got post numbers back??  Man, I got to learn computers.

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Guest Nancy N.

Fixter, is your issue that you want to come to an accommodation between, on the one hand, the feelings of a member of your brotherhood who has gone the distance and doesn't want to feel shafted because he did, and leaving the whole rest of the organization floating rudderless for some indefinite period?  Or something like this?

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On 2/11/2017 at 6:13 AM, Guest Nancy N. said:

You got post numbers back??  Man, I got to learn computers.

No, but as a college graduate they taught me to count to 2. I guess it was worth the money. :)

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Nancy,

That pretty much nails it. I also wanted to make sure what I did was not wrong. It wasn't and for the most part hurt the feelings of one individual. Unfortunately that individual is also my VP. 

 I would revise my previous statement on the motion. It was not seconded and I was asked to research it. If I handled that incorrectly, then I need to remedy it.

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Your previous statement was:

"He wanted to motion that we not start meetings back up until all have returned. My counter to that is sometimes people may not return at all. We eventually tabled it until I could research and answer from RONR."

It would appear that a member wanted to make a motion and that you, as presiding officer, immediately proceeded to argue against it on the merits. If this is so, it is certainly not the proper way for a presiding officer to handle a motion, but it's too late to try to undo it.

Just try to do better next time.

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Guest sue w.

Perhaps a new bylaw could help out in this very unique circumstance.

Assuming that the motion was on the agenda (all notified) and the person was signed in as an attendee of the meeting - then left, due to job related emergency - he/she could be offered the ability to cast a vote by proxy (assigned or written) or electronic vote.

 

 

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On 2/8/2017 at 10:23 AM, fixter said:

This particular time two members were gone longer then the rest because they rode with the patient to the hospital.

Fixter, I know this isn't an agony column,  but I gotta ask:  how did it go with the patient?

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1 hour ago, Gary c Tesser said:

Fixter, I know this isn't an agony column,  but I gotta ask:  how did it go with the patient?

No, you don't gotta ask that, and fixter don't gotta answer.

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On 2/12/2017 at 1:53 PM, Guest sue w. said:

Perhaps a new bylaw could help out in this very unique circumstance.

Assuming that the motion was on the agenda (all notified) and the person was signed in as an attendee of the meeting - then left, due to job related emergency - he/she could be offered the ability to cast a vote by proxy (assigned or written) or electronic vote.

 

 

(??!?)

I think this is a good idea.  (It's not perfect:  the distressed VP wants his point of view heard as much as he wants to vote.   Probably more, since the vote was unanimous without his, but his voice might have had an effect.)  For that matter, perhaps an extra-parliamentary device might do the trick:  he phones the meeting (safely, since he's driving a car), and the recipient holds his phone to the microphone, so everybody hears what the VP has to say, which satisfies him (with or without a proxy or electronic vote), and that's that.

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On 2/12/2017 at 1:53 PM, Guest sue w. said:

Perhaps a new bylaw could help out in this very unique circumstance.

Assuming that the motion was on the agenda (all notified) and the person was signed in as an attendee of the meeting - then left, due to job related emergency - he/she could be offered the ability to cast a vote by proxy (assigned or written) or electronic vote.

sue w., indulge me, please, in an at best tangential question, and I'm sure the moderator is going to like this one.  I'm interested in how people write, and I noticed that if I were to have written your post here, I wouldn't have made a new paragraph for the second sentence, just continued the first paragraph, consisting of the first sentence.  It's an intriguing stylistic choice:  I see that the effect is different, but I can't put my finger on it.  I'm reminded of the Nero Wolfe story where he said something like, choice in paragraphing is as unique as fingerprints (I think it was the story where he solved the case by the way a writer used the expression "not for nothing."  If you don't remember it, read it again; it is such a hoot.  I can look it up for you if you want. -- That offer is open to everybody).  So (hey, should this start a new paragraph??), sue w., what went into your choice to start a second paragraph?

Your fan,

Gary c Tesser (aspiring parliamentarian)

Oh, and this inquiry is open to everybody who is interested in how writing works.  Me and Nero Wolfe can't be the only ones.

Edited by Gary c Tesser
more stuff

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