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SaintCad

Ethics in Parliamentary Law

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I was pondering a situation that I saw occur at a convention.  The specifics of that situation are not important but it raised a question: if a person is learned in parliamentary law, and for our purposes that would be RONR, and a member of the assembly do they have an ethical duty to ensure that the rules are followed even if the correction would run counter to their interests?

For example, suppose I want a certain motion to fail and it does.  The next day during the same the same session a motion is made to Reconsider and the Chair incorrectly rules it out of order stating a motion to Reconsider must be made the same day.  Now I know the Chair is incorrect (p 316 l 26-30).  Since I don't want the motion to pass it is in my interest for the Chair to maintain the status quo so ethically should I raise a Point of Order or is it up to the supporters of that motion to know RONR well enough to protect their rights?

Or what if I'm in a meeting that is getting heated and the Chair declares the meeting adjourned which suits me fine because my side would have lost if the issue if it came to a vote that night.  Do I have a duty to continue the meeting if the rest of the body is ignorant on what to do and assume that just because the Chair declared the meeting over that we are done?

 

Again, not a specific situation but more of a general question.

 

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8 hours ago, SaintCad said:

I was pondering a situation that I saw occur at a convention.  The specifics of that situation are not important but it raised a question: if a person is learned in parliamentary law, and for our purposes that would be RONR, and a member of the assembly do they have an ethical duty to ensure that the rules are followed even if the correction would run counter to their interests?

I would say that all members of an assembly "have an ethical duty to ensure that the rules are followed even if the correction would run counter to their interests." I don't think being "learned in parliamentary law" imposes any additional duties in this regard, although it may mean the member is more able to carry out this duty.

8 hours ago, SaintCad said:

For example, suppose I want a certain motion to fail and it does.  The next day during the same the same session a motion is made to Reconsider and the Chair incorrectly rules it out of order stating a motion to Reconsider must be made the same day.  Now I know the Chair is incorrect (p 316 l 26-30).  Since I don't want the motion to pass it is in my interest for the Chair to maintain the status quo so ethically should I raise a Point of Order or is it up to the supporters of that motion to know RONR well enough to protect their rights?

You should move to Appeal from the decision of the chair. The chair has already made a ruling, so Appeal is the appropriate motion in this case, not Point of Order.

8 hours ago, SaintCad said:

Or what if I'm in a meeting that is getting heated and the Chair declares the meeting adjourned which suits me fine because my side would have lost if the issue if it came to a vote that night.  Do I have a duty to continue the meeting if the rest of the body is ignorant on what to do and assume that just because the Chair declared the meeting over that we are done?

Assuming that this is not one of the situations where the chair can declare a meeting adjourned on his own (and it does not seem to be), you should raise a Point of Order.

I would note that in addition to an ethical duty to other members, allowing the chair to set bad precedents may not be in your best interest in the long term.

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There is no penalty for allowing an erroneous ruling of the chair to go unchallenged.

If no one cares enough to challenge the chair's ruling, then perhaps the issue is too small to raise a ruckus.

You ought not enforce parliamentary rules which will not be supported by a majority. -- Perhaps the motion in question had so little support that no one bothered to care about Reconsideration.

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18 minutes ago, Kim Goldsworthy said:

There is no penalty for allowing an erroneous ruling of the chair to go unchallenged.

If no one cares enough to challenge the chair's ruling, then perhaps the issue is too small to raise a ruckus.

You ought not enforce parliamentary rules which will not be supported by a majority.

I disagree strongly. While I do not dispute that there are some issues "too small to raise a ruckus," the fact that no other member raises the issue is not, in and of itself, an indication that this is the case. The issue may not have been raised because other members are unaware of the rule, or do not know the proper procedure for challenging a ruling of the chair. It is not clear that no one challenged the ruling because no one cared to do so.

As to the "supported by a majority" comment, it will not necessarily be immediately clear which side the majority will support. Additionally, the chair's ruling becomes a part of the minutes and the society's precedents, so I would argue that there is a penalty to allowing an erroneous ruling to go unchallenged (not to mention any immediate effects of the ruling, such as suppressing a proper motion, or adjourning a meeting when it is not clear the majority supports doing so).

18 minutes ago, Kim Goldsworthy said:

Perhaps the motion in question had so little support that no one bothered to care about Reconsideration.

I would assume that the member who made the motion to Reconsider, at the very least, cared about reconsideration.

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But Kim notice I said " learned in parliamentary law" and Josh hit on why I said that.  Many people don't know parliamentary law especially some of the more technical parts.  If I know a rule is being violated I can't assume anyone else knows that same rule and doesn't care so the question is as possibly the only person who knows the rule should I ensure the rule is followed even against my own self-interest?

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1 hour ago, SaintCad said:

so the question is

as possibly the only person who knows the rule

should I ensure the rule is followed even against my own self-interest?

I reply.

• Yes, if you want.

• No, if you don't want.

***

You are not the parliamentarian of the organization.

You are not the chairman.

***

If you had been the parliamentarian, or if you had been the chairman, my answer would have been different.

It is the duty of the chair to make rulings.

And the chair made a ruling.

Don't usurp the prerogative of the chair.

Don't show-up the chair.

***

Read page 250 (Section 23, "Point of Order"), lines 1 thru 10.

There are options.

Your original option is one I would not recommend.

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12 minutes ago, SaintCad said:

But Kim notice I said " learned in parliamentary law" and Josh hit on why I said that.  Many people don't know parliamentary law especially some of the more technical parts.  If I know a rule is being violated I can't assume anyone else knows that same rule and doesn't care so the question is as possibly the only person who knows the rule should I ensure the rule is followed even against my own self-interest?

In circumstances such as those referred to in your initial post, I think you should make an effort to ensure that the rules are adhered to, since you are obviously not referring to situations such as those described on page 250, lines 11-15, in which "it is clear that no one's rights are being infringed upon and no real harm is being done to the proper transaction of business."

I say this not because I think there is something in RONR which specifically imposes a duty upon you to do so, but because it's the right thing to do, and I think we all have a duty to do the right thing.

 

 

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I am essentially with Kim on this one.  You are neither the parliamentarian nor the chair -- more importantly, unless one is in such a position, you do not surrender your own rights just because you know something about PL.  One of those rights is the right to rise to a point of order or NOT.  It may be a different situation if there is a ruling by the Chair and now you must decide whether to appeal the ruling or not.  Here there is more reason to speak up -- but not because there is an ethical duty; rather it is because the chair's ruling may become a precedent unless set aside and that is the time to set the record, and the rules, straight.  But...let us not confuse "doing the right thing", which is admirable, with having an "ethical duty." 

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I agree with smb. I certainly see no ethical duty to speak up and I'm not convinced there is a moral one either.  Although I certainly understand that someone might feel compelled to speak up because he believes it is the right thing to do, I do not believe there is any duty to do so.

I also share smb's concern about not wanting to set a bad precedent. I see that as a more compelling reason to speak up than either an ethical requirement or a sense of duty to "do the right thing". 

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On 6/23/2017 at 1:13 AM, SaintCad said:

The specifics of that situation are not important

I think they are important.  The exact parliamentary situation at the time would tell me if it's the right thing to do.

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22 minutes ago, George Mervosh said:

I think they are important.  The exact parliamentary situation at the time would tell me if it's the right thing to do.

Well, looking at the situation described in SaintCad's first example, wouldn't you feel that you had some obligation to protect the rights of the supporters of the motion to Reconsider, which rights are obviously being infringed upon, to protect the assembly itself from the harm being done to the proper transaction of business, and perhaps also to protect the chair from later embarrassment? If I was there, I think I would, especially if I was openly opposed to reconsideration, since in that case I would also want to protect myself from later embarrassment. 

 

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29 minutes ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

Well, looking at the situation described in SaintCad's first example, wouldn't you feel that you had some obligation to protect the rights of the supporters of the motion to Reconsider, which rights are obviously being infringed upon, to protect the assembly itself from the harm being done to the proper transaction of business, and perhaps also to protect the chair from later embarrassment? If I was there, I think I would, especially if I was openly opposed to reconsideration, since in that case I would also want to protect myself from later embarrassment. 

 

Yes, I think I would.  Harm to the rights of members or things which could give rise to a continuing breach are my red lines no matter which hat I'm wearing at a meeting.

 

 

Edited by George Mervosh

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On 6/26/2017 at 2:11 PM, Richard Brown said:

 Although I certainly understand that someone might feel compelled to speak up because he believes it is the right thing to do, I do not believe there is any duty to do so.

Hmm, I'm not sure I follow.  What else does being compelled because it is the right thing to do, mean, than that there is a duty to do so?  Are you saying someone else might think there's a duty, but you don't?  I think I would feel compelled to do so, so I must think there's a duty, I suppose.  

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According to my dictionary, a duty may be a moral (i.e., ethical) obligation, or a legal (e.g., parliamentary) requirement.  

If one does not think it is the right thing to do, but it is required by the rules, it is a duty.

But if it is not required by the rules, yet one believes that it is one's ethical responsibility, it is also a duty.

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Guest Nancy N.
On 6/26/2017 at 1:43 PM, smb said:

But...let us not confuse "doing the right thing", which is admirable, with having an "ethical duty." 

I always do.  Would you please explain to me how not?

-- Nancy N.

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Guest Nancy N.
On 6/26/2017 at 3:11 PM, Richard Brown said:

I certainly see no ethical duty to speak up and I'm not convinced there is a moral one either.

I have never been able to distinguish between the two, even after having been convincedly convinced (ooo, the best way! ) by Theodore Sturgeon (I think in "More Than Human" -- Dan?, in the middle story (the novel compiled from a few novelettes) -- I think in the midde story, the young boy in therapy, where the boy querulously asks the therapist how come he's so smart, and the therapist replies, I kept making mistakes until I ran out of mistakes to make. )

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Guest Nancy N.
On 6/25/2017 at 6:34 AM, Kim Goldsworthy said:

You are not the parliamentarian of the organization.

You are not the chairman.

Kim, he's not asking what to do as the parliamentarian of the organization.

Kim, he's not asking what to do as the chairman.

He's asking what to do as a member who is an ethical person.

What is your problem with this?

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5 minutes ago, Guest Nancy N. said:

Kim, he's not asking what to do as the parliamentarian of the organization.

Kim, he's not asking what to do as the chairman.

He's asking what to do as a member who is an ethical person.

What is your problem with this?

The chair has obligations.

The parliamentarian has obligations.

The average member sitting out in the assembly hall has freedoms which the chair and the parliamentarian do not have.

The two are bound by parliamentary rules of behavior which are not binding on the average member.

THAT is what I mean.

***

George Demeter, in the end-papers of his book ("Parliamentary Law and Procedure"), has an interesting list. It describes what one can do to achieve passage of a motion, or to achieve defeat of a motion.

All within the rules.

THAT is what i mean.

***

 

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On 6/30/2017 at 11:38 PM, Kim Goldsworthy said:

The average member sitting out in the assembly hall has freedoms which the chair and the parliamentarian do not have.

The two are bound by parliamentary rules of behavior which are not binding on the average member.

 

***

 

I know there is no parliamentary duty to force the member to act, hence the question of if there is an ethical duty.

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14 hours ago, SaintCad said:

I know there is no parliamentary duty to force the member to act, hence the question of if there is an ethical duty.

And the answer, I think, is yes, since I gather you already understand that there is no professional or legal (parliamentary or otherwise) obligation on the part of the member to act.

In situations such as those you described, I think the member clearly has a moral obligation to act, and I wouldn't attempt to rely upon any distinction which might be drawn between the meaning of the words "ethical" and "moral' in order to justify his failure to act.

 

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Guest Nancy N.
On 7/3/2017 at 6:40 AM, Daniel H. Honemann said:

any distinction which might be drawn between the meaning of the words "ethical" and "moral'

If there is one, do you (or anyone) know what it is; and if you do, would you kindly explain it?

(Come to think of it, IIRC, Sturgeon addressed this too, in "More Than Human."  Perhaps a re-reading is long overdue.)

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18 hours ago, Guest Nancy N. said:

If there is one, do you (or anyone) know what it is; and if you do, would you kindly explain it?

"Ethical" has to do with ethics, while "moral" has to do with mores. Duh!

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13 hours ago, Guest Nancy N. said:

If there is one, do you (or anyone) know what it is; and if you do, would you kindly explain it?

Well, some might say that you don't have any "ethical" obligations to live up to unless someone else wrote them for you.

Not I, mind you, but some.  :)

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On 6/27/2017 at 10:09 AM, George Mervosh said:

Yes, I think I would.  Harm to the rights of members or things which could give rise to a continuing breach are my red lines no matter which hat I'm wearing at a meeting.

 

 

 

I have myself agreeing with George more frequently, and this no exception.  If the chair, for example, rules that a motion to Lay on the Table requires a two-thirds vote, and it gets a two-third's vote, should I, as a member, raise a point of order?   What if the chair entertains a motion Objection To the Consideration of the Question raised in regard to an incidental main motion, that gets substantially more than a two-thirds vote?   I'd say that, as a member there is no obligation to correct the chair.

What if the chair rules that those 20 members that have not paid their dues yet, but were not dropped from membership, cannot vote?   Yes, even if I'm just a member, I would raise a point of order, even if I were sure that those 20 members would vote the opposite of how I would. 

I am also mindful of the admonition on p. 250, ll. 11-15.  

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