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Caryn Ann Harlos

Having multiple appointed positions on one committee

Shmuel Gerber

Note: The topic "Underlying Principles" has been merged into this topic.

Message added by Shmuel Gerber

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Hello looking for guidance here.  There is a convention committee (created by the Bylaws) that allows for members and alternates to be designated by different bodies.  Can one be both an appointee of one body and an alternate for another?  

Example:

Organization A appoints Ms. Smith as its alternate and appoints 5 primary appointees.

Organization B appoints Ms. Smith as its primary appointee and Ms. Jones as its alternate.

If any one of Organization A's primary appointees do not attend a meeting, may Ms. Smith substitute in as an alternate and then Ms. Jones is the primary for Organization B.

Or does Ms. Smith have to decide which she is for the whole existence of the committee?

The rules and bylaws for both Organizations are silent on this situation (well on this precise one - it does mention alternates).

 

 

Edited by Caryn Ann Harlos

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Caryn Ann, this is something not covered specifically by RONR and is something that your organization is ultimately going to have to sort out for itself.

However, my own opinion, for whatever it is worth, is that Ms Smith, by virtue of her appointment as an actual Committee Member by group B, is in fact a full-fledged regular Committee Member and that she cannot switch back and forth between hats from meeting to meeting and sit as the representative of group B at one meeing and as an alternate for group A at another meeting.. I think she must wear the hat of the regular member from group B at every meeting.

Ultimately, however, this is a decision which your committee or organization must decide for itself.

Keep checking back. There may well be other opinions.:)

Edited by Richard Brown
Added last paragraph

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Let me add another wrinkle.

This Committee has email voting (yes I know what a pit that is) which is open for 10 days.  If someone is an alternate they can vote, but their vote is not counted unless the person(s) they are an alternate for stay silent.  So we have a position of Ms Smith being Schroedinger's Committee Member - we don't know if an alt vote counts until the voting is done so before then Ms Smith is potentially both an alt and a primary at the same time.

If we decide that Ms. Smith can decide meeting per meeting (not saying we have) wouldn't we have to require that she declare at the onset of any vote what position she occupies.... not just right before voting,  but at the opening of the ten days?  Otherwise it seems an unfair tactical advantage is given - if she knows her alternate will vote how she wants, then she can just decide to take a potential other place to amplify or remain to defeat, an advantage other members do not have.

 

Am I on the right track here?

 

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4 hours ago, Caryn Ann Harlos said:

Let me add another wrinkle.

This Committee has email voting (yes I know what a pit that is) which is open for 10 days.  If someone is an alternate they can vote, but their vote is not counted unless the person(s) they are an alternate for stay silent.  So we have a position of Ms Smith being Schroedinger's Committee Member - we don't know if an alt vote counts until the voting is done so before then Ms Smith is potentially both an alt and a primary at the same time.

If we decide that Ms. Smith can decide meeting per meeting (not saying we have) wouldn't we have to require that she declare at the onset of any vote what position she occupies.... not just right before voting,  but at the opening of the ten days?  Otherwise it seems an unfair tactical advantage is given - if she knows her alternate will vote how she wants, then she can just decide to take a potential other place to amplify or remain to defeat, an advantage other members do not have.

Am I on the right track here?

RONR does not permit “alternates” for committees, so whether it is permissible for a member to serve as both a member and an alternate of a committee, and how this would work, is a question of interpreting your own rules.

9 hours ago, Hieu H. Huynh said:

No rule in RONR prohibits it.

Well, except for the fact that RONR does not permit “alternates” in the first place, except in the context of conventions.

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Hi Josh our Bylaws specifically allow for alternates.  Our Rules allow for free substitution of alternates on the parent Board but is silent on committees but custom and tradition has allowed free substitution for them as well but the structure is different - there are no alternates for the At-Large members only the region-specific ones.  On this committee the alternate in question is an alternate for five at-large appointees but is also the primary appointee for another state and has an alternate herself.

In meetings I think we can handle it gracefully by saying Smith must declare at the beginning of the meeting what role she would be playing in voting (btw, all names and gender identifications are part of a fictional portrayal of a real situation-- no one is bad actor, I am just trying to do the right thing) - though that is not optimum because what if one of the at-larges gets sick and leaves... could Smith then change roles???    I am going to have a frank discussion with the committee once I  have my head wrapped around it all.

But with email voting I see a potential inequity.  If there is a close vote, and Smith's alternate has voted, she could strategize on whether to neutralize or amplify that vote at the last minute if an at-large does not vote but doesn't intend to be "absent."  In our email custom, everyone is presumed to be "present."  Not voting =/= absent.

See how sticky this is getting?

Again no bad actors, just trying to do the right thing.

Edited by Caryn Ann Harlos

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It has always seems self-evident to me that the underpinning of the rules was to arrive at a just result, which of course is in some sense subjective.  It is somewhat arbitrary to say that a minority under 1/3 shouldn't have the same rights to prevent certain actions than over 1/3, but it consistent - similarly situated minorities are treated in the same way, thus is fair.  Everyone has the same rights and privileges unless explicitly granted special ones.  

There are several choices when dealing with something not specifically addressed - if it is not addressed then it is allowed or if it is not addressed then it is not allowed.  Which quite obviously are opposite.  But applying the idea of justness and similar situations, it seems that something gives something that other members do not have is of the second sort.  In other words a special or amplified right or privileged must be express.

For example, a situation in which one member has a tactical voting advantage that is not expressly discussed in RONR or the Bylaws or Special Rules should be determined as not allowed due to silence rather than allowed due to silence.

Thoughts?

 

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4 hours ago, Caryn Ann Harlos said:

But applying the idea of justness and similar situations, it seems that something gives something that other members do not have is of the second sort.  In other words a special or amplified right or privileged must be express.

For example, a situation in which one member has a tactical voting advantage that is not expressly discussed in RONR or the Bylaws or Special Rules should be determined as not allowed due to silence rather than allowed due to silence.

I think I agree with this, although it would be helpful if I knew what was meant by “a tactical voting advantage.”

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5 hours ago, Caryn Ann Harlos said:

For example, a situation in which one member has a tactical voting advantage that is not expressly discussed in RONR or the Bylaws or Special Rules should be determined as not allowed due to silence rather than allowed due to silence.

Thoughts?

 

I don't know if this helps with your particular situation, Caryn, but it might be worth noting that "one person, one vote" is considered a fundamental principle of parliamentary law, as is limiting the right to vote to only members of the assembly and only those members present at the meeting (RONR 11th, p. 263). Any practice conflicting with these principles, and on which the parliamentary authorities of the assembly are otherwise silent, thus would be prohibited. That said, and as Josh said, your question can be better answered if we had a specific practice to consider.

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Sure I can give a specific practice, though this was meant as a general question, but an issue I am dealing with now made it sit and think about it.  It was mentioned in an earlier thread with a different question.

There is a mandatory convention-related committee in a political party with a separate national organization and state organizations that have an affiliate relationship:

National appoints Ms. Smith as its alternate and appoints 5 primary appointees.

State X appoints Ms. Smith as its primary appointee and Ms. Jones as its alternate.

Thus Ms. Smith holds two roles - primary appointee for State X and alternate appointee for National.  There is no organization rule forbidding hold both- it is silent.  The purpose of the alternates is to vote if the primary is absent.  So far, fine.  It raises some wrinkles, but not the tactical voting advantage I mentioned.

However our Bylaws allow email voting.  Here are the relevant parts:

Boards and committees may transact business by electronic mail... The period for voting on a question shall remain open for ten days, unless all members have cast votes, or have stated an intention to abstain or be absent during the voting period, by electronic mail to the entire board or committee. Votes from alternates will be counted, in accordance with previously defined ranked order, in the absence of the corresponding committee member(s)....

So ordinarily, if there was no dual appointment and Smith had nothing to do with National, if Jones voted first in that ten day window and Smith didn't, Smith's vote would stand.  If Smith voted first, Jones' vote would not count, unless Smith withdrew her vote (that is a bit of a separate issue I'll throw in at the end but in the discussion it was claimed that could happen).  Each state primary appointee has at least one alternate and thus are all similarly situated as State X.  And it is customary for alternates to vote even if their primary has already voted just to put on the record what their vote would be (perhaps as a matter of principle, perhaps so that the appointing state can judge her discretion and diligent attendance in consideration of a future appointment as primary).  Since it is not a "meeting" alternates can freely debate whether or not their vote will count.

Here is where the tactical voting advantage comes in with possible scenarios.

  • Smith votes first and states she is voting as the alternate for National.  Jones then also votes opposite to Smith which would count as the State X vote since Smith voted in her other role.  All five National primary appointees vote thus nullifying Smith's vote but there is time left in the ten day window.  Smith withdraws her vote as National alternate and re-votes as State X thus nullifying the vote from Jones that she didn't like.
  • Or Jones votes first.  Smith likes her vote.  So Smith votes as National alternate in the same way and hopes that one of the National primaries who would have voted opposite is absent and takes that gamble.  Either way Smith lost nothing, but gained a potential amplification of her choice that is not available to the other States.

Those aren't intended to be exhaustive scenarios just the ones that jump out.  So is this something that should be disallowed, and how without being unfair to Smith or the other States.  I am not sure it can, and thus it seems like there is an inherent irreconcilable conflict with Smith holding both roles even though the Bylaws don't say she can't (they don't say she can either).  It seems that Smith either has to choose a role before the vote begins or has to choose a role for the life of the committee and abandon the other.

And here is the other issue that has nothing to do with tactical voting advantage:

What does absent mean in that Bylaw?  Can someone declare to be absent while the voting is taking place which then means they are not absent, they are clearly there to say they are absent, so that must mean some advance notice of absence before any voting starts.  If Smith votes as alternate for National, Smith is obviously present.  How then how could Jones vote count?  Then State X is disadvantaged as it has no representative at all (though State X was aware that Smith already held the National alternate position though since Smith believes she can serve both without any issue didn't consent to any disadvantage but relied upon what Smith said).  National was not aware as a body of the subsequent appointment of Smith by State X.  One member was aware but believed that it meant that Smith had voluntarily vacated the alternate seat and thus didn't raise the issue as it didn't appear to be an issue and by inadvertence when the official listing of committee members was published, Smith's name was not listed as a National alternate but only as State X primary, thus that member had no reason to believe that this belief was incorrect.  Wouldn't Smith have to be silent (then presumed absent) for Jones' vote to count but then National is deprived of its alternate.   Or does Smith's declaration as voting as national alternate comprise a "constructive absence" as State X representative so Jones' vote would count.

Tricky eh?  And a lot of ambiguity that needs to resolved by the Chair (me).  Some on the committee, including Smith, claim there is no ambiguity at all and in email votes can choose what role to take mid-vote and even withdraw that vote and then vote as the other as described above (though it was not Smith that claimed that but Brown but Smith never disclaimed and was in tacit agreement as that took up a lot of the debate and Smith never said why are we arguing about this, I am not claiming that).

It seems that the one member, one vote even if that member holds two roles presumed roles that were not tactically unequal and only addresses the fact that one member can have a vote counted once in the final tally.  In any scenario here Smith's vote only counts once in the final tally.  It is what happens during the voting that is the issue I need to resolve because during the voting process Smith potentially controls  two votes in a way that no other state appointee does, or is claiming an entitlement to control two votes and decide mid-vote which of the two is more advantageous to "stick".

 

(I don't think it matters but I, chair of this committee, am one of the national appointees, and I am the member in question that was aware that Smith had been appointed by State X but due to the inherent issues raised in being both, the silence of the Bylaws to allow both, and the official listing believed it was an automatic vacating of the appointment.  I was not chair of the committee at that time.  I was elected chair of the committee later.)

 

 

 

 

Edited by Caryn Ann Harlos

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As I understand it and generally speaking--and I would guess someone will jump in if I am incorrect--any question regarding whether or not a practice allowed by the bylaws violates a fundamental principle of parliamentary law, as conceived in RONR , is not practically meaningful, considering, according to RONR itself, the bylaws supersede RONR as parliamentary authority in any case where the two conflict (RONR 11th, p. 16).

The presiding officer enforces the procedural rules during the meeting, interpreting them as s/he must, always with the option available to put the question to the committee/assembly over which s/he is presiding at the time the interpretation is needed, if it is needed; and understanding always there exists the possibility that a member might raise a point of order or appeal a decision of the chair (this all assumes there is no by-law stating otherwise). See RONR 11th pp. 449-450.

Whether or not the by-law needs to be amended is a matter for the assembly itself, and it should also be noted that "each society decides for itself the meaning of its by-laws" (p. 588); so, I would guess there is not a whole lot any of us here can help you with on this matter. Regardless, you might see if pp. 588-589 of RONR 11th is of any help. 

As for the scenario, I am still a bit unclear. Does Ms. Smith serve as both primary and alternate for the same committee?

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4 hours ago, Caryn Ann Harlos said:

So is this something that should be disallowed, and how without being unfair to Smith or the other States.  I am not sure it can, and thus it seems like there is an inherent irreconcilable conflict with Smith holding both roles even though the Bylaws don't say she can't (they don't say she can either).  It seems that Smith either has to choose a role before the vote begins or has to choose a role for the life of the committee and abandon the other.

I don’t think there is a clear answer in RONR on how to address this particular situation. There is not, in my view, a clear-cut “prohibited unless specified otherwise” or “allowed unless specified otherwise” rule for this situation. The reason is because having “alternates” in boards and committees is prohibited unless authorized by your bylaws, and voting by e-mail is also prohibited unless authorized by your bylaws. So if you have both, you are really in uncharted territory and it will be up to the organization to interpret its own rules.

Your argument seems perfectly reasonable, but I think a reasonable argument could also be made for the other side.

4 hours ago, Caryn Ann Harlos said:

What does absent mean in that Bylaw?  Can someone declare to be absent while the voting is taking place which then means they are not absent, they are clearly there to say they are absent, so that must mean some advance notice of absence before any voting starts.  If Smith votes as alternate for National, Smith is obviously present.  How then how could Jones vote count?

Frankly, I do not have the slightest idea what “absent” means in the context of an e-mail vote.

These rules seem excessively complicated and I do not think reading snippets of them over this forum will be sufficient to produce an educated opinion regarding what they mean. If you do wish for professional assistance in interpreting these rules, the National Association of Parliamentarians and the American Institute of Parliamentarians provide referrals.

In the end, as the chairman of this committee, you may have to make a ruling on this issue one way or the other. Such a ruling is subject to appeal.

In the long run, I suggest amending the bylaws to clarify this issue.

9 minutes ago, Setemu said:

As for the scenario, I am still a bit unclear. Does Ms. Smith serve as both primary and alternate for the same committee?

Based on this thread, and the previous thread on this subject, my understanding is that Mr. Smith is a member of the committee and, additionally, is an alternate on the same committee.

Edited by Josh Martin

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Based on this thread, and the previous thread on this subject, my understanding is that Mr. Smith is a member of the committee and, additionally, is an alternate on the same committee.

Yes.  As an appointee of two different bodies.  

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On 2/21/2018 at 1:54 AM, Caryn Ann Harlos said:

Organization A appoints Ms. Smith as its alternate and appoints 5 primary appointees.

Organization B appoints Ms. Smith as its primary appointee and Ms. Jones as its alternate.

If any one of Organization A's primary appointees do not attend a meeting, may Ms. Smith substitute in as an alternate and then Ms. Jones is the primary for Organization B.

Or does Ms. Smith have to decide which she is for the whole existence of the committee?

Based on the information given, I would say that Ms. Smith can accept both appointments. But she only gets one vote on the committee. Whenever Smith casts a vote, that means Jones cannot vote, since obviously Smith is present. Smith cannot simultaneously be present (as an alternate) and absent (as a primary).

If any of Organization A's primary appointees are absent and Smith is present, Smith can vote and Jones cannot.

And if all of Organization A's primary appointees are present and Smith is present, Smith can vote and Jones cannot.

If Smith is absent and Jones is present, then Jones can vote.

Edited by Shmuel Gerber
Edited a few times for different reasons

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55 minutes ago, Shmuel Gerber said:

Based on the information given, I would say that Ms. Smith can accept both appointments. But she only gets one vote on the committee. Whenever Smith casts a vote, that means Jones cannot vote, since obviously Smith is present. Smith cannot simultaneously be present (as an alternate) and absent (as a primary).

If any of Organization A's primary appointees are absent and Smith is present, Smith can vote and Jones cannot.

And if all of Organization A's primary appointees are present and Smith is present, Smith can vote and Jones cannot.

If Smith is absent and Jones is present, then Jones can vote.

I don’t think there is any question about the fact that Ms. Smith only has one vote, and I think there is general agreement that the situation would be straightforward in an in-person meeting, or in a teleconference or webconference.

The difficulty arises with the fact that the organization permits votes by e-mail. In that case, it is unclear who is “present” and who is “absent” for purposes of the alternate rule.

Edited by Josh Martin

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8 minutes ago, Josh Martin said:

The difficulty arises with the fact that the organization permits votes by e-mail. In that case, it is unclear who is “present” and who is “absent” for purposes of the alternate rule.

I'm not sure if that makes any difference in the context of the original question, but I think that the way to resolve it is that if a member says he is absent, we'll just have to take his word for it. :-)

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On 3/2/2018 at 10:31 AM, Caryn Ann Harlos said:

So ordinarily, if there was no dual appointment and Smith had nothing to do with National, if Jones voted first in that ten day window and Smith didn't, Smith's vote would stand.

Did you mean Jones's vote would stand?

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18 minutes ago, Shmuel Gerber said:
28 minutes ago, Josh Martin said:

The difficulty arises with the fact that the organization permits votes by e-mail. In that case, it is unclear who is “present” and who is “absent” for purposes of the alternate rule.

I'm not sure if that makes any difference in the context of the original question, but I think that the way to resolve it is that if a member says he is absent, we'll just have to take his word for it. :-)

Also, anyone who votes is present. And I think that anyone who states that he is present but not voting also needs to be taken at his word.

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On 3/2/2018 at 10:31 AM, Caryn Ann Harlos said:

Here is where the tactical voting advantage comes in with possible scenarios.

  • Smith votes first and states she is voting as the alternate for National.  Jones then also votes opposite to Smith which would count as the State X vote since Smith voted in her other role.  All five National primary appointees vote thus nullifying Smith's vote but there is time left in the ten day window.  Smith withdraws her vote as National alternate and re-votes as State X thus nullifying the vote from Jones that she didn't like.
  • Or Jones votes first.  Smith likes her vote.  So Smith votes as National alternate in the same way and hopes that one of the National primaries who would have voted opposite is absent and takes that gamble.  Either way Smith lost nothing, but gained a potential amplification of her choice that is not available to the other States.

Since no one is entitled to two votes, and since no alternate can vote when her corresponding primary appointee is "present," and since only those who are "present" can vote (and have their votes counted in the result), I don't think it matters in what role Smith claims she is voting -- unless she somehow wants to vote one way if representing the national organization and a different way if representing the state.

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Yes Shmuel that is the issue in a sense.  But I see everyone is finding the same issues I have.  The issues of absent and present are in play too since the Bylaw for email voting is terrible and uses absent in a different way than other bylaws with no express definition, so we have been taking it as an absent vote rather than an absent person.

Most definitely the bylaws should be amended ultimately.

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