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Carolyn

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  1. I'm looking for help understanding whether a bylaw rule can be suspended where the chair claims that it is a 'rule of order.' The rule in question keeps a staff member from speaking unless the deliberative assembly moves to hear from that person. It is intended to keep a very firm distinction between the administrative aspects of the organization and the governance/political side. The rule has now been suspended more than once at meetings of our Council with the Speaker claiming that it can be suspended as it is a 'rule of order.' He claims it can be suspended meeting after meeting until the bylaws are changed. My view is that no bylaw rule can be suspended. We have a membership of over 4,000 members. The deliberative assembly in question has about 50 elected members. In my view, those 50 members need to adhere to the rules approved by the 4,000. Help, please! Can this particular rule be suspended or not?
  2. Thank you, Richard and J.J., for addressing the claim the parliamentarian's claim that censure is a disciplinary action and the Council has no authority to disciipline. And thank you for the references, J.J. including the article in Parliamentary Journal. I will review these.
  3. Thanks, Guest, Richard, and Guest Zev. Yes, the bylaws assign specific duties to the president, but in regard to communications only with external parties (principally, the media). At any rate, the parliamentarian should, in my view, have noted that the question ought to be divided rather than attempt to rule the motion entirely out of order. Richard, thanks very much for providing the reference to the Temporary Presiding Officer. The Vice-President in this scenario very much objected to what was occurring. It is also useful to hear that the assembly should have formally voted to suspend the rules in order for the parliamentarian to preside. Two-thirds would not have voted for the suspension of the rules—and as I noted the parliamentarian very pointedly claimed that as "a majority" had allowed him to chair he was rightfully in the chair. Since our rules had not been suspended, he was clearly in the wrong. Thanks for helping me understand that.
  4. Hi, All. I was very grateful with help I received from those on this Forum back in the Fall and write again in search of further assistance! The issue this time: the procedures for a motion of censure. The situation I'm attempting to address, in rough, is this. At the last meeting of our Council, a member brought a motion to censure the President for a communication to members that contradicted the expressed will of the Council. At the beginning of the meeting, Council was asked to approve a parliamentarian to assist the President with the conduct of the meeting. This in and of itself is not unusual. In fact, Councillors had argued for the need for a parliamentarian in the hope that this would mean our meetings were run in good order. The parliamentarian in question for this meeting was not our usual parliamentarian. We finally reached the motion of censure very late in the meeting. At this juncture, the President asked for someone to move that the parliamentarian chair the discussion of the censure motion. I objected, as did the Vice-President. The President ignored all objections, kept calling for someone to move the motion in question, declaring that if we would not move that the Parliamentarian chair the discussion of the motion of censure against her *she* would chair the discussion. By a narrow margin, Councillors approved having the Parliamentarian in the chair. In my view this meant that we had in the "chair" a Parliamentarian who had willingly approved of a breach of the rules to put him in the chair. I would greatly appreciate hearing more informed views than mine on whether my view is correct. The Parliamentarian then read out the motion of censure, let the mover speak to the motion, and then promptly ruled the motion out of order. He ruled it out of order on more than one basis including that our Council has no authority to take any disciplinary action against a Presiding Officer and a motion of censure is a disciplinary action. He also ruled it out of order on the basis that the mover was proposing a penalty (that the Vice-President rather than the President send out communications to the membership). At this juncture, the mover read from Robert's Rules claiming that it was a breach of the rules for the Parliamentarian to be in the chair. Shockingly to me, he asserted that the as a majority had agreed to the breach the breach was fine. On the basis of advice that I had received from this Forum in the Fall I then moved an appeal of the decision of the "chair." The Parliamentarian-as-chair's ruling that the motion was out of order was DEFEATED, and we proceeded to debate on the motion of censure. My position, as I say, that the parliamentarian should never have been permitted to chair the discussion, and I seek guidance on this matter. When, in the course of my appeal of the decision of the chair, I aired my view that the Parliament should never have been in the chair he claimed to be the "presiding officer." I informed him that he was not the presiding officer — he had not been elected to office in the Association. After about 45 minutes of debate on the motion of censure, someone moved a postponement. The matter is to be addressed again at our next Council meeting this Thursday. I assume that we will once again be asked to put this Parliamentarian back into the "chair" for the continuing discussion. This should not, in my view, be allowed. I would therefore be very grateful to hear: 1. Whether a Parliamentarian can chair a motion of censure. Shouldn't such a discussion be chaired by the next highest presiding officer, in this case, the Vice-President? 2. If the Parliamentarian cannot or should not chair the motion, how does our Council ensure that this Parliamentarian cannot be put into the chair for the continuing discussion? I very much look forward to receiving advice from participants in this invaluable Forum! Thank you, Carolyn
  5. Yes, thanks, Richard — I know that now, and have used that measure. I'm just trying to think through something that happened at an earlier meeting.
  6. Thank you, Josh. So everything comes back to whether there could be two reasonable opinions on the question.
  7. I find I have another question! This one is straightforward. Are there any conditions in which an appeal of a decision of the chair can be deemed "dilatory" by the chair and thus not permitted? Or to put it slightly differently, are there any conditions in which a chair can refuse to hear an appeal of his or her decision on the basis that the appeal is "dilatory"? Doesn't an appeal of a decision of the chair that is seconded always have to end in a vote by the body on the chair's ruling? Looking forward to hearing views on this!
  8. My feeling at that juncture in the meeting was definitely that it was simply better to put someone else into the chair for the meeting. I am confident now — on the basis of the advice offered here — of our Executive's right to do that. I am also clear now that we could have formally continued to meet, as I had moved the suspension of the rules to put someone else into the chair. Lesson learned! Sadly, our current bylaws have no provisions for special meetings — but our new bylaws do. So here's hoping we can get the new bylaws through! Thank you again to you all for your advice, which is invaluable.
  9. Thank you to you all. This is all so helpful. Given your various assurances, I'd like to ask a follow-up question. In my own skimming of the 11th edition, I can't find anything that provides guidance to an Executive such as ours when such an event happens. It's as if RR presumes the efficacy of the rules, and doesn't presume that a meeting could possibly go so off the rails as our did. Clearly, if we had understood something simple — that the chair could not simply walk out, declaring the meeting adjourned — we could have continued the meeting and made it through the business on the agenda. None of us walked out, by the way. We worked together for over two hours, discussing various issues, but we didn't understand that we were free to continue the meeting with the Vice-President in the chair and conduct business. As you can imagine, one of the questions we are asking is, What now? How do we get the business of our Executive done? As she walked out, having declared the meeting adjourned, the Chair also declared that we could conduct no business. She, we were told, would take all the decisions in regard to the "Action" items on her own. This is, of course, entirely unacceptable. Are there any protocols in RR to support us resuming the meeting at another date and time, given that it was improperly adjourned, so that we can get the work of our Executive done by way of proper democratic decision-making?
  10. Thanks so much, Josh. The motion ruled to be "dilatory" was in regard to having the meetings of our larger body, our Council, run by a parliamentarian. This is what we have done for the last two years, under a motion passed by our Council. (Council is the organization's policy-making body.) The motion in question was, I thought, very carefully phrased so that it in effect simply asked the organization's current President to respect the expressed wishes of Council in the two-year-old motion though it made no direct reference to the earlier motion/existing policy. The allegedly "dilatory" motion reads as follows: That the XXXXXX Executive Committee requests the President of XXXXXXX respect the expressed wishes of Council and delegate XXX authority to chair the next council meeting to a parliamentarian or other appropriately qualified speaker. The motion passed by Council two years ago was simply a one-liner that specified that our Council meetings are to be chaired by a Parliamentarian. The motion currently in controversy and declared "dilatory" was about the next meeting of Council only as that meeting Council will debate and vote on a new set of bylaws for the organization that have been in the works for two years. Strictly speaking, a body shouldn't (in my view) have to call for a renewal of an existing policy in this way, but the President takes the position that the bylaws give the Persident the authority to chair meetings of our Council (the language of the bylaws is that the President "presides" over meetings of Council) and that no policy can require delegation of this authority. The mover insisted that the language of the motion was one of request. The concern is not so much with who is right or wrong on this particular question, but with the disallowing of consideration of the question by Executive. The members of our Executive overwhelmingly felt that we ought to be able to issue the request for the respecting of the expressed wishes of Council. It's the overriding of the authority of our Executive that is the principal concern here. The situation was further complicated for us by the declaration that in the face of our appeal of the decision of the chair the President intended simply to adjourn the meeting. It seemed entirely wrong to the Executive that faced with an appeal of the decision of the chair the President could simply bring the meeting (which had barely begun) to an abrupt close. In face of this startling claim I moved the suspension of the rules in regard to the chairing of the meeting. The President then declared non-acceptance of the motion to Suspend the Rules and declared the meeting adjourned. I read from Robert's Rules the bit about the "maker" being able to take the vote if the chair refused to hear such a motion. The President again declared the meeting adjourned, informed us we could not conduct any business, and left the room. Clearly we have a political situation with which we have to detail, but we are seeking to understand whether our views about what happened in terms of process are fair as we reflect further on the events of the meeting and decide on a course of action. My own feeling is that the character of the motion aside, in the face of the threat simply to adjourn the meeting we were free (and indeed needed) to move a Suspension of the Rules to put someone else into the chair. I agree that it wouldn't necessarily have needed to be the next highest-ranking officer but that's what I moved. Thanks so much for your input so far. I'll be very grateful for any further input.
  11. I would be very grateful for input on the following. My question is four-fold. When a chair unilaterally attempts to rule a motion out of order on the basis that it is "dilatory," does the assembly have the authority to decide whether the purportedly "dilatory" motion can be heard? It seems to me the mechanism for this is an appeal of the decision of the chair. Would you agree? When a chair refuses to hear an appeal of the decision of the chair in such a matter, it seems to me that the majority must have a means for asserting the will of the majority to safeguard its democratic processes. RR appears to provide for such a mechanism in the motion to Suspend the Rules to permit the next highest-ranking officer to take over the chairing of the meeting, if 2/3rds agree that is what should happen. Would you agree? It also seems to me that the Rules are very clear on what should then happen: if the chair refuses to hear the motion on the Suspension of the Rules, the "maker" of that motion gets to take the vote on the question. This seems essential to the democracy of an assembly, which cannot have a chair permitted to execute three unilateral decisions in a row without the majority having the means to express its will. And so this question is, where a chair refuses to entertain a motion to Suspend the Rules to put someone else into the chair, does the mover or maker of the Suspension have the authority to call to the assembly to know whether two-thirds of its members are in support of the suspension? Final question: surely the chair does NOT have the authority in the face of such developments, simply to declare the meeting ADJOURNED and leave the room? That in effect gives the chair unrestrained authority to refuse to hear from and honour the will of the assembly. Very much looking forward to hearing input on these matters! Thank you for your time.
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