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Committee questions


Guest concerned member

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Guest concerned member

I have a few questions about committees.

1. Does a committee chair have the authority to determine who sits on a committee?

2. When making decisions, who has the final say in regards to decisions - the committee or the chair?

There aren't any provisions in our bylaws regarding these questions.

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Guest concerned member

Then who determines who can serve on a committee, or, in this case, work on the project? Wouldn't the person in charge of the project have that authority?

I don't understand what you mean by the superior body. We are an organization which runs multiple projects throughout the year. Each project has a chairperson who is in charge of the project and that chairperson is approved by the membership. The chairperson presents a proposed business plan which is also approved by the membership. Larger projects also have multiple people who are in charge of smaller aspects of the project (for example: ticket sales, refreshments, publicity, etc) and those people report to the overall chairperson. There are always changes within projects as well as things the chairperson wants to implement since the project is his/her responsibility (for example: in a past project, the chairperson wanted to redesign the flyer). These changes are dealt with by the project chair and his/her committee; they never go back to the membership because they are not required to and it is not effective as the membership only meets once a month. There is a debate as to who has the final say in regards to decisions. Personally, I was taught the project chairperson is in charge. Other people argue that those who make up the sub-committees make the decisions and can override the project chairperson (note: these people don't want to give up control of the project unfortunately). My question is: why have a project chairperson if they don't matter?

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Then who determines who can serve on a committee, or, in this case, work on the project?

The general membership determines the membership of its committees, unless that authority has been delegated through the assembly's rules or by a motion.

Wouldn't the person in charge of the project have that authority?

Well, so far as RONR is concerned, the general membership is in charge.

These changes are dealt with by the project chair and his/her committee; they never go back to the membership because they are not required to and it is not effective as the membership only meets once a month.

The fact that the membership has delegated authority to the committee to take certain actions does not mean it has granted the committee (or its chairman) authority to determine the committee's membership.

There is a debate as to who has the final say in regards to decisions. Personally, I was taught the project chairperson is in charge. Other people argue that those who make up the sub-committees make the decisions and can override the project chairperson (note: these people don't want to give up control of the project unfortunately).

Generally speaking, the committee chairman reports to the committee, which reports to the general membership.

My question is: why have a project chairperson if they don't matter?

The fact that the committee chairman is not "the boss" does not mean he doesn't matter. The basic principle of decision-making in a deliberative assembly is majority vote. Committee chairmen are often the most vocal participants in a committee, but their leadership comes from their ability to persuade other members of the committee to agree with them. If your general membership wants to give more authority to the committee chairmen, it is free to do so, but that authority does not come from RONR. I'm not sure "committee" would even be the appropriate term if you have one person as "the boss" and other "members" as subordinates. A committee structure implies decision-making by majority vote.

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Then who determines who can serve on a committee, or, in this case, work on the project?

The body who created the created the committee.

Wouldn't the person in charge of the project have that authority?

No.

Committees don't work that way.

No individual is in charge.

The committee is empowered, not the committee chairman.

I don't understand what you mean by the superior body.

The body to whom the committee reports.

The body who instructed ("charged") the committee.

The body who appointed the committee chairman.

THAT is the superior body.

We are an organization which runs multiple projects throughout the year.

Each project has a chairperson who is in charge of the project and that chairperson is approved by the membership.

There you go. -- The membership is the superior body. The membership appoints members to the committee.

The chairperson presents a proposed business plan which is also approved by the membership.

"Approved by the membership"? -- There you go.

The membership is "in charge."

That answers your question.

The party who has FINAL APPROVAL is the superior party.

Larger projects also have multiple people who are in charge of smaller aspects of the project (for example: ticket sales, refreshments, publicity, etc) and those people report to the overall chairperson.

There are always changes within projects as well as things the chairperson wants to implement since the project is his/her responsibility (for example: in a past project, the chairperson wanted to redesign the flyer).

These changes are dealt with by the project chair and his/her committee; they never go back to the membership because they are not required to and it is not effective as the membership only meets once a month.

There is a debate as to who has the final say in regards to decisions.

That's easy. -- THE COMMITTEE has final say regarding committee fulfillment of its instruction from the general membership.

It isn't up to the chairman.

Personally, I was taught the project chairperson is in charge.

Ah! Then you were taught wrong.

Whoever taught you that knew nothing about Robert's Rules of Order.

The Book is clear.

Other people argue that those who make up the sub-committees make the decisions and can override the project chairperson (note: these people don't want to give up control of the project unfortunately).

Right.

The committee chairman has no power to make decisions.

My question is: why have a project chairperson if they don't matter?

Someone must call meetings.

Someone must call on speakers in a sane and rational order.

Someone must enforce correct parliamentary procedure.

This all falls on the chairman.

But you are right in one regard. -- Outside of a committee meeting, once he says, "we are adjourned," the chairman is useless and powerless.

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I have a few questions about committees.

1. Does a committee chair have the authority to determine who sits on a committee?

2. When making decisions, who has the final say in regards to decisions - the committee or the chair?

There aren't any provisions in our bylaws regarding these questions.

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This is an interesting conversation. Wouldn't the committee members just be in charge of their areas? I guess I see the point of the chairman being in charge. After all, it's his or her name on the project and they are in charge of the whole project whereas the others are only in charge of a small aspect. It sounds like it's different than a regular committee because it's a project rather than a standing or special committee. Is the membership involved once the chairman is approved?

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Guest concerned member

No. Once the membership has approved the chairman, the project is then entrusted to the care of the chairman. They do not vote on changes or how to proceed. The chairman is considered the "leader" of the project and it is a learning process for him or her to be in charge of the project. Everyone else is just in charge of micro-areas and the chairman is in charge of everything. All of the people report to him or her.

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No. Once the membership has approved the chairman, the project is then entrusted to the care of the chairman. They do not vote on changes or how to proceed. The chairman is considered the "leader" of the project and it is a learning process for him or her to be in charge of the project. Everyone else is just in charge of micro-areas and the chairman is in charge of everything. All of the people report to him or her.

Well, this doesn't sound like it's a committee in the sense that RONR uses the word. Maybe it's more like a task force or, more simply, a project with a project manager, not a committee with a committee chair.

So your questions aren't really about committees, they're about your project.

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No. Once the membership has approved the chairman, the project is then entrusted to the care of the chairman. They do not vote on changes or how to proceed. The chairman is considered the "leader" of the project and it is a learning process for him or her to be in charge of the project. Everyone else is just in charge of micro-areas and the chairman is in charge of everything. All of the people report to him or her.

Ah!

Then you don't have a committee structure at all.

Then what you really have is a committee-of-one.

One person is in charge.

From him, he delegates authority per his own will.

This is more of a boss-employee relationship than a parliamentary committee relationship.

• In a committee, all members are equal.

• In your structure, all members are not equal.

• In a committee, the majority vote is the sole voice.

• In your structure, the single-man-boss is the sole voice.

That being the case . . .

Do you have a question about Robert's Rules of Order?

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Well, this doesn't sound like it's a committee in the sense that RONR uses the word. Maybe it's more like a task force or, more simply, a project with a project manager, not a committee with a committee chair.

So your questions aren't really about committees, they're about your project.

Well, it sounds a lot like a committee with power, which is tasked with carrying out a particular act, and empowered to do so without further approval from the parent body. The committee structure could very well apply in this case. The only difference is that that instead of reporting back what it wants to do, for approval, it reports back what it did.

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Well, it sounds a lot like a committee with power, which is tasked with carrying out a particular act, and empowered to do so without further approval from the parent body. The committee structure could very well apply in this case. The only difference is that that instead of reporting back what it wants to do, for approval, it reports back what it did.

If that was the only thing that was unusual about these committees the discussion would have been over much sooner. :)

I agree with Mr. Goldsworthy that the structure the poster is describing is more of a "committee of one" with other people reporting to this individual. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that. Whether that is in fact the structure the assembly has established or whether the chairmen simply have an inflated sense of their own importance will have to be resolved by reviewing the rules of the assembly and any motions regarding the "committees."

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