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Not-for-Profit Entity


Guest Samuel

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I am a member of a not-for-profit entity. Recently, the man who is both the President and Chair of the Board drafted a letter to me and got Board approval to send it to me. The letter accuses me of serious misconduct, threatening me with expulsion, and sets a date for a trial of me before the Board which will decide if I am guilty. The President/Chair -- my principal accuser -- intends to preside over the trial.

The entity has only bare bones By-Laws -- 4 1/2 pages -- but incorporates by reference Robert's Rules to fill in the numerous blanks. None of the questions I am now going to pose to you is even remotely addressed by the By-Laws so that Robert's is the only source of procedure here. The Questions are:

1. I thought that the President/Chair was supposed to be completely neutral in all disputes -- like disciplinary proceedings -- between the entity and a Member. Is this right?

2. Can the President/Chair be the complaining party and then run and participate, presenting evidence, make arguments at the trial before the Board?

3. Can Board Members who approved the letter to me described above accusing me of misconduct now sit as the "jury" at my trial?

4. Can the President vote at my trial on whether to expel me? Can the Board Members who "indicted me"?

5. Since the By-Laws are silent on this subject, is my trial supposed to be before the Board or the membership? There is no provision of the By-Laws in which the membership has delegated its right to decide discipline/expulsion.

I have a copy of the Roberts 10th Edition Revised which I bought about two years ago. I assume it is still correct, and therefore, in answering the question posed above, could you cite to sections/pages of Roberts in your answer?

Thanks very much for your help. My "trial" is in 2 days so I'd appreciate very much your quickest response.

Sincerely,

Samuel D. Rosen

jahchristina@bellsouth.net

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If the bylaws indeed have no provisions regarding to discipline then the Board has no authority to hold a trial or discipline you in any way. The proper body to hold a trial would be the General Membership and they would have to hold a full fledged trial with the appointment of an investigation committee, the Committee making its report to the Membership, charges being preferred against you, a trial being held, and if found guilty deciding what punishment to impose. You referenced the 10th Edition of RONR but since September of 2011 we are now on the 11th so unless the bylaws specifically say that your parliamentary authority is the 10th Edition you first need to get to a library and get a copy of the 11th Edition and then read RONR pp. 654-668. Regarding your questions my answers are according to RONR/11.

1) The presiding officer should stay impartial and if he finds it absolutely necessary to become partial he should turn over the Chair to the VP or a Chair pro tem (RONR pp. 394-395).

Questions 2-5 should be answered by pp. 654-668.

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I'll also throw in that the Board only has the authority that the bylaws give it (RONR p. 482 ll. 25-29).

All that being said going to the meeting with bylaws and RONR in hand and all the sudden saying "RONR says you can't hold this trial or do anything to me" is likely to go over like a lead balloon and they probably will do what they are going to do anyway. So you should do some quick legwork before the trial and see if you have any allies on the Board who will be willing to back you up or at least want to have whatever happens be legitimately done. Also, you should get a bunch of allies on the General Membership or those who believe in fair play to take up your cause at a GM meeting in case the Board holds the trial anyway. They can raise a RONR p. 251(a) Point of Order that whatever the Board did to you is null and void because they didn't have the authority to do it (citing the pages I gave you).

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1. I thought that the President/Chair was supposed to be completely neutral in all disputes -- like disciplinary proceedings -- between the entity and a Member. Is this right?

The chair should maintain the appearance of impartiality while presiding (RONR, 11th ed., pgs. 394-395).

2. Can the President/Chair be the complaining party and then run and participate, presenting evidence, make arguments at the trial before the Board?

The chair should not make motions or speak in debate while presiding (RONR, 11th ed., pgs. 394-395).

3. Can Board Members who approved the letter to me described above accusing me of misconduct now sit as the "jury" at my trial?

Yes. Or part of the "jury," anyway (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 3, lines 1-9).

4. Can the President vote at my trial on whether to expel me? Can the Board Members who "indicted me"?

Yes to both questions (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 3, lines 1-9). There may be reasons why they should not vote. The chair should only vote if his vote would make a difference or if the vote is taken by ballot (RONR, 11th ed., pgs. 405-406). Also, members should not vote if they have a personal or pecuniary interest not in common with other members (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 407, lines 21-31).

5. Since the By-Laws are silent on this subject, is my trial supposed to be before the Board or the membership?

The membership, unless the membership appoints a trial committee (RONR, 11th ed., pgs. 658-663). The membership could vote to have the board serve as the trial committee.

But if your Bylaws are silent on discipline, this is all jumping the gun a bit. The first step in the formal disciplinary process in RONR is for the membership to appoint an investigative committee (RONR, 11th ed., pgs. 656-658).

I have a copy of the Roberts 10th Edition Revised which I bought about two years ago. I assume it is still correct, and therefore, in answering the question posed above, could you cite to sections/pages of Roberts in your answer?

I don't have my copy of the 10th anymore, unfortunately. The 11th is the current edition. The rules for formal disciplinary procedures haven't changed much, though, and they'll be near the very end of the book. I'd recommend reading them in their entirety, since there are some important things that you didn't even ask about (like the investigative committee I mentioned). If you pick up the new edition (which should be beneficial in the long run), the rules for formal disciplinary procedures are in RONR, 11th ed., pgs. 654-669.

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I don't have my copy of the 10th anymore, unfortunately.

Surely you're not going to leave us hanging.

I'm already imagining a late-night mugging on the way home from a too-long meeting. Was it the notorious Demeter gang? The Sturgis boys? An inquorate assembly of gavel-wielding jackals?

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Surely you're not going to leave us hanging.

I'm already imagining a late-night mugging on the way home from a too-long meeting. Was it the notorious Demeter gang? The Sturgis boys? An inquorate assembly of gavel-wielding jackals?

Nothing so dramatic. I assume it got lost in the shuffle when I moved.

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