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Mary Ahern

Pariamentarian Response to Point of Order was Incorrect

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During our monthly Delegate Assembly I raised a Point of Order when a motion was made and the Chair explained to new Delegates that once a motion is made and seconded it requires two-thirds to be added to this month's agenda or a majority in order to be added to next month's agenda.  My Point of Order was that handling motions in this manner is in conflict with RONR and it is not written in the Constitution/By-laws. My understanding of a handling of a new motion according to RONR is that the motion is made, seconded, the chair states the question and then debate begins.  (I had given the Parliamentarian and the Secretary a "heads up" prior to the start of the meeting by informing them that I would be calling for a Point of Order as I believe that the requirement of 2/3s or majority in order to add it to the agenda severely limits members' voice.)

 

Since this has been the way motions have been handled for the three years I've been a Delegate (and possibly for the 50+ years the organization (union) has been in existence), I also cited page 19, "Custom" which states that if a custom is in conflict with the parliamentary authority or written rule and a Point of Order is raised citing the conflict that the custom "falls to the ground" and the conflicting provision in the parliamentarian authority (RONR according to Constitution/By-laws) or written rule must thereafter be complied with.

 

The Chair asked the Parliamentarian to come to the microphone.  The Parliamentarian cited a clause in the by-laws which stated "A membership meeting shall discuss only those matters for which it was convened."  Chair accepted Parliamentarian's explanation, adding, "But it was a good question."

 

There wasn't time for me to respond so I let it go but afterwards I again reviewed the Constitution/By-laws and found that the section the Parliamentarian cited was for "Membership Meetings" which is a special meeting called for a distinct purpose -- that is NOT the same as the monthly Delegate Assembly.  I sent an email to the Chair and Secretary when I returned home that evening, providing them with this additional information but have not received a response.

 

What's my next step?  Should I discuss it with the Parliamentarian prior to the start of next month's Delegate Assembly and ask that he bring it up with the Chair or should I call Point of Order again at the next DA?  Would I call it at the beginning of the meeting when the Chair/President is giving his address or wait until it's time for new business?

 

Thank you for any assistance/advice you may be able to provide.

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There is certainly no reason why you should not discuss this with the Parliamentarian prior to the start of your next month's Delegate Assembly.


 


It would not be in order to raise a Point of Order concerning this matter at the beginning of the meeting when the Chair or President is giving his address. You can, and in this case should, raise a point of order at the time when such a breach of the rules occurs (whenever the chair fails to state the question on a motion which has been properly made and seconded at a time when the motion is in order in the then existing parliamentary situation). 

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Thank you all for your replies.

 

Here's some additional information.  

 

Delegates receive a "letter" prior to the meeting which includes information on meeting date, time, number of delegates, agenda, special orders of business and at the bottom of the first page, this:

 

RULES OF ORDER:

1.  TO PLACE AN ITEM ON THE AGEND OF THE CURRENT MEETING -- A motion to suspend the rules is required.  IT IS NOT DEBATABLE and needs a 2/3 vote to carry.

2.  TO PLACE AN ITEM ON THE AGENDA OF THE NEXT MEETING -- A delegate may move to place an item on the agenda at the end of the question period.  One speaker is allowed on each side; a majority vote is required.

3.  INTRODUCTION OF MOTIONS IN EITHER OF THE ABOVE CASES -- A motion to add an item to the agenda of either the current or a subsequent meeting and which is more than 3 sentences long will be entertained only if the motion is written and distributed to the delegates.

4.  DISTRIBUTION OF LITERATURE -- ANY MEMBER (or group) may distribute literature at the door or before the beginning of the meeting, provided it conforms to the rules of propriety as defined in Roberts' Rules.

5.  ADJOURNMENT -- A motion to adjourn is automatically placed before the body at 6:00 p.m.

Are these Rules of Order in effect because they are on the "agenda" even though the agenda is never approved?   These Rules of Order state that a motion to suspend rules is required but my Point of Order to the chair/parliamentarian was to point out that these rules are not written in the bylaws and they seem to contradict RONR.  Are they valid for the current session because they are written on the agenda?  Are they debatable?  Amendable?

 

Any additional advice or information is appreciated.  Thank you

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Would these special rules of order need to be adopted by the assembly at each session?    Does the fact that they are not adopted at the beginning of the session mean that they are not in effect during that session and a Point of Order is valid if the Chair doesn't state the question on a motion which is moved and seconded in accordance with RONR?

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Guest Nancy N.

Would these special rules of order need to be adopted by the assembly at each session?   

 

No, special rules are in effect until rescinded or amended (in which latter case, they are then in effect as amended).  See the astonishingly understated second footnote on p. 111.

 

  Does the fact that they are not adopted at the beginning of the session mean that they are not in effect during that session...?

 

They are in effect as of the moment they are adopted (unless they are adopted with an explicit proviso saying when they will take effect).  (Incidentally, should the daffy question come up, I don't think a proviso is legitimate that says that the rules can take effect before they were adopted.)

 

... and a Point of Order is valid if the Chair doesn't state the question on a motion which is moved and seconded in accordance with RONR?

 

Yes, it is valid, unless the proposed motion is out of order for some other reason than not being in accordance with RONR.  Raising a point of order is the way a member calls attention to a violation of the rules, yes?

 

But I must say I don't understand maybe the basis of this issue.  Mary, you did read FAQ #14, as HIeu advised you in Post #2?  If all that happens about an agenda for the meeting is that it is part of the meeting notice, then it is not binding on the meeting at all -- it is just a scrap of paper, an informal, personal memorandum for the chair to have an idea of what might be due to come up.  The same goes for these "rules of order" at the bottom of the letter:  if not adopted, they are scrap paper.

 

(This presumes that there are not in place any already-adopted special rules, or statutes that apply to your union's meetings, or, for that matter, any kind of applicable rules.)

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Would these special rules of order need to be adopted by the assembly at each session?    Does the fact that they are not adopted at the beginning of the session mean that they are not in effect during that session and a Point of Order is valid if the Chair doesn't state the question on a motion which is moved and seconded in accordance with RONR?

 

 

They are in effect as of the moment they are adopted (unless they are adopted with an explicit proviso saying when they will take effect).  (Incidentally, should the daffy question come up, I don't think a proviso is legitimate that says that the rules can take effect before they were adopted.)

 

I think Mary is mainly concerned with whether the rules must be adopted at each session before they can affect that session, not with whether can take effect retroactively. The answer is that special rules of order can be adopted on a permanent basis and do not need to be readopted at each session. Although such special rules should be printed in the same booklet with the bylaws, there are any number of reasons this might not have happened; and, in any event, they are not, and do not need to be, part of the bylaws themselves.

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Thank you all for your replies.

 

Here's some additional information.  

 

Delegates receive a "letter" prior to the meeting which includes information on meeting date, time, number of delegates, agenda, special orders of business and at the bottom of the first page, this:

 

RULES OF ORDER:

1.  TO PLACE AN ITEM ON THE AGEND OF THE CURRENT MEETING -- A motion to suspend the rules is required.  IT IS NOT DEBATABLE and needs a 2/3 vote to carry.

2.  TO PLACE AN ITEM ON THE AGENDA OF THE NEXT MEETING -- A delegate may move to place an item on the agenda at the end of the question period.  One speaker is allowed on each side; a majority vote is required.

3.  INTRODUCTION OF MOTIONS IN EITHER OF THE ABOVE CASES -- A motion to add an item to the agenda of either the current or a subsequent meeting and which is more than 3 sentences long will be entertained only if the motion is written and distributed to the delegates.

4.  DISTRIBUTION OF LITERATURE -- ANY MEMBER (or group) may distribute literature at the door or before the beginning of the meeting, provided it conforms to the rules of propriety as defined in Roberts' Rules.

5.  ADJOURNMENT -- A motion to adjourn is automatically placed before the body at 6:00 p.m.

Are these Rules of Order in effect because they are on the "agenda" even though the agenda is never approved?   These Rules of Order state that a motion to suspend rules is required but my Point of Order to the chair/parliamentarian was to point out that these rules are not written in the bylaws and they seem to contradict RONR.  Are they valid for the current session because they are written on the agenda?  Are they debatable?  Amendable?

 

If these rules have not been adopted, they are not valid. Simply writing them on the agenda is not sufficient (except for the last one - see below). A motion to adopt a special rule of order is debatable and amendable and requires a 2/3 vote with notice or a vote of a majority of the entire membership for adoption. Since the letter you describe (meeting date, time, etc.) sounds like the "call" of the meeting, this constitutes notice.

 

The first three of these rules are clearly in the nature of special rules of order, but the last two are a bit different. The fourth rule is in the nature of a standing rule, which may be adopted by a majority vote without notice. The last rule is just a prescheduled time for adjournment, which is already permitted in RONR. The assembly may adopt a prescheduled time for adjournment as part of its agenda. When that time is reached, the chair declares the meeting adourned unless the assembly, by a 2/3 vote, decides to continue the meeting past the scheduled time for adjournment. The motion to adopt the agenda requires a majority vote. (I suppose it would be a special rule of order if they wanted this to be permanent, rather than including it on each agenda).

 

Motions to adopt special rules of order, standing rules, and agendas are all debatable and amendable.

 

Would these special rules of order need to be adopted by the assembly at each session?    Does the fact that they are not adopted at the beginning of the session mean that they are not in effect during that session and a Point of Order is valid if the Chair doesn't state the question on a motion which is moved and seconded in accordance with RONR?

 

When a special rule of order (or a standing rule) has been properly adopted, it takes effect immediately (even during the middle of a session) and is in effect until it is rescinded or amended. It does not need to be adopted again at each session. If the rules have not been adopted at all, then a Point of Order would certainly be valid if the chair doesn't state the question on a motion which is moved and seconded in accordance with RONR.

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Thank you all for trying to help me figure this out.

 

Mr. Honemann is correct, I do not know when or if these special Rules of Order were adopted.  I have been a delegate for 3+ years and the rule requiring 2/3 vote for a motion to be placed on this month's agenda or majority for next month's (as well as the requirement for copying and distributing the motion if over 3 lines) has been in place since then and probably for many years prior.  It wasn't until recently that I realized that these rules seem to be not only in conflict with RONR for handling a motion but that they seem to be in conflict with the fundamental principles underlying parliamentary procedure.  "Ultimately, it is the majority taking part in the assembly who decide the general will, but only following upon the opportunity for a deliberative process of full and free discussion." RONR 11th, pg. li

 

Another point to consider is that many of the delegates have signed what some call a "loyalty oath" and others refer to as "cabinet rule" which basically says delegates who are members of the major caucus (which has been in power for 50+ years) must vote according to what caucus leaders tell them.   It seem to me that these special Rules of Order are being used to squash the voice of members with dissenting opinions rather than to allow for an effective Delegate Assembly.  I'm not a member of any particular caucus, but I have a problem with this and I want the Delegate Assembly (DA) to respects the rights of not only the majority but also the minority and individual members.  I want to hear what others with differing viewpoints have to say and I don't believe there should be so many restrictions on others' right to be heard.  That is the reason I am taking an online course on Parliamentary Procedure, raising Points of Order, and posting my questions here.  

 

As I stated in my original post, I raised a Point of Order at last month's DA because these special Rules or Order are not written in the bylaws (dated January 2015) and I believe they are in conflict with the parliamentary authority RONR. I cited RONR (11th ed.), p.19 "Custom" and stated that if this customary practice was in conflict with the parliamentary authority or written rule that it should "fall to the ground" and the written rule must thereafter be complied with.  As I mentioned in my original post, the Chair/President called the Parliamentarian to the microphone and he cited the section of the bylaws which I later found was incorrect as that section pertains to "membership meetings" not the Delegate Assembly.  He did not cite special Rules of Order.

 

I have until November 12th to determine what my next steps should be.  Thank you for your assistance.

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To be perfectly prepared, you will need to review the minutes (perhaps many, many minutes) to find out if and when these special rules where enacted and exactly what they prescribe. Alternately, you can defend a point of order or appeal by claiming that the rules exist nowhere in the records of the organization — that should put the burden on the chair to provide a citation.

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OK, so an agenda that's not adopted is just a "scrap of paper". 

 

Now, I want to take it a step further.  If the meeting notice including the proposed agenda is distributed but the agenda is not adopted (not voted on), can one still make a Call for the Orders of the Day if the time for an item on the unapproved/not adopted agenda has passed?

 

The reason I ask is that the meeting notice distributed to delegates includes:

 

"The agenda will be as follows:

 

Announcments

President's Report

Staff Director's Report

Question Period (15 minutes)

Motions directed to the agenda (10 minutes)"

 

As I previously stated, on the bottom of the meeting notice under "RULES OF ORDER:"  the last item is "5. ADJOURNMENT -- A motion to adjourn is automatically placed before the body at 6:00 p.m." 

 

There are no number of minutes assigned to the first three items, only to the last two.  If the motion period (assigned 10 minutes according to the non-approved agenda) doesn't begin by 5:50 p.m. then would a Call for the Orders of the Day be in order (or at 5:35 p.m. if the question period hasn't begun by then)?

 

At the last Delegate Assembly the President's Report, went on until nearly 5:50 PM, which, obviously, did not leave enough time for the full time assigned to the last two items on the (non-approved) agenda.

 

Would a Call for the Orders of the Day in any way ​legitimize the non-approved agenda?  Because I'm not quite sure I want to do that (as I don't want to legitimize the RULES OF ORDER on the bottom of the agenda as I still plan on calling a Point of Order when a motion is seconded but not stated by the chair), but I also want to find some way to ensure that there are at least 10 minutes remaining for motions before the 6:00 p.m. time to adjourn.

If a Call for the Orders of the Day IS in order and will not legitimize the RULES OF ORDER at the bottom of the non-approved Agenda, I just want to confirm that it would be in order when another has the floor (If either the President or the Staff Director are giving their reports at 5:35 p.m. or if the President is still answering questions at 5:50 p.m.).

 

Thank you.  I really appreciate this forum btw. :)

Edited by Mary Ahern

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To be perfectly prepared, you will need to review the minutes (perhaps many, many minutes) to find out if and when these special rules where enacted and exactly what they prescribe. Alternately, you can defend a point of order or appeal by claiming that the rules exist nowhere in the records of the organization — that should put the burden on the chair to provide a citation.

 

Thank you.  I believe claiming that the "rules exist nowhere in the records of the organization" would be preferable to reviewing 55 years worth of minutes. :wacko:

 

The organization's constitution states: "Roberts' Rules of Order, Newly Revised, shall govern the conduct of all meetings of all bodies, except where otherwise provided in this constitution or in the by-laws." So I think I'm on solid footing.

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Now, I want to take it a step further.  If the meeting notice including the proposed agenda is distributed but the agenda is not adopted (not voted on), can one still make a Call for the Orders of the Day if the time for an item on the unapproved/not adopted agenda has passed?

 

No. An agenda is not binding unless adopted.

 

As I previously stated, on the bottom of the meeting notice under "RULES OF ORDER:"  the last item is "5. ADJOURNMENT -- A motion to adjourn is automatically placed before the body at 6:00 p.m." 

 

There are no number of minutes assigned to the first three items, only to the last two.  If the motion period (assigned 10 minutes according to the non-approved agenda) doesn't begin by 5:50 p.m. then would a Call for the Orders of the Day be in order (or at 5:35 p.m. if the question period hasn't begun by then)?

 

No.

 

Would a Call for the Orders of the Day in any way ​legitimize the non-approved agenda?

 

No.

 

Because I'm not quite sure I want to do that (as I don't want to legitimize the RULES OF ORDER on the bottom of the agenda as I still plan on calling a Point of Order when a motion is seconded but not stated by the chair), but I also want to find some way to ensure that there is at least 10 minutes remaining for motions before the 6:00 p.m. time to adjourn.

 

Several things to note. If the agenda is not adopted, then the meeting will not automatically adjourn at 6:00 PM. A member would need to move to Adjourn at that time. Secondly, adopting the agenda will in no way legitimize the rules of order, as you can't adopt rules of order by placing them on an agenda. They would need to be adopted separately.

 

If you want to ensure that there is at least 10 minutes remaining for motions, I would adopt an agenda, and I would amend it to provide specific times for the items you wish to ensure there is time for. I don't think it's clear that the item for motions, as written, is meant to ensure that there will be at least ten minutes for motions - it might be to ensure that there's no more than ten minutes for motions. That is, it may well be intended that people are out of luck if the meeting is over before then.

 

So your proposed modified agenda might look like this:

 

Announcements

President's Report

Staff Director's Report

5:35 PM Question Period

5:50 PM New Business

6:00 PM Adjournment

 

You could also change those times further. Ten minutes seems awfully short for motions to me. You could even put specific motions on the agenda before New Business, to ensure those are handled first - otherwise, if someone else beats you to the punch in New Business, and handling their motion takes all of the available time, you're out of luck. If you do this, though, don't put a specific time for New Business. Majority rules. Ultimately, the assembly, not the chairman, will decide what agenda to adopt (if any).

 

 

If a Call for the Orders of the Day IS in order and will not legitimize the RULES OF ORDER at the bottom of the non-approved Agenda, I just want to confirm that it would be in order when another has the floor (If either the President or the Staff Director are giving their reports at 5:35 p.m. or if the President is still answering questions at 5:50 p.m.).

 

It's not in order, and it doesn't legitimize anything. If you actually adopt the agenda with specific times (which still doesn't legitimize the rules of order, which are separate), then a Call for the Orders of the Day is in order, and it can interrupt a speaker.

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Thank you Josh Martin.  Your response is very helpful.

 

After giving it some more thought, what I think I'll do is approach the Parliamentarian and the Secretary prior to the start of the meeting and point out that unless the agenda is adopted there is no fixed time to adjourn.  Maybe that will be the incentive they'll need in order to bring it up to the Chair/President and have the agenda adopted (because nobody likes the meetings to go past 6 p.m -- well, I do because when I leave at 6 p.m. I'm stuck in rush-hour traffic for two hours). My concern is if I try to do too much in a single meeting I'll make a complete nuisance of myself.

 

My first priority for November's Delegate Assembly, next week, will be to call the Point of Order on the restrictions placed on bringing motions before the assembly.  If I'm successful with that and if the Parliamentarian and Secretary haven't stepped up to take care of it, then I'll set my sites on the adoption of the meeting agenda for December's meeting.

 

Thanks again to you and everyone.  I think I'm set!

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For several months I kept checking back with the Parliamentarian and he was not able to find anything in writing concerning the requirement for 2/3rds to add a motion to this month's agenda or a majority to add it to next months agenda.   So, during last month's motion period I again raised a Point of Order, it turned into a big fiasco.

Here's what was written about it in the minutes:

"Motions directed to the agenda period began.

The chair said after a motion is presented then there's a speaker for and a speaker against with a 50% vote.

A point of order was raised by Mary Ahern saying that according to Roberts Rules of Order that's not the way a motion is supposed to be introduced.   Someone makes a motion, it's seconded and then the chair repeats the motion and it's released to the assembly.   The part that was quoted from the constitution by-laws pertains to membership meetings.  This is not a membership meeting.  It doesn't exist in writing.

After discussing with the parliamentarian the chair stated that the maker of the motion gets to present it.  Its open for debate after the motion is seconded.  At the end of the debate there has to be a vote.

Leroy Barr challenged the point of order by stating that there's past practice in this body that goes back over 40 years in terms of how we deal with issues that come up during motions directed to the agenda.   Roberts Rules of Order is a great guide.  However, everything about how you function in a particular body is not in Roberts Rules of Order.  It's based upon what you do in that particular body.  He asked that the chair make a ruling on maintaining the current practice and if someone disagrees they can challenge the ruling of the chair so we're not here until 10 at night.  Every motion directed to the agenda is not open on this floor for a full debate because each one can take 20-40 minutes.  It is unthinkable that we would have that much debate about something that is not on the agenda yet.   If the motion passes, it will get on the agenda and a full debate happens there.  We should maintain past practice.

The chair ruled in favor of past practice for expedience sake in order to make sure we get the business of the union done.

The ruling of the chair was challenged and put to a vote

Motion:  In favor of the ruling of the chair

Carried"

Comments?

 

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It was a bit awkward and messy and not strictly according to Hoyle (or RONR), but it seems the issue was ultimately resolved in the correct manner.... by the chair making a ruling, an appeal of the ruling to the membership, and the chair's ruling was sustained.  Well, her second ruling was sustained.  Her first ruling, which agreed with your position, was later ignored or reversed by the chair herself.

It's a bit messy in part because the chair first ruled your point of order well taken.  The member who  objected should have simply appealed the ruling of the chair.  Ultimately, it seems that is what happened.

In my opinion, the chair's ruling was incorrect, as custom falls to the ground if a point of order is raised that it conflicts with a written rule in the assembly's rules or the rules of the parliamentary authority (RONR), but it is within the chair's prerogative to be wrong and for the judgment of the assembly to also be wrong.... wrong in OUR opinion.   Their  decision is final, and if they want  to let custom prevail over written rules, I'm not sure what you can do about it except to keep trying.  Maybe inch by inch you can get them to see that they should either follow their written rules or change the rule.

It sounds like you did a very good job of taking them on!

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The only thing I would have done differently was pointed out the other options available to the organization if it is desirous of not going on until after 10pm, such as motions to Limit Debate or the Previous Question.

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Thanks for your responses Richard Brown and Thomas Ralph,

During this month's meeting the president was trying to decide if he could allow someone (one of the people in his caucus) to both amend their motion and motivate it.  (I know that's not allowed but I wasn't going to say anything after what happened last month.)   He looked at me and said, "Mary might call a point of order."   I responded with, "Why bother?"  Then he asked the parliamentarian who told him he couldn't do that.

After the meeting I spoke with the president and again expressed my disappointment that they were unwilling to try to work out a solution that wouldn't shut down members who want to bring a motion before the assembly.  I actually discussed limiting debate to 2 minutes and maybe even extending the time for new motions to 15 minutes.   He said it's not limited to 10 minutes but I think he's mistaken because there are people watching the clock and it's always shut down when 10 minutes are up.  Also, there's a standing rule with the time to adjourn set at 6pm, so there's no way the meeting would go to 10pm and Mr. Barr's argument was just for dramatic effect.

Anyway, I said I still don't agree with the way things are being done but I give up.  He said he appreciated it when I challenged him and we both agreed that this night's meeting was actually quite boring.. Anyway, he said he'd talk to a friend of his who is a parliamentarian and see what they can come up with. But he says a lot of things that he doesn't actually follow through on so I won't hold my breath. 

In the meantime I decided to join the opposing caucus and try to get the whole slate voted out.  They've been in complete control of the union for 56 years.  I'd been contemplating joining the other caucus for a while but held onto the hope that I could somehow make some inroads with the current leadership.  It's obvious after what happened last month that it's not going to happen. So, time to work towards a change in other ways.  We don't have a very high probability of winning because the election is pretty much rigged too.  Last year only 17% of active members voted and it was the retirees who decided the election (over 50% retiree vote) when most unions don't even allow retirees to vote at all.  But it's worth a try.

Thank you for your help anyway.

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