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DebbieinFL

When can Committee members schedule a meeting

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I am the Chairman of a standing committee (Bylaws, mind you), with 3 other members and our committee has been working on an issue. We had met once and since then had had some communications via email. It was too burdensome to continue large email threads so I had been working on setting a time and place for another face to face meeting to continue our work.

In the midst of getting feedback from members, one of the committee member chose to set up a time and place for a meeting on his own, contacted the other committee members about it.  I told him privately that the meeting would not work for me one due to illness and second due to a conflict with another meeting within our organization which I am a part of as well.

Said member replied that he had already contacted the other members and that I could simply send in my opinions via email or I could call via speakerphone.  I replied that I was the chairman, that this meeting would be set up when I could facilitate it, hopefully, as my illness would allow, in 4-5 days.

The following was the reply I received:

  • " It is not true you are the “one” who can call a meeting. If for any reason the chair won’t call a meeting, two members of the committee can according to Robert’s Rule, and a quorum of the committee must be present to conduct business"

I don't believe those are the right words in RONR, more like a paraphrase with some added verbiage. But considering that I was in the midst of planning a meeting, maybe not as fast as this member wanted, would I be in violation of said rule?

Thank you.

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Read it for yourself.

[page 499]

Quote

 

Conduct of Business in Committees

COMMITTEE MEETINGS.
When a committee has been appointed, its chairman (or first‑named member temporarily acting—see p. 176) should call it together. If its chairman fails to call a meeting, the committee must meet on the call of any two of its members, unless (for very large committees) the assembly’s rules prescribe, or empower the assembly or the committee to require, a larger number. It is the responsibility of the person or persons calling a committee meeting to ensure that reasonable notice of its time and place is sent to every committee member.
[...]

 

 

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Thank you for the exact wording. 

So the words "won't for any reason" are added - hyperbole maybe? :)

Still, would you say that I as chair would be charged with "fails to call a meeting" while I'm working on calling a meeting?

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For a committee, no single person gets to "hold hostage" 100% of the work of the committee.

A committee chair cannot prevent two members from calling a meeting.

***

A committee does not need a chair between meetings. -- At the meeting, a pro tem chair would be elected, if the regular chair could not (would not?) attend.

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33 minutes ago, Kim Goldsworthy said:

For a committee, no single person gets to "hold hostage" 100% of the work of the committee.

A committee chair cannot prevent two members from calling a meeting.

***

A committee does not need a chair between meetings. -- At the meeting, a pro tem chair would be elected, if the regular chair could not (would not?) attend.

Kim, I disagree.  The quote you provided from page 499 about any two members being able to call a meeting of the committee is referring to the FIRST meeting of a committee.

Page 501 at lines 28 - 34 covers subsequent meetings.  That provision, quoted below, seems to make it plain that subsequent meetings of the committee must be called by the chair unless the committee itself sets the date for its next meeting. The is no provision in RONR for two committee members to call subsequent committee meetings after the initial meeting.

From page 501:  "ADJOURNMENT; PROVISION FOR FUTURE MEETINGS. When a committee intends to reconvene, it can simply adjourn, or adjourn to meet at a later time. In the first case—when it adjourns without appointing a time for another meeting—the next meeting is held at the call of the chairman, who must ensure that reasonable notice of its time and place is sent to every committee member (see p. 499"

 

Edited by Richard Brown
Edited second and third pargraphs

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If the chair refuses to call a meeting of a committee, even after the first meeting, it is my opinion any two members can call one.  I'm not saying our original poster Debbie refused, by the way.

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This is kind of the question. RONR says "fails to call a meeting."  It doesn't say refuses to call or is slow in calling a meeting, just that he fails to do so. Where is the interpretation of he's "failed" to do it? When  a committee member thinks the chair is too slow?  In my case, I was in the middle ofemails trying to determine a time.  My original question is whether I "failed" to call a meeting.

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25 minutes ago, DebbieinFL said:

This is kind of the question. RONR says "fails to call a meeting."  It doesn't say refuses to call or is slow in calling a meeting, just that he fails to do so. Where is the interpretation of he's "failed" to do it? When  a committee member thinks the chair is too slow?  In my case, I was in the middle ofemails trying to determine a time.  My original question is whether I "failed" to call a meeting.

In order to respond to this question, one would need to know how long it has been since your last meeting, and how many efforts have been made by other members to get you to call this next meeting.

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We are a standing committee.

  • The first meeting for purposes of the current issue we were discussing was November 6th.
  • There have been multiple emails regarding thoughts about the issues and members agreed that we needed to meet.
  • Emails were being exchanged during this past weekend (Nov. 30-Dec. 5) to set up a convenient meeting
  • Dec. 6 I received the notification that a meeting was being called at a so-so time and place by a committee member.

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3 hours ago, George Mervosh said:

If the chair refuses to call a meeting of a committee, even after the first meeting, it is my opinion any two members can call one.  I'm not saying our original poster Debbie refused, by the way.

 

2 hours ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

In order to respond to this question, one would need to know how long it has been since your last meeting, and how many efforts have been made by other members to get you to call this next meeting.

George and Dan:  How do you reconcile the language on page 499 at lines 19-25 with the language on page 501 at lines 29-34?

The language on page 499 is in a paragraph clearly dealing with the INITIAL meeting after a new committee is formed.  There might not even be a chairman selected at that time, thus the language allowing any two members to call the first meeting.

The language on page 501, on the other hand, is clearly dealing with subsequent meetings after the initial meeting.  That section says it is up to the chairman to call future meetings unless the committee itself set the next meeting date.

Debbie's situation clearly falls into the second category.... it is a subsequent meeting, not the initial meeting.

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I think it is ambiguous as to whether or not the rule applies to subsequent meetings.  I'd add that it has rather bizarre consequences if it doesn't, though.  "Our committee chair isn't scheduling any meetings and we aren't getting anything done." "So replace them." "How?"  As a result, I'd apply it to subsequent meetings.

The remaining question is what "fails" means.  I think that's up to the judgment of the committee, but my personal opinion is that one cannot be simultaneously trying to schedule a meeting, and failing to act.

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14 minutes ago, DebbieinFL said:

We are a standing committee.

  • The first meeting for purposes of the current issue we were discussing was November 6th.
  • There have been multiple emails regarding thoughts about the issues and members agreed that we needed to meet.
  • Emails were being exchanged during this past weekend (Nov. 30-Dec. 5) to set up a convenient meeting
  • Dec. 6 I received the notification that a meeting was being called at a so-so time and place by a committee member.

Well, as I understand it, there are only four members of this committee, and so, as a practical matter, if the other three members agree as to the time and place of the next meeting, I suspect that is what is going to happen.

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6 minutes ago, Richard Brown said:

 

George and Dan:  How do you reconcile the language on page 499 at lines 19-25 with the language on page 501 at lines 29-34?

The language on page 499 is in a paragraph clearly dealing with the INITIAL meeting after a new committee is formed.  There might not even be a chairman selected at that time, thus the language allowing any two members to call the first meeting.

The language on page 501, on the other hand, is clearly dealing with subsequent meetings after the initial meeting.  That section says it is up to the chairman to call future meetings unless the committee itself set the next meeting date.

Debbie's situation clearly falls into the second category.... it is a subsequent meeting, not the initial meeting.

Yes, all this seems to be the case, and I'm afraid it's a bit of a mess.

I think Messrs. Goldsworthy and Mervosh are essentially correct as to what the rule is intended to be, and hopefully my former colleagues will get it all straightened out for us.  :)

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I trust you will send your former colleagues a link to this discussion.

In my copy of RONR/11 I have a handwritten note (in a handwritten footnote to line 22) reading "and all subsequent meetings too" - RONR/12".   I don't recall the source of that quotation from the future.

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11 minutes ago, jstackpo said:

I trust you will send your former colleagues a link to this discussion.

In my copy of RONR/11 I have a handwritten note (in a handwritten footnote to line 22) reading "and all subsequent meetings too" - RONR/12".   I don't recall the source of that quotation from the future.

Perhaps it came from this thread.

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31 minutes ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

I'm quite sure there is no need to do so.

Indeed.  Do you think another alternative is for some of the committee members to notify the appointing power who could instruct the committee to meet at a certain place and time?

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1 hour ago, Godelfan said:

I think it is ambiguous as to whether or not the rule applies to subsequent meetings.  I'd add that it has rather bizarre consequences if it doesn't, though.  "Our committee chair isn't scheduling any meetings and we aren't getting anything done." "So replace them." "How?"  As a result, I'd apply it to subsequent meetings.

The remaining question is what "fails" means.  I think that's up to the judgment of the committee, but my personal opinion is that one cannot be simultaneously trying to schedule a meeting, and failing to act.

 

2 minutes ago, George Mervosh said:

Indeed.  Do you think another alternative is for some of the committee members to notify the appointing power who could instruct the committee to meet at a certain place and time?

George, that is what I was about to say in response the the question by Godelfan. The assembly can probably direct the committee to meet on (or before) a certain date and time.  Also, the appointing power can probably replace the chair if the chair is neglecting his duties.  RONR provides a somewhat similar procedure for reporting to the assembly that the committee is being obstructed in its work.  It simply cannot be said that the committee is helpless to do its work if the chairman doesn't call a meeting on the timetable that some two members might prefer.  There are remedies.

I read the provisions on page 499 and those on 501 as applying to distinctly different fact situations.  I still believe only the chair can call subsequent committee meetings when the committee itself has not scheduled the next meeting.

I don't know what the authorship team intended by using the language it did on pages 499 and 501, but I don't think any two members should be allowed to call subsequent committee meetings unless something in RONR expressly says so..... and it doesn't right now.

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4 minutes ago, Richard Brown said:

 but I don't think any two members should be allowed to call subsequent committee meetings unless something in RONR expressly says so..... and it doesn't right now.

There's lots of things not expressly stated in the book (this edition or other ones), but I'm content to advise others based upon what the intent of the rule is supposed to be.

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Guest Johann

So what is the purpose of providing that the chair call the next meeting of a committee if, at any time whatsoever, two members may call it themselves? 

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3 hours ago, Guest Johann said:

So what is the purpose of providing that the chair call the next meeting of a committee if, at any time whatsoever, two members may call it themselves? 

You should consider yourself lucky that a rule exists where, if the primary caller does not respect the urgency of two or more members of the committee, then the secondary caller, namely, the two or more members of the committee, are not held hostage to a sick, stubborn, dead, or M-I-A, committee chair.

***

Thank goodness for alternative callers of meetings.

Monopolies are bad things. :(

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19 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

George and Dan:  How do you reconcile the language on page 499 at lines 19-25 with the language on page 501 at lines 29-34?

The language on page 499 is in a paragraph clearly dealing with the INITIAL meeting after a new committee is formed.  There might not even be a chairman selected at that time, thus the language allowing any two members to call the first meeting.

The language on page 501, on the other hand, is clearly dealing with subsequent meetings after the initial meeting.  That section says it is up to the chairman to call future meetings unless the committee itself set the next meeting date.

Debbie's situation clearly falls into the second category.... it is a subsequent meeting, not the initial meeting.

Setting Debbie's situation aside for a moment, suppose that the chair actually refused to call a subsequent meeting? What is the committee supposed to do? Twiddle its thumbs?

19 hours ago, DebbieinFL said:

We are a standing committee.

  • The first meeting for purposes of the current issue we were discussing was November 6th.
  • There have been multiple emails regarding thoughts about the issues and members agreed that we needed to meet.
  • Emails were being exchanged during this past weekend (Nov. 30-Dec. 5) to set up a convenient meeting
  • Dec. 6 I received the notification that a meeting was being called at a so-so time and place by a committee member.

I think we're in judgement call territory. On the one hand, you have been actively attempting to schedule a meeting. On the other hand, you have not actually done so. It has now been over a month since the last meeting, and over a week since you started trying to set up a meeting. I don't think there is a hard and fast rule on this, as timelines for committees to complete their work vary widely.

Finally, I agree with Dan that, as a practical matter, if all members but the chair agree to meet at a certain time, then that's happening. If you wish, you can report the matter to the parent assembly. I don't know who they'll side with.

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Guest Johann
12 hours ago, Godelfan said:

Except it is not at any time whatsoever, it is when the chair has failed to call a meeting.  

And when does the chair fail to call a meeting? Whenever those members believe she has failed to call it, which practically means at any time since it's up to the members to make such a judgment. I agree that the chair shouldn't be able to hold future meetings hostage, but I don't see any explicit guidance from Robert's in the case of subsequent committee meetings. I agree with Mr. Brown.

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