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Ask the audience


Guest Matthew
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I am relatively new to a high school board of education and we use the Roberts Rules Revised to run our meetings, so a quick question.  When is it, or is it permissible to ask members of the audience questions during an Agenda item discussion?  For example: during a recent meeting an agenda item was in the middle of the discussion period, and we had an individual in the audience who had information which a board member believed could be useful, the board member asked the audience individual a question.  Is this ok to do?

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RONR says, in effect, that any public hearing rules are set by the Board holding the hearing.   And any permission for a non-member of the Board (such as your audience person) to speak during a business discussion has to be granted by the Board, even in response to a question from the board member.

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9 minutes ago, Guest Matthew said:

I am relatively new to a high school board of education and we use the Roberts Rules Revised to run our meetings, so a quick question.  When is it, or is it permissible to ask members of the audience questions during an Agenda item discussion?  For example: during a recent meeting an agenda item was in the middle of the discussion period, and we had an individual in the audience who had information which a board member believed could be useful, the board member asked the audience individual a question.  Is this ok to do?

The rules can be suspended to permit a nonmember to enter into debate, which is much more involved that asking someone to provide information (p. 263, fn.).  With the consent of the majority a nonmember attending could be asked to provide information. 

NB:  It is neither the right of the attendee nor the member to provide information.   Further, the attendee may decline to to answer.

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Agreeing with both of my esteemed  colleagues, I would add that such a request is usually routinely granted by unanimous consent.

For  example:  Member C: "Mister Chairman, I see that John Smith is in the audience.  I believe he has information that can help us reach a decision.  If there is no objection, I would like to call him to the podium so that I might ask him a few questions".  The chair:  "Hearing no objection, please proceed".  Or words to that effect.   Then either the member or the chair calls Mr. Smith to the podium.

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Thanks you for the information.  To summarize what happened in our meeting during Open session, was a board member asked an audience member a question without first asking the chair (President) permission, the discussion went back and forth with multiple board members asking questions to one audience individual on a specific topic.  The president informed the board after the entire meeting was over about how 'illegal' it was for board members to ask anyone in the audience questions during 'discussion' period of an agenda item.  Is this 'illegal' or simply 'out of order?'

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4 hours ago, Guest Matthew said:

Thanks you for the information.  To summarize what happened in our meeting during Open session, was a board member asked an audience member a question without first asking the chair (President) permission, the discussion went back and forth with multiple board members asking questions to one audience individual on a specific topic.  The president informed the board after the entire meeting was over about how 'illegal' it was for board members to ask anyone in the audience questions during 'discussion' period of an agenda item.  Is this 'illegal' or simply 'out of order?'

It was out of order - but to be clear, they need to ask the board's permission. It is not up to the chair alone to grant or refuse permission for a non-member to speak.

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