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Carolyn

Appeal Decision of the Chair | Suspension of the Rules | Unilateral Adjournment

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I would be very grateful for input on the following.

My question is four-fold.

When a chair unilaterally attempts to rule a motion out of order on the basis that it is "dilatory," does the assembly have the authority to decide whether the purportedly "dilatory" motion can be heard? It seems to me the mechanism for this is an appeal of the decision of the chair. Would you agree?

When a chair refuses to hear an appeal of the decision of the chair in such a matter, it seems to me that the majority must have a means for asserting the will of the majority to safeguard its democratic processes. RR appears to provide for such a mechanism in the motion to Suspend the Rules to permit the next highest-ranking officer to take over the chairing of the meeting, if 2/3rds agree that is what should happen. Would you agree?

It also seems to me that the Rules are very clear on what should then happen: if the chair refuses to hear the motion on the Suspension of the Rules, the "maker" of that motion gets to take the vote on the question. This seems essential to the democracy of an assembly, which cannot have a chair permitted to execute three unilateral decisions in a row without the majority having the means to express its will. And so this question is, where a chair refuses to entertain a motion to Suspend the Rules to put someone else into the chair, does the mover or maker of the Suspension have the authority to call to the assembly to know whether two-thirds of its members are in support of the suspension?

Final question: surely the chair does NOT have the authority in the face of such developments, simply to declare the meeting ADJOURNED and leave the room? That in effect gives the chair unrestrained authority to refuse to hear from and honour the will of the assembly.

Very much looking forward to hearing input on these matters!

Thank you for your time.

 

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1 hour ago, Carolyn said:

When a chair unilaterally attempts to rule a motion out of order on the basis that it is "dilatory," does the assembly have the authority to decide whether the purportedly "dilatory" motion can be heard? It seems to me the mechanism for this is an appeal of the decision of the chair. Would you agree?

Yes, although the chair may rule an appeal to be dilatory if there cannot possibly be two reasonable opinions on the question.

Out of curiosity, what was the motion (or motions) which were ruled to be dilatory?

1 hour ago, Carolyn said:

When a chair refuses to hear an appeal of the decision of the chair in such a matter, it seems to me that the majority must have a means for asserting the will of the majority to safeguard its democratic processes. RR appears to provide for such a mechanism in the motion to Suspend the Rules to permit the next highest-ranking officer to take over the chairing of the meeting, if 2/3rds agree that is what should happen. Would you agree?

Yes, although I would add that it does not have to be the next highest-ranking officer.

1 hour ago, Carolyn said:

It also seems to me that the Rules are very clear on what should then happen: if the chair refuses to hear the motion on the Suspension of the Rules, the "maker" of that motion gets to take the vote on the question. This seems essential to the democracy of an assembly, which cannot have a chair permitted to execute three unilateral decisions in a row without the majority having the means to express its will. And so this question is, where a chair refuses to entertain a motion to Suspend the Rules to put someone else into the chair, does the mover or maker of the Suspension have the authority to call to the assembly to know whether two-thirds of its members are in support of the suspension?

Yes.

1 hour ago, Carolyn said:

Final question: surely the chair does NOT have the authority in the face of such developments, simply to declare the meeting ADJOURNED and leave the room? That in effect gives the chair unrestrained authority to refuse to hear from and honour the will of the assembly.

Correct.

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Thanks so much, Josh.

The motion ruled to be "dilatory" was in regard to having the meetings of our larger body, our Council, run by a parliamentarian. This is what we have done for the last two years, under a motion passed by our Council. (Council is the organization's policy-making body.) The motion in question was, I thought, very carefully phrased so that it in effect simply asked the organization's current President to respect the expressed wishes of Council in the two-year-old motion though it made no direct reference to the earlier motion/existing policy. The allegedly "dilatory" motion reads as follows:

That the XXXXXX Executive Committee requests the President of XXXXXXX respect the expressed wishes of Council and delegate XXX authority to chair the next council meeting to a parliamentarian or other appropriately qualified speaker. 

The motion passed by Council two years ago was simply a one-liner that specified that our Council meetings are to be chaired by a Parliamentarian. 

The motion currently in controversy and declared "dilatory" was about the next meeting of Council only as that meeting Council will debate and vote on a new set of bylaws for the organization that have been in the works for two years. 

Strictly speaking, a body shouldn't (in my view) have to call for a renewal of an existing policy in this way, but the President takes the position that the bylaws give the Persident the authority to chair meetings of our Council (the language of the bylaws is that the President "presides" over meetings of Council) and that no policy can require delegation of this authority. The mover insisted that the language of the motion was one of request. The concern is not so much with who is right or wrong on this particular question, but with the disallowing of consideration of the question by Executive. The members of our Executive overwhelmingly felt that we ought to be able to issue the request for the respecting of the expressed wishes of Council. It's the overriding of the authority of our Executive that is the principal concern here.

The situation was further complicated for us by the declaration that in the face of our appeal of the decision of the chair the President intended simply to adjourn the meeting. It seemed entirely wrong to the Executive that faced with an appeal of the decision of the chair the President could simply bring the meeting (which had barely begun) to an abrupt close. In face of this startling claim I moved the suspension of the rules in regard to the chairing of the meeting. The President then declared non-acceptance of the motion to Suspend the Rules and declared the meeting adjourned. I read from Robert's Rules the bit about the "maker" being able to take the vote if the chair refused to hear such a motion. The President again declared the meeting adjourned, informed us we could not conduct any business, and left the room.

Clearly we have a political situation with which we have to detail, but we are seeking to understand whether our views about what happened in terms of process are fair as we reflect further on the events of the meeting and decide on a course of action.

My own feeling is that the character of the motion aside, in the face of the threat simply to adjourn the meeting we were free (and indeed needed) to move a Suspension of the Rules to put someone else into the chair. I agree that it wouldn't necessarily have needed to be the next highest-ranking officer but that's what I moved.

Thanks so much for your input so far. I'll be very grateful for any further input.

 

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In my opinion, that motion is not at all dilatory.  It may or may not be out of order (if it either takes no action, or is against the bylaws) but that's different.  If it takes some actual action, it may require a suspension of the rules.  Regardless, I would find it very surprising if circumstances were such that an appeal were dilatory (as in, no reasonable debate).  But I am not a member, so my opinion doesn't really matter.  As we said on another thread, no, the chair cannot simply adjourn a meeting because he doesn't like the motions being made, and if he purports to do so, the meeting can simply continue after he storms out, with the vice-president (or whoever, depending on the circumstances) chairing.  

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Carolyn , based on a quick reading of your two posts, I agree with the answers by Josh Martin to your first post and I agree with your analysis of the situation in your second post. 

Regardlessof of the proprietary of the motion requesting that the president abide by the two year old motion regarding having a Parliamentarian preside, your understanding of the process to remove the chair from presiding is correct, but RONR says that once that motion is made, the chairman must turn the chair over to someone else, usually the vice president for processing the motion .

Also, the rule in the bylaws about the president presiding at meetings is in the nature of a rule of order and can be suspended (as RONR says in the section on removing the chairman). The motion to remove the chair from presiding is in essence a motion to suspend that rule.

Note : I also agree with the response Joshua Katz posted  while I was typing this... slowly... in my cell phone. :)

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43 minutes ago, Carolyn said:

The motion ruled to be "dilatory" was in regard to having the meetings of our larger body, our Council, run by a parliamentarian. This is what we have done for the last two years, under a motion passed by our Council. (Council is the organization's policy-making body.) The motion in question was, I thought, very carefully phrased so that it in effect simply asked the organization's current President to respect the expressed wishes of Council in the two-year-old motion though it made no direct reference to the earlier motion/existing policy. The allegedly "dilatory" motion reads as follows:

That the XXXXXX Executive Committee requests the President of XXXXXXX respect the expressed wishes of Council and delegate XXX authority to chair the next council meeting to a parliamentarian or other appropriately qualified speaker. 

The motion passed by Council two years ago was simply a one-liner that specified that our Council meetings are to be chaired by a Parliamentarian. 

The motion currently in controversy and declared "dilatory" was about the next meeting of Council only as that meeting Council will debate and vote on a new set of bylaws for the organization that have been in the works for two years. 

Strictly speaking, a body shouldn't (in my view) have to call for a renewal of an existing policy in this way, but the President takes the position that the bylaws give the Persident the authority to chair meetings of our Council (the language of the bylaws is that the President "presides" over meetings of Council) and that no policy can require delegation of this authority. The mover insisted that the language of the motion was one of request.

Thank you. To begin with, this motion is certainly not dilatory, and it appears your chairman does not appear to understand the meaning of that term. A dilatory motion is generally one which, while otherwise in order, is intended to obstruct or delay business. In my opinion, the motion was also perfectly in order, as it simply requested that the President have a parliamentarian chair the upcoming meeting of the council. The President is free to appoint a parliamentarian to preside, provided that the Vice President and the assembly agree to this course of action. Therefore, a motion requesting that the President do that is in order.

The President has a valid point that the adopted policy, which (as I understand it) requires the meetings of the council to be chaired by a parliamentarian is null and void, because the policy conflicts with the rule in the bylaws that the President shall preside. No policy which conflicts with the bylaws is valid. As previously noted, the assembly may, by a 2/3 vote, suspend the rules to remove the President from the chair and elect a new presiding officer for a particular meeting, however, a motion to suspend the rules may not have effect beyond the adjournment of the current session. As a result, if the organization wishes for all meetings of the council to be chaired by a parliamentarian, it would be best to amend the bylaws.

None of this is relevant to the motion which was made, however, which merely requested that a parliamentarian chair the meeting, and was therefore in order.

43 minutes ago, Carolyn said:

The concern is not so much with who is right or wrong on this particular question, but with the disallowing of consideration of the question by Executive. The members of our Executive overwhelmingly felt that we ought to be able to issue the request for the respecting of the expressed wishes of Council. It's the overriding of the authority of our Executive that is the principal concern here.

In my view, the motion was in order to begin with, but even if the chair feels otherwise, I certainly see nothing to suggest that the motion was so clearly out of order that an appeal was dilatory, so I quite agree that the chair erred in ruling the appeal out of order.

43 minutes ago, Carolyn said:

The situation was further complicated for us by the declaration that in the face of our appeal of the decision of the chair the President intended simply to adjourn the meeting. It seemed entirely wrong to the Executive that faced with an appeal of the decision of the chair the President could simply bring the meeting (which had barely begun) to an abrupt close. In face of this startling claim I moved the suspension of the rules in regard to the chairing of the meeting. The President then declared non-acceptance of the motion to Suspend the Rules and declared the meeting adjourned. I read from Robert's Rules the bit about the "maker" being able to take the vote if the chair refused to hear such a motion. The President again declared the meeting adjourned, informed us we could not conduct any business, and left the room.

Yes, this was clearly improper. The chair was incorrect to rule the motion to Suspend the Rules and remove the chair out of order, and it was certainly improper for him to unilaterally declare the meeting adjourned. There are very limited circumstances in which the chair may declare a meeting adjourned. Specifically, these are if the assembly has completed its entire order of business and no member seeks to make any further motions in New Business, if the assembly has previously scheduled a time for adjournment and that time has been reached, or if there is an emergency which would endanger the members’ safety, such as a fire.

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"No motion is dilatory that the assembly chooses to entertains (no matter how dilatory it really is)."  The assembly gets to make the decision, even if it has to appeal the decision of the the chair, and even when that appeal has to to out by a member from the floor.  

I would not rule the motion dilatory, nor would I oppose the appeal of the chair's decision that it was.  This is something in the control the majority.   

The motion "That the XXXXXX Executive Committee requests the President of XXXXXXX respect the expressed wishes of Council and delegate XXX authority to chair the next council meeting to a parliamentarian or other appropriately qualified speaker,may, however, be out of order on other grounds.

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Thank you to you all. This is all so helpful.

Given your various assurances, I'd like to ask a follow-up question.

In my own skimming of the 11th edition, I can't find anything that provides guidance to an Executive such as ours when such an event happens. It's as if RR presumes the efficacy of the rules, and doesn't presume that a meeting could possibly go so off the rails as our did. Clearly, if we had understood something simple — that the chair could not simply walk out, declaring the meeting adjourned — we could have continued the meeting and made it through the business on the agenda. None of us walked out, by the way. We worked together for over two hours, discussing various issues, but we didn't understand that we were free to continue the meeting with the Vice-President in the chair and conduct business. As you can imagine, one of the questions we are asking is, What now? How do we get the business of our Executive done? As she walked out, having declared the meeting adjourned, the Chair also declared that we could conduct no business. She, we were told, would take all the decisions in regard to the "Action" items on her own. This is, of course, entirely unacceptable. Are there any protocols in RR to support us resuming the meeting at another date and time, given that it was improperly adjourned, so that we can get the work of our Executive done by way of proper democratic decision-making? 

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If all regarded the meeting as adjourned, it certainly has ended at some point.  Do you have provisions for a special meeting in your bylaws?  If so, you can schedule a special meeting to get those decisions made.

Your President has only those powers given to them - and it is likely that does not include, even if a meeting did end early, taking all decisions set to be made at that meeting on their own.  I am not a member, and I can see this is a complex political situation, but if this were my organization, the thought of discipline or removal would be on my mind.  Of course, there's a lot going on, and I'm not going to take a side on your organization as a whole.

In any case, on your larger point, the General certainly didn't presume that the rules would always be followed, or that a meeting would not go off the rails.  In fact, he wrote the original after a meeting he was chairing went off the rails.  However, what would a rule for not following the rules look like?  There are related provisions: points of order, appeal, discipline, suspending the rules to replace the chair, etc.  But you've shown you know all those, so I guess I'm confused as to what you'd like the rules to say about meetings gone wrong.  

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3 hours ago, Carolyn said:

Are there any protocols in RR to support us resuming the meeting at another date and time, given that it was improperly adjourned, so that we can get the work of our Executive done by way of proper democratic decision-making? 

Before the assembly adjourns, it may agree to continue the meeting at another time. But you accepted the President's declaration of adjournment with no such provision. You will have to wait for the next meeting, or call a special meeting as your bylaws may allow. I suggest a time that will be impossible for your President to make. :lol:

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I would just like to clarify one point from your initial post. You said:

9 hours ago, Carolyn said:

When a chair refuses to hear an appeal of the decision of the chair in such a matter, it seems to me that the majority must have a means for asserting the will of the majority to safeguard its democratic processes. RR appears to provide for such a mechanism in the motion to Suspend the Rules to permit the next highest-ranking officer to take over the chairing of the meeting, if 2/3rds agree that is what should happen. Would you agree?

 

In fact, it is not necessary to go through the procedure of suspending the rules and removing the chair to have an appeal that is not dilatory placed before the membership. On p.650-651, in the section entitled "Remedies for Abuse of Authority by the Chair in a Meeting", RONR makes it clear that if the chair ignores a properly-raised appeal, the initiator of the appeal can repeat the appeal two more times (with a second each time) and then put the appeal to the assembly himself.

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18 hours ago, Carolyn said:

What now? How do we get the business of our Executive done? As she walked out, having declared the meeting adjourned, the Chair also declared that we could conduct no business. She, we were told, would take all the decisions in regard to the "Action" items on her own. This is, of course, entirely unacceptable. Are there any protocols in RR to support us resuming the meeting at another date and time, given that it was improperly adjourned, so that we can get the work of our Executive done by way of proper democratic decision-making? 

No, it is not possible at this time to resume the meeting at another time and date. It will be necessary to wait until the next regular meeting, or to call a special meeting through the procedures in your bylaws.

12 hours ago, Bruce Lages said:

I would just like to clarify one point from your initial post. You said:

In fact, it is not necessary to go through the procedure of suspending the rules and removing the chair to have an appeal that is not dilatory placed before the membership. On p.650-651, in the section entitled "Remedies for Abuse of Authority by the Chair in a Meeting", RONR makes it clear that if the chair ignores a properly-raised appeal, the initiator of the appeal can repeat the appeal two more times (with a second each time) and then put the appeal to the assembly himself.

While this is correct, if things get to this point I expect that it may be desirable to have a new chair.

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3 hours ago, Josh Martin said:

No, it is not possible at this time to resume the meeting at another time and date. It will be necessary to wait until the next regular meeting, or to call a special meeting through the procedures in your bylaws.

While this is correct, if things get to this point I expect that it may be desirable to have a new chair.

My feeling at that juncture in the meeting was definitely that it was simply better to put someone else into the chair for the meeting.

I am confident now — on the basis of the advice offered here — of our Executive's right to do that. I am also clear now that we could have formally continued to meet, as I had moved the suspension of the rules to put someone else into the chair. Lesson learned! 

Sadly, our current bylaws have no provisions for special meetings — but our new bylaws do. So here's hoping we can get the new bylaws through!

Thank you again to you all for your advice, which is invaluable.

 

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23 hours ago, Josh Martin said:

 

While this is correct, if things get to this point I expect that it may be desirable to have a new chair.

It may be, and probably is, desirable, but it may not be immediate enough.  The motion can properly be placed before the assembly, and disposed of, by the majority a bit easier than removal or suspension of the presiding officer. 

I will note two other possibilities:

1.  As noted, the might be out of order on other grounds, and the majority may agree with those grounds.

2.  The majority might agree that the motion is not dilatory, but might oppose the motion.

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