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Colleagues,

I solicit your informal interpretations on the following. A non-profit organization adopts the current edition of RONR as parliamentary authority. There are no other written rules regarding the Order of Business. As customary practice, non-members of the assembly, who are nonetheless employees of the non-profit, occasionally report to the assembly on the work of their respective offices/departments. For the earliest years of record, these non-member department reports were placed, by the assembly's Chair, in a specific spot on the proposed agenda, specifically before Reports of Officers, Boards, and Standing Committees (of the assembly). When the Chair vacated and a new Chair occupied the Office, the spot in the order of business where these non-member department reports were placed had no clear home. Sometimes they were placed before Reports of Officers, Boards, and Standing Committees of the assembly as before, sometimes they were placed afterward, and yet other times still they were intermixed with Reports of Officers, Boards, and Standing Committees of the assembly. In none of these case is there evidence in the minutes of motions to suspend the rules to take up items out of their proper order. This pattern appears to be the case over the past three Chairs (including the current Chair). I have read RONR for hours and yet am still no clearer on an answer to the several questions I have:

1) Does the original practice of placing these (non-member department) reports prior to Reports of Officers, Boards, and Standing Committees constitute customary practice (and as such should be adhered to unless obtaining a majority vote to do otherwise so long as it does not conflict with RONR)?

2) If it constitutes customary practices, does it conflict in any way with RONR (and as such can be struck by a single Point of Order citing the conflict)?

3) If it does not constitute customary practice, is what appears to be the case now, over the past three chairs, customary practice: that it is the prerogative of the Chair to place these non-member department reports where he pleases on the proposed agenda? Would this practice conflict with RONR?

Edited by Setemu
additional information

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Thank you, Mr. Huynh.  Minutes indicate that the minutes agenda were approved by the assembly in each case. The question for me is how these items have been treated -- sometimes as a class of their own in the order of business and sometimes as part of another Order of Business. When they are treated as part of the class of Reports of Officers, Boards, and Standing Committees, then they are being given the same priority as reports from officers and subordinate committees of the assembly (which are necessarily germane to the business of the assembly), even though the information presented from the non-members does not place a question before the assembly, the assembly has no authority over the non-member, and the report from the non-member typically provides little to no information regarding a pending question of the assembly or any question over which the assembly would have authority. The"curve of best fit" I think I have for the situation is that these non-members have been treated as "Other Officers" (RONR, p. 461), but, then again, they are not elected by, appointed by, or formally accountable to the assembly. The closest analogies I have would be an assembly of college faculty receiving reports from, say, the President, the Admissions or Alumni Office, or the Board of Trustees; or, a local teachers union hearing a reports from the District Superintendent or State Secretary of Education.

Edited by Setemu
error correction

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Perhaps they could be considered in the nature of announcements or open forum (see p 362). I don't know that the "other officers" contemplated on p 461 is meant to include what you have described here.

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1 hour ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

How frequently does this assembly meet? Does it actually adopt an agenda for each of its meetings at the beginning of each meeting?

Monthly to semi-monthly. Agenda is adopted at the beginning of each meeting. There does appear to be a standard Order of Business, but these items do not appear to treated as they belong to any clear class, except, perhaps, as Reports of Officers, Boards, and Standing Committees.

Edited by Setemu
additional information on historical treatment

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It would appear that the standard order of business described on pages 353-363 of RONR (11th ed.) is the prescribed order of business for this assembly. As a consequence, adoption of an agenda which conflicts in any way with this prescribed order of business will require a two-thirds vote for its adoption (p. 372, ll. 18-22).

These reports to which you refer do not seem to fall within any of the six subdivisions outlined on pages 354-360. If this is the case, adoption of an agenda including them at any point ahead of New Business will require a two-thirds vote. 

 

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4 hours ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

 

These reports to which you refer do not seem to fall within any of the six subdivisions outlined on pages 354-360. If this is the case, adoption of an agenda including them at any point ahead of New Business will require a two-thirds vote. 

 

It appears, then, that even if this practice is custom, it is a custom in conflict with parliamentary authority.

The assembly appears to adopt these agendas unanimously. Is it in order, though, for the Chair to propose such an agenda for adoption (either out of custom or because he believes it would be preferred by the assembly) and then use unanimous consent to adopt it?

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1 hour ago, Setemu said:

It appears, then, that even if this practice is custom, it is a custom in conflict with parliamentary authority.

The assembly appears to adopt these agendas unanimously. Is it in order, though, for the Chair to propose such an agenda for adoption (either out of custom or because he believes it would be preferred by the assembly) and then use unanimous consent to adopt it?

Yes. An organization may adopt an agenda which conflicts with the standard order of business (or a special order of business, if any). Since this amounts to a suspension of the rules, a 2/3 vote is required for adoption. Unanimous consent is also sufficient.

Since your assembly meets relatively frequently, however, it would be preferable to adopt a special rule of order providing for a special order of business which suits the assembly’s needs, placing this item in whatever spot in the order of business that the assembly wishes. It is not intended for assemblies which meet frequently to adopt an agenda at every meeting. Instead, they should use the standard order of business in RONR, or adopt a special order of business suited to the assembly’s needs. It will then only be necessary to adopt an agenda if there are unique circumstances for a particular meeting.

Adopting a special rule of order requires a 2/3 vote with previous notice or a vote of a majority of the entire membership.

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Thank you all. I believe your responses have helped me see the situation more clearly. I do agree, Mr. Martin, that finding a regular place in the order of business for these items would be preferable.

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