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I am part of an organization where the chair of standing committee "A" (as part of his official report to the body) announced unexpectedly that a contentious question would be coming before standing committee "B". This is, of course, inappropriate because that announcement had not gone through committee "A" and, therefore, should not have been part of their official report. In addition, the issue is outside the charge committee "A". Although this action cannot be undone, it has some difficult consequences.

Members of committee "B" are concerned that they will not be able to vote freely during their meeting (which is open) unless they are able to vote anonymously. RONR (11th ed.) clearly states that voting by ballot may be used "when expressly ordered by the assembly or prescribed by its rules" p. 412. It seems pretty clear that RONR is talking primarily about ballot votes for the entire body. I can't seem to find anything about using ballots in committee. Authorization to use ballots is not written in the bylaws, the committee charge, or any other rules. If committee members want to use a ballot vote,

  1. Do they need to have authorization from the entire body, or
  2. Can they, as a committee, authorize their own ballot vote?

Personally, I think the easiest option is to just go into executive session, which is what I have advised, but the committee members specifically asked about ballots and I'd like some additional opinions on that.

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I agree with Mr. Mervosh.

Take a look at what is said on page 500 of RONR, 11th ed., concerning committee procedure. The general rule, as you will note, is that "Committees of organized societies operate under the bylaws, the parliamentary authority, and any special rules of order or standing rules of the society which may be applicable to them."

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47 minutes ago, Kurtis D. Miller said:

Thank you. I was wondering because RONR explicitly states that authorization from "the assembly" is required. I wasn't sure if RONR was referring to the entire body as "the assembly" or if, since we ware talking about a committee meeting, the committee would be "the assembly" in question.

Generally speaking, the phrase “the assembly” refers to the body that is meeting (even if that body is a committee, which is not, strictly speaking, an assembly). In instances where the committee must seek authorization, the rule will generally refer to “the parent assembly.” So yes, the committee is free to vote by ballot, unless its parent assembly has instructed otherwise.

56 minutes ago, Kurtis D. Miller said:

Personally, I think the easiest option is to just go into executive session, which is what I have advised, but the committee members specifically asked about ballots and I'd like some additional opinions on that.

It may be that the committee members wish for their votes to be secret even from the other members of the committee, and only a ballot vote will ensure that. If the only concern is keeping their votes secret from those who are not members of the committee, executive session would be sufficient.

56 minutes ago, Kurtis D. Miller said:

I am part of an organization where the chair of standing committee "A" (as part of his official report to the body) announced unexpectedly that a contentious question would be coming before standing committee "B". This is, of course, inappropriate because that announcement had not gone through committee "A" and, therefore, should not have been part of their official report. In addition, the issue is outside the charge committee "A". Although this action cannot be undone, it has some difficult consequences.

In addition to the (quite valid) concerns you have raised, I would note that a standing committee may not refer a motion directly to a different standing committee, unless the society has a special rule of order providing as much. If the rules in RONR are controlling, the appropriate course of action (ignoring the other issues for the moment) would be for Committee A to report the motion in question to the parent assembly and recommend that it refer the motion to Committee B.

I also do not agree that Committee B is stuck with Committee A’s action. If the members of Committee B have concerns that this motion is not properly before the committee, then it would be entirely appropriate to postpone the motion, to report these concerns to the parent assembly, and request that the parent assembly provide guidance for the committee.

Although it is possible that I have misunderstood the situation. Perhaps the situation is instead that the motion was already coming before Committee B, and the chairman of Committee A informed everyone of this. In that event, I agree that the action cannot be undone.

Edited by Josh Martin
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3 hours ago, Kurtis D. Miller said:

Thank you. I was wondering because RONR explicitly states that authorization from "the assembly" is required. I wasn't sure if RONR was referring to the entire body as "the assembly" or if, since we ware talking about a committee meeting, the committee would be "the assembly" in question.

RONR uses "the assembly" to refer to the body that is meeting.

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Thank you all for your assistance! I was not aware of this usage of "the assembly" in RONR and was tripping over the fact that committees are not, in a the strictest sense, assemblies.

On 2/6/2018 at 2:03 PM, Josh Martin said:

It may be that the committee members wish for their votes to be secret even from the other members of the committee, and only a ballot vote will ensure that. If the only concern is keeping their votes secret from those who are not members of the committee, executive session would be sufficient.

I have learned more about the details surrounding the request and it appears that you have identified their reasoning.

On 2/6/2018 at 2:03 PM, Josh Martin said:

Perhaps the situation is instead that the motion was already coming before Committee B, and the chairman of Committee A informed everyone of this. In that event, I agree that the action cannot be undone.

This is the correct interpretation.

Again, I greatly appreciate all of your help on this. I lurk here fairly often, but am a little too slow on the trigger to get a post in that someone else hasn't already written in much more detail and with greater rigor. Thanks for being such a quick and supportive community!

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