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Carolyn

Procedures for motion of censure?

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Hi, All.

I was very grateful with help I received from those on this Forum back in the Fall and write again in search of further assistance!

The issue this time: the procedures for a motion of censure.

The situation I'm attempting to address, in rough, is this.

At the last meeting of our Council, a member brought a motion to censure the President for a communication to members that contradicted the expressed will of the Council. At the beginning of the meeting, Council was asked to approve a parliamentarian to assist the President with the conduct of the meeting. This in and of itself is not unusual. In fact, Councillors had argued for the need for a parliamentarian in the hope that this would mean our meetings were run in good order. The parliamentarian in question for this meeting was not our usual parliamentarian.

We finally reached the motion of censure very late in the meeting. At this juncture, the President asked for someone to move that the parliamentarian chair the discussion of the censure motion. I objected, as did the Vice-President. The President ignored all objections, kept calling for someone to move the motion in question, declaring that if we would not move that the Parliamentarian chair the discussion of the motion of censure against her *she* would chair the discussion. By a narrow margin, Councillors approved having the Parliamentarian in the chair. 

In my view this meant that we had in the "chair" a Parliamentarian who had willingly approved of a breach of the rules to put him in the chair. I would greatly appreciate hearing more informed views than mine on whether my view is correct.

The Parliamentarian then read out the motion of censure, let the mover speak to the motion, and then promptly ruled the motion out of order.

He ruled it out of order on more than one basis including that our Council has no authority to take any disciplinary action against a Presiding Officer and a motion of censure is a disciplinary action. He also ruled it out of order on the basis that the mover was proposing a penalty (that the Vice-President rather than the President send out communications to the membership).

At this juncture, the mover read from Robert's Rules claiming that it was a breach of the rules for the Parliamentarian to be in the chair. Shockingly to me, he asserted that the as a majority had agreed to the breach the breach was fine.

On the basis of advice that I had received from this Forum in the Fall I then moved an appeal of the decision of the "chair." The Parliamentarian-as-chair's ruling that the motion was out of order was DEFEATED, and we proceeded to debate on the motion of censure.

My position, as I say, that the parliamentarian should never have been permitted to chair the discussion, and I seek guidance on this matter. When, in the course of my appeal of the decision of the chair, I aired my view that the Parliament should never have been in the chair he claimed to be the "presiding officer." I informed him that he was not the presiding officer — he had not been elected to office in the Association.

After about 45 minutes of debate on the motion of censure, someone moved a postponement. The matter is to be addressed again at our next Council meeting this Thursday.

I assume that we will once again be asked to put this Parliamentarian back into the "chair" for the continuing discussion.

This should not, in my view, be allowed.

I would therefore be very grateful to hear:

1.  Whether a Parliamentarian can chair a motion of censure. Shouldn't such a discussion be chaired by the next highest presiding officer, in this case, the Vice-President?

2.  If the Parliamentarian cannot or should not chair the motion, how does our Council ensure that this Parliamentarian cannot be put into the chair for the continuing discussion?

I very much look forward to receiving advice from participants in this invaluable Forum!

Thank you,

Carolyn  

 

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Guest Who's Coming to Dinner

1. The President should simply step down and turn the chair over to the Vice-President in such a case. However, the assembly can also suspend the rules and elect someone else to chair the matter. That person ought not to be the Parliamentarian and any ethical Parliamentarian would refuse the assignment.

2. By nominating someone else as temporary chair. The question is then decided by election. Otherwise, unanimous consent to the President's choice is assumed.

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1 hour ago, Guest Who's Coming to Dinner said:

1. The President should simply step down and turn the chair over to the Vice-President in such a case. However, the assembly can also suspend the rules and elect someone else to chair the matter. That person ought not to be the Parliamentarian and any ethical Parliamentarian would refuse the assignment.

2. By nominating someone else as temporary chair. The question is then decided by election. Otherwise, unanimous consent to the President's choice is assumed.

I agree in part and disagree in part with this answer.

I agree that in this situation the president should step down and turn the chair over to the vice-president.  It is the duty of the vice president to preside in the absence of the president or when the president steps down.  I also agree that the assembly can suspend the rules and elect someone else to serve as chairman pro tem.  However, it is my opinion that the parliamentarian may properly serve as chairman pro tem if willing to do so, but if the vice president objects, it would take a two thirds vote to suspend the rules and have the parliamentarian preside.  It is quite common for professional parliamentarians to serve as presiding officers, but this case presents a special and unusual situation.  I do not believe there was anything unethical per se about it.   It's when there is a sticky situation that an assembly is often most in need of an independent and hopefully professional presiding officer unless the rules of the assembly prohibit a non member from presiding.   I'm not going to second-guess the decision of the parliamentarian to agree to preside. I think some parliamentarians would agree to serve and some would not.  I was not there and I do not know the qualifications, experience or skill level of the parliamentarian.  (Edited to add the underlined portion).

I do agree that if the parliamentarian (or whoever the president wants) refuses to serve as chair pro tem, the solution is for someone... anyone... to nominate someone else and for the assembly to elect a chair pro tem.  If the vice president objects, it will take a two thirds vote to elect the chair pro tem since it is the duty of the vice president to preside whenever the president is absent or steps down.  The president may suggest someone, but has no right to actually select someone.

Although Carolyn did not specifically ask this, I believe some of the parliamentarian's rulings were incorrect.  A simple motion of censure, for example, is not discipline.  I question whether the added part of the censure motion that the vice president handle further correspondence was in order.  At a minimum, it should have been a separate motion and the motion of censure should have been a simple, straightforward motion of censure.  Any desire to have the vice president take over communications with the membership should be handled in a separate motion and may or may not be in order.  It might well violate a bylaw provision regarding the powers and duties of the president.

I also believe that any objection to the authority of the parliamentarian to  preside should have been made at the time via a point of order.  Even if the parliamentarian was improperly selected, I don't believe the selection constituted a continuing breach in the sense that it would cause action taken while she was presiding to be null and void. 

Edited to add:  I don't see that the actions of the parliamentarian violate any of the Code of Ethics for Parliamentarians jointly adopted by the NAP and AIP.   http://www.parliamentarians.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/CodeOfEthicsForParliamentarians2001-amended-July2015-Final.pdf

 

Edited by Richard Brown
Added last paragraph and edited 2nd paragraph

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1 hour ago, Carolyn said:

My position, as I say, that the parliamentarian should never have been permitted to chair the discussion, and I seek guidance on this matter. When, in the course of my appeal of the decision of the chair, I aired my view that the Parliament should never have been in the chair he claimed to be the "presiding officer." I informed him that he was not the presiding officer — he had not been elected to office in the Association.

 

As to having a non member as a temporary presiding officer, you might read this paragraph on pages 453-454 of RONR:

"Invited Temporary Presiding Officer. In certain instances in an ordinary society—for example, if an adjourned meeting or a special meeting (9) must deal with a problem that has intensely divided the organization—it may be that such a meeting can accomplish more under the chairmanship of an invited nonmember who is skilled in presiding. (Sometimes this may be a professional presiding officer.) If the president and vice-president(s) do not object, the assembly, by majority vote, can adopt such an arrangement for all or part of a session. Alternatively, the rules may be suspended to authorize [page 454] it, even over the objection of the president or a vice-president. Cf. pages 652–53. "

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Guest Zev

Carolyn:

Please pay special attention to Mr. Brown's comment about the duties of the president. This is critical. If the bylaws define specific administrative duties for the office of the president, any such duties cannot be reassigned to another person via a motion. The only alternatives is to either impeach the president and have another person exercise the office of president or else amend the bylaws and assign the duty to someone else.

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Thanks, Guest, Richard, and Guest Zev.

Yes, the bylaws assign specific duties to the president, but in regard to communications only with external parties (principally, the media). At any rate, the parliamentarian should, in my view, have noted that the question ought to be divided rather than attempt to rule the motion entirely out of order. 

Richard, thanks very much for providing the reference to the Temporary Presiding Officer. The Vice-President in this scenario very much objected to what was occurring. It is also useful to hear that the assembly should have formally voted to suspend the rules in order for the parliamentarian to preside. Two-thirds would not have voted for the suspension of the rules—and as I noted the parliamentarian very pointedly claimed that as "a majority" had allowed him to chair he was rightfully in the chair. Since our rules had not been suspended, he was clearly in the wrong. Thanks for helping me understand that.

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One question I have is if the Vice President had expressed an opinion on the motion to censure.  In such a case, someone else should chair. 

I would note that censure can be a penalty in a disciplinary action.  A motion "That _____ be censured ....," however, is in order as it expresses the assembly's  opinion, and nothing more.  Where you will find this in RONR is the famous "Officer George" example, p. 137, ll. 20-25.  As noted the footnote p. 643, clearly states this.  I would also suggest that you look at p. 125, ll. 15-20, showing a motion to Ratify being amended into a motion to censure; that would be impossible, if censure were a disciplinary action in that case.

You may also want to look at "Censure:  Penalty versus Motion," Parliamentary Journal, April 2012, which specifically delineates the difference.  

 

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Thank you, Richard and J.J., for addressing the claim the parliamentarian's claim that censure is a disciplinary action and the Council has no authority to disciipline. And thank you for the references, J.J. including the article in Parliamentary Journal. I will review these.

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