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Agenda control for rowdy meetings


Guest Karl M
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Hello,

We are a 501c4 organization that has a small trustee board and then about 35 non-trustee members who elect the trustees from their ranks.  Once a month we have a trustee meeting that is orderly and civil and then once a month we have a general membership meeting that can teeter between civil and vegetable tossing.  Numerous members have come to the trustees and complained that the general membership meetings become uncomfortable, unfriendly or hostile due to other members actions and "hogging/railroading" the floor & conversation. What can the trustees do to honor all members while helping keep the conversation civil?  How can we control a topic that has been brought up in previous months from being drug up again the next month and the next month?  Right now we pretty much let anyone propose anything for the agenda, but maybe that is wrong?  We are currently proposing starting July 1st that all agenda items for the general membership meeting need to either be screened and approved by the trustees during the trustee only meeting or added via a motion/second/discussion/vote during the "additions and corrections" section of the general membership meeting.  Would that be kosher with robert's rules?  Does that do enough to allow everyone still their voice and not be disenfranchised?  Thanks!

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Guest Who's Coming to Dinner

Under Robert's Rules, the members who are meeting control the agenda. There is no agenda until one is adopted by majority vote. There should be a motion to adopt an agenda, and during this debate is the time to propose amendments by adding, deleting, or changing items. If you rigorously follow Robert's, you will not have to suffer disorder or bad behavior. There are remedies for every ill you mention in The Book.

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2 hours ago, Guest Karl M said:

What can the trustees do to honor all members while helping keep the conversation civil?  How can we control a topic that has been brought up in previous months from being drug up again the next month and the next month?  Right now we pretty much let anyone propose anything for the agenda, but maybe that is wrong?  We are currently proposing starting July 1st that all agenda items for the general membership meeting need to either be screened and approved by the trustees during the trustee only meeting or added via a motion/second/discussion/vote during the "additions and corrections" section of the general membership meeting.  Would that be kosher with robert's rules?  Does that do enough to allow everyone still their voice and not be disenfranchised?  Thanks!

The organization may adopt the proposed rules if it wishes. Special rules of order require a 2/3 vote with previous notice or a vote of a majority of the entire membership without notice for adoption.

2 hours ago, Karl M said:

I should add besides the hogging/railroading/beating dead horses, the rhetoric can also be toxic/hostile - which of course we hope that by allowing the general membership to control what gets added (besides what the trustees add) that it will have a double effect of simmering the conversation down.

Whether or not the proposed rules are adopted, the chair should strictly enforce the rules of decorum. See RONR, 11th ed., pgs. 391-394 for more information. Indeed, a review of the other rules of debate and recognition may also be desirable. See Sections 42 and 43 of RONR.

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

Under Robert's Rules, the members who are meeting control the agenda. There is no agenda until one is adopted by majority vote. There should be a motion to adopt an agenda, and during this debate is the time to propose amendments by adding, deleting, or changing items.

Yes, but even if the members fail to add their items to the agenda, they could still make their motions during New Business, or if the agenda makes no provision for New Business, they may make their motions after all business on the agenda is completed.

It appears that there is a desire to provide that the only items which may be considered are those which are included on the agenda.

Edited by Josh Martin
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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks for the help, sorry I did not see that you all had responded. 

 

On 6/14/2018 at 4:23 PM, Guest Who's Coming to Dinner said:

There is no agenda until one is adopted by majority vote.

 

On 6/14/2018 at 5:29 PM, Josh Martin said:

Yes, but even if the members fail to add their items to the agenda, they could still make their motions during New Business, or if the agenda makes no provision for New Business, they may make their motions after all business on the agenda is completed.

It appears that there is a desire to provide that the only items which may be considered are those which are included on the agenda.

So Josh is more in line, we are looking at how to limit soapboxing and grandstanding especially on issues that have been raised and defeated on previous meetings or on things that are on the agenda for future meetings (as they are calendar sensitive).  Would that be considered 'dilatory'?

 

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Sounds like your most significant need is a good presiding officer with the training and confidence to keep the debate from degenerating.

Even if some members bring up the same topic again and again -- which is their right under RONR -- it can be disposed of efficiently and fairly. The meeting agenda belongs to the meeting, and I'd be hesitant to try to exert control by way of the trustees "setting" the agenda.

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Just now, Atul Kapur, PRP "Student" said:

Sounds like your most significant need is a good presiding officer with the training and confidence to keep the debate from degenerating.

Even if some members bring up the same topic again and again -- which is their right under RONR -- it can be disposed of efficiently and fairly. The meeting agenda belongs to the meeting, and I'd be hesitant to try to exert control by way of the trustees "setting" the agenda.

I agree as to the presiding officer - we are all just volunteers trying to keep the ship afloat, so I can see how challenging it can be when you have members actively questioning a lot of your moves.

Yes, we wanted to leave the opening for members to bring issues through the more formal "additions, Corrections, adoption of Agenda phase" instead of just having ideas be interjected constantly during new business...  Is that mostly kosher?  Maybe it isn't all that different, but it seemed to be hitting a compromise zone to help keep the meetings a bit more orderly...

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I'm assuming Robert's Rules of Order is your parliamentary authority.

Since the rules therein (which are more than adequate for conducting smooth, productive, and orderly meetings) are not being used to their proper effect, the adoption of additional rules is pointless. Start by learning the basics of Robert's Rules of Order: that is truly your best course at this point. 

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On 6/26/2018 at 4:44 PM, Karl M said:

So Josh is more in line, we are looking at how to limit soapboxing and grandstanding especially on issues that have been raised and defeated on previous meetings or on things that are on the agenda for future meetings (as they are calendar sensitive).  Would that be considered 'dilatory'?

No, these facts, in and of themselves, do not suggest that the motions in question are dilatory. In regard to motions adopted at previous meetings, motions to Rescind or to Amend Something Previously Adopted are in order, although there are special rules for adopting such motions. It is not possible for a motion to be on the agenda for a future meeting, since the agenda is set at the meeting itself. The mere fact that it is intended or desirable to consider a motion at a later meeting does not prevent a motion from being made. A motion could be ruled out of order if the assembly had already postponed the motion (or a very similar motion) to the next meeting or if the bylaws specified that the matter be considered at a particular meeting. It is not clear which of these scenarios the phrase “calendar sensitive” is referring to.

I also would note that (except in a committee or small board), debate without a motion pending is not in order, so that may cut down on some “soapboxing” and “grandstanding.” If the assembly finds that it needs to further control such matters, it may adopt appropriate special rules of order.

On 6/26/2018 at 5:09 PM, Karl M said:

Yes, we wanted to leave the opening for members to bring issues through the more formal "additions, Corrections, adoption of Agenda phase" instead of just having ideas be interjected constantly during new business...  Is that mostly kosher?  Maybe it isn't all that different, but it seemed to be hitting a compromise zone to help keep the meetings a bit more orderly...

As I have previously noted, the membership itself has the power to adopt a rule of this nature by a 2/3 vote with previous notice or a vote of a majority of the entire membership. The board, however, may not impose such rules on the membership.

Edited by Josh Martin
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