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Term Length Interpretation


AFS1970
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I will start off by saying that I think the decision that was made was well intentioned and probably the best for the organization, but I still think the interpretation was wrong. 

The by-laws of my fire department provide for an executive board. This is made up of The President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer & Financial Secretary who all serve 1 year terms, the Chief who serves a 2 year term and three members at large who all serve staggered three year terms. One of the requirements to be elected president is to have been previously elected to a term on the executive board.

As background, last year we had a member run for an be elected to one of the member at large positions. For some reason we were holding the elections from the bottom up and not from the top down. The President had stepped down and there was an opening, which the vice president does not automatically move up into. This member at large wanted to run for president. Most members thought he had to serve a term to run but he pointed out that the bylaws said elected to and he had just been elected. He was allowed to run and the membership voted for his opponent in a landslide, his opponent turned out to be possibly the worst president an organization could ever have. 

So this comes and the same member at large is nominated for president. The President is nominated for reelection but failed to meet another requirement and was disqualified. So this member at large who was 1 year into a 3 year term was running unopposed. This is where the interpretation comes in. The executive board who is also the nominating committee and responsible for vetting candidates determined that because most of the terms are 1 year he only needs to serve 1 year to be eligible. I believe that since we have 1, 2 and 3 years terms that a full term would be required, but then again the bylaws simply say elected to a term not completed a term. 

This was not the only questionable decision by the executive board in this election, but I think they were wrong in their interpretation. Has anyone else dealt with this sort of issue?

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Last year, your membership meeting decided that he was eligible by virtue of having been elected, that is, without serving any of his term. That seems to have set the precedent.

So it seems immaterial whether he's served any of his term, because your meeting decided serving any of the term is not necessary, just being elected is. If I were on your executive board, I would have followed that precedent.

There are some caveats to this.

First, exactly what do your bylaws say about eligibility to be elected President (please quote the exact wording) and about the roles and authority of the board to make decisions?

Second, this is all a matter of interpreting the bylaws, which is a decision to be made by the membership. What I've stated above is just commenting on the situation as you've described it.

Third, the precedent that I've claimed was created last year is persuasive but not binding on the membership meeting. Page 252: "precedents are persuasive in resolving them—that is, they carry weight in the absence of overriding reasons for following a different course—but they are not binding on the chair or the assembly."

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I agree that the precedent was set last year. Although I am not sure it was set correctly. I left out that the president was set by a member at large who was presiding over the meeting made a ruling based on the wording. I am not sure he had the authority to do so but I think he got the technical wording part of it right. That is why I am not sure that there was even a need to evaluate the definition of term this year. I think they got it wrong but probably didn't need to even make a decision this year. 

I have only been a member here for a year and a half. My old firehouse had much less confusing rules. However I don't want to always be the guy bringing up rules clarifications as I am so new. 

So the rules for President are:

Article IX Section 1 Eligibility: To be eligible to hold the offices of President or Vice-President, a member must have served as an active member for two (2) years and be at least 21 years of age. No member shall be eligible to hold the office of President who has not been elected to at least one term as Executive Board Member.

Article XIII, Section 5, #17

In the interest of accountability to the members of the fire company, all candidates running for President, Fire Chief and Assistant Fire Chief shall provide a list of their proposed plans for managing the Fire Company and its resources. This list shall be posted at least 20 days prior to the Annual (June) Meeting on the official Company bulletin board. Failure to provide such list will automatically disqualify the candidate from that position(s).

 

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49 minutes ago, AFS1970 said:

Article IX Section 1 Eligibility: To be eligible to hold the offices of President or Vice-President, a member must have served as an active member for two (2) years and be at least 21 years of age. No member shall be eligible to hold the office of President who has not been elected to at least one term as Executive Board Member.

 

Sure looks to me like you only need to be elected. But I am not a member of your department, so my opinion is worth what you pay for it.

49 minutes ago, AFS1970 said:

I agree that the precedent was set last year. Although I am not sure it was set correctly. I left out that the president was set by a member at large who was presiding over the meeting made a ruling based on the wording. I am not sure he had the authority to do so but I think he got the technical wording part of it right. That is why I am not sure that there was even a need to evaluate the definition of term this year. I think they got it wrong but probably didn't need to even make a decision this year. 

 

Why would the person presiding at a meeting not have the authority to rule on a point of order?

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So the person presiding last year made a ruling. I think that person had the authority to do so. And the meeting could have Appealed the decision and overruled the presiding officer at that time. So the ruling last year was legitimate. I also happen to think it was correct, as the bylaw says "elected" for this requirement, but my opinion is not important when the meeting has decided.

And, given that, I agree that this person is unquestionably eligible to run for President this year. The discussions about how long he served on the board are unnecessary.

That being said, apparently some felt that discussion on how long he served was important. Are they going to raise the same point of order again at this year's meeting? [This is beyond rules interpretation, so I won't pursue it here]

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