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Guest Veronica  Yates

Point of Order

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A parliamentarian's role is to advise the presiding officer. If the presiding officer doesn't follow the parliamentarian's advice, so be it. A parliamentarian who feels the need to raise a point of order during a meeting is a parliamentarian who needs to resign.

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2 hours ago, Guest Veronica Yates said:

Can the parliamentarian raise a "point of order" during the meeting?

As my colleagues have stated, generally, no, the parliamentarian should not "raise a point of order" during a meeting.  It the parliamentarian notices a breach of order or a violation of the rules, he should quietly advise the presiding officer of the fact. 

Question:  Is this parliamentarian a member of the society?  If not, he has no right at all to actually raise a point of order.  However, if he is a member of the society and is acting as what RONR describes as a "member parliamentarian", he does have the right, as a member, to raise a point of order but should not do so as RONR requires a member parliamentarian to give up the right to make motions, participate in debate and to vote except when the vote is by secret ballot.  The following language on page 467 addresses the restrictions on a member parliamentarian:

A member of an assembly who acts as its parliamentarian has the same duty as the presiding officer to maintain a position of impartiality, and therefore does not make motions, participate in debate, or vote on any question except in the case of a ballot vote. He does not cast a deciding vote, even if his vote would affect the result, since that would interfere with the chair's prerogative of doing so. If a member feels that he cannot properly forgo these rights in order to serve as parliamentarian, he should not accept that position. Unlike the presiding officer, the parliamentarian cannot temporarily relinquish his position in order to exercise such rights on a particular motion.

The following language form pages 466-467, which precedes the quote above, generally addresses the duties of the parliamentarian:

During a meeting the work of the parliamentarian should be limited to giving advice to the chair and, when requested, to any other member. It is also the duty of the parliamentarian—as inconspicuously as possible—to call the attention of the chair to any error in the proceedings that may affect the substantive rights of any member or may otherwise do harm. There should be an understanding between the parliamentarian and the presiding officer that there will probably be occasions when it may be essential for the chair to listen to suggestions being made by the parliamentarian, even if it means momentarily not giving full attention to others or asking the assembly to stand at ease during the consultation (see p. 82; p. 250, ll. 2–5). This practice will enable the chair to be in a position to act promptly at the correct time and be fully informed. In advising the chair, the parliamentarian should not wait until asked for advice—that may be too late. An experienced parliamentarian will often see a problem developing and be able to head it off with a few words to the chair. Only on the most involved matters should the parliamentarian actually be called upon to speak to the assembly; and the practice should be avoided if at all possible. The parliamentarian should be assigned a seat next to the chair, so as to be convenient for consultation in a low voice, but the chair should try to avoid checking with the parliamentarian too [page 467] frequently or too obviously. After the parliamentarian has expressed an opinion on a point, the chair has the duty to make the final ruling and, in doing so, has the right to follow the advice of the parliamentarian or to disregard it. But if the parliamentarian's advice on important procedural issues is habitually disregarded, he may find it necessary, at the end of the present engagement or session, to resign.

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Guest Veronica, supplementing my answer above, you might also take note of this language on page 254 regarding the parliamentarian:

Before rendering his decision, the chair can consult the parliamentarian, if there is one. The chair can also request the advice of experienced members, but no one has the right to express such opinions in the meeting unless requested to do so by the chair.   (Emphasis added)

What that provision does, in essence, is permit the society to have one or more knowledgeable members who, for all practical purposes are serving as the society's parliamentarians, to make their experience and expertise available to the chairman without being appointed as the organization's official parliamentarian and having to give up some of their rights as members. 

Another alternative used by some organizations is to adopt a special rule of order or a bylaw provision which provides that a member who serves as parliamentarian does not give up any of his rights of membership and may participate as fully in meetings as all other members.

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15 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

Another alternative used by some organizations is to adopt a special rule of order or a bylaw provision which provides that a member who serves as parliamentarian does not give up any of his rights of membership and may participate as fully in meetings as all other members.

Even in such a case, however, I am inclined to think that the parliamentarian should not raise a Point of Order unless he intends to submit his resignation (and if he does not, he should expect to be fired). The parliamentarian serves as an advisor to the presiding officer on parliamentary procedure, but it is the presiding officer who has the principal responsibility to enforce and interpret those rules. For a member parliamentarian to openly challenge the chair undermines the chairman’s authority in this regard.

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44 minutes ago, Josh Martin said:

Even in such a case, however, I am inclined to think that the parliamentarian should not raise a Point of Order unless he intends to submit his resignation (and if he does not, he should expect to be fired). The parliamentarian serves as an advisor to the presiding officer on parliamentary procedure, but it is the presiding officer who has the principal responsibility to enforce and interpret those rules. For a member parliamentarian to openly challenge the chair undermines the chairman’s authority in this regard.

cc: NAP

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1 hour ago, Josh Martin said:

Even in such a case, however, I am inclined to think that the parliamentarian should not raise a Point of Order unless he intends to submit his resignation (and if he does not, he should expect to be fired). The parliamentarian serves as an advisor to the presiding officer on parliamentary procedure, but it is the presiding officer who has the principal responsibility to enforce and interpret those rules. For a member parliamentarian to openly challenge the chair undermines the chairman’s authority in this regard.

I disagree with the bolded part of your statement above.  I understand your concern that a parliamentarian who openly raises a point of order might appear to be challenging the authority of the chair, but that is actually what is being done any time any member raises a point of order. You seem to be substituting your will for that of the membership.  If the membership  has adopted the special rule of order as I described expressly granting the member parliamentarian the right to participate as fully as all other members, then he has been expressly given that right by the membership.  Who are we to say that he should resign if he chooses to exercise a right that he has been expressly granted by the membership, superseding the rule on the subject in RONR? 

I do agree that it would be more "professional" and in keeping with the recommended  procedure in RONR for the member parliamentarian to attempt to quietly call the attention  of the chair to a significant breach of the rules rather than to raise a point of order on his own.  However, he certainly has the right to do so if the association has adopted the special rule of order that I described.  The membership has granted him that right.

I will add, though, that he is most likely serving at the pleasure of  the chair (or perhaps at the pleasure of the membership. He might even be elected).  If the chair does not like having the member parliamentarian openly raise a point of order on his own, he is certainly free to have a private conversation with the  parliamentarian over their expected working relationship and to remove him as parliamentarian and appoint someone else if he is displeased by the parliamentarian's actions.  I think many presiding officers, not being very familiar with RONR, would not object to the parliamentarian raising a point of order when there has been a breach of the rules.  Some chairs might feel "challenged" and others would not.   But, I stand by my statement that if the membership has adopted a special rule or order granting the member parliamentarian the right to exercise all of the rights of the other members, he is certainly under no obligation to resign if he chooses to exercise the right to raise a point of order. Raising a point of order when he notices a breach might be exactly what the membership wants him to do and could well be the reason for the adoption of the  special rule of order in the first place.

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2 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

I disagree with the bolded part of your statement above.  I understand your concern that a parliamentarian who openly raises a point of order might appear to be challenging the authority of the chair, but that is actually what is being done any time any member raises a point of order.

I understand that is what is being done any time any member raises a point of order, but the other members of the assembly have not been hired specifically for the purpose of advising the chair on such matters.

2 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

You seem to be substituting your will for that of the membership.  If the membership  has adopted the special rule of order as I described expressly granting the member parliamentarian the right to participate as fully as all other members, then he has been expressly given that right by the membership.  Who are we to say that he should resign if he chooses to exercise a right that he has been expressly granted by the membership, superseding the rule on the subject in RONR

I had previously understood that the intent of the rule you were proposing was to make clear that the parliamentarian could fully exercise his rights to, for instance, speak in debate on matters before the assembly, but that the parliamentarian’s role was otherwise the same as in RONR. While this may undermine the parliamentarian’s appearance of impartiality (and the society apparently felt this was an acceptable risk), it does nothing to change the relationship between the presiding officer and the parliamentarian.

I fully understand that some organizations wish to go further still and provide that the role of the parliamentarian is to advise the assembly, even if this means openly challenging the presiding officer. An organization is free to adopt such a rule if it wishes (although I would not advise it), but it is not clear to me that this is the intent of the rule you stated, as written.

3 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

I will add, though, that he is most likely serving at the pleasure of  the chair (or perhaps at the pleasure of the membership. He might even be elected).  If the chair does not like having the member parliamentarian openly raise a point of order on his own, he is certainly free to have a private conversation with the  parliamentarian over their expected working relationship and to remove him as parliamentarian and appoint someone else if he is displeased by the parliamentarian's actions.  I think many presiding officers, not being very familiar with RONR, would not object to the parliamentarian raising a point of order when there has been a breach of the rules.  Some chairs might feel "challenged" and others would not.   But, I stand by my statement that if the membership has adopted a special rule or order granting the member parliamentarian the right to exercise all of the rights of the other members, he is certainly under no obligation to resign if he chooses to exercise the right to raise a point of order. Raising a point of order when he notices a breach might be exactly what the membership wants him to do and could well be the reason for the adoption of the  special rule of order in the first place.

If it is the intent of the society to have the parliamentarian openly challenge the chair, in my view, the rule stated above is not sufficiently clear for that purpose. It should, in some manner, be made clear that the society expects its parliamentarian to ultimately be an advisor to the assembly, not the presiding officer. Changing it so that the membership elects the parliamentarian would certainly hint at that, although I think it would be better still to explicitly state it. If all the society has done is to adopt the rule you stated above, however, I stand by previous statement.

I would also note that the argument that “many presiding officers, not being very familiar with RONR, would not object to the parliamentarian raising a point of order when there has been a breach of the rules” makes no sense at all, as what the parliamentarian should do when there has been a breach of the rules is to quietly inform the chair of this matter, and to address the assembly regarding it only if requested to do so by the chair. If the Chairman then follows the parliamentarian’s advice, there is no need to raise a Point of Order. Therefore, the only circumstance in which the situation the OP asks about should arise is if the chair does not listen to the parliamentarian’s advice, and the parliamentarian nonetheless continues to challenge the chair. In my view, this is not appropriate behavior for someone whose job is to advise the chair.

I do, however, agree with your statement that the parliamentarian has no obligation to resign, since no one ever has an obligation to resign  - as always, resignation is a voluntary act.

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4 hours ago, Josh Martin said:

 

I had previously understood that the intent of the rule you were proposing was to make clear that the parliamentarian could fully exercise his rights to, for instance, speak in debate on matters before the assembly, but that the parliamentarian’s role was otherwise the same as in RONR. While this may undermine the parliamentarian’s appearance of impartiality (and the society apparently felt this was an acceptable risk), it does nothing to change the relationship between the presiding officer and the parliamentarian.

 

The simple fact that the rule has been adopted changes the relationship from the president's standpoint.  The president knows that the parliamentarian can raise points of order (and otherwise participate participate as a member).   If he is not happy about that, he usually can decide not to appoint a parliamentarian, or to perhaps decide to appoint another individual.  That relationship has changed, because the rule has changed it.  The member parliamentarian may still advise the chair, but may also exercise his rights as a member, much in the same way that member secretary may exercise his rights as a member.

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Guest Zev

You guys are debating a purely hypothetical situation that the OP in no way indicated was the true set of facts. If I were the presiding officer of such a meeting and the assembly adopted such a rule I would consider this act as the highest form of insult possible and would seriously consider resigning. 

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Guest Zev, there are legitimate reasons why organizations adopt such a Special Rule of Order. My own NAP local unit has such a Special Rule of Order and it was supported by the then president and all of the active past presidents, including myself. In fact, it was adopted unanimously. In our case, it was the only way the president and the unit could get a really qualified member to agree to serve as parliamentarian.

In many organizations, the most knowledgeable and qualified member to serve as  parliamentarian is not willing to do so because he is not willing to give up his right to debate, make motions, and to vote on most issues.

Edited to add: it has been my experience that most organizations either are unfamiliar with the rule in RONR about a member parliamentarian or they simply ignore it. I think it is far better to address it head-on and adopt a Special Rule of Order if that is what the association wants. That is what our association wanted.

Edited by Richard Brown
Added last paragraph

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I don't think raising a point of order is the most unobtrusive way possible to communicate to the chair about a mistake.  If someone is serving as a parliamentarian, then it seems to me that to the extent possible he should conduct himself as that role requires, even in the presence of a rule allowing greater freedom.

So, if the parliamentarian notices an error, he should first convey that fact to the chair unobtrusively.  If the chair persists, and the parliamentarian feels strongly about the issue, only then should he raise a point of order, presumably to preserve the right to appeal, since the chair is likely to find the point not well taken.

It is quite possible that a resignation or firing will follow, but I could also imagine otherwise.

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12 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

Guest Zev, there are legitimate reasons why organizations adopt such a Special Rule of Order.

One example is when the member parliamentarian has an additional role with the society.  For example, the bylaw committee is chaired by the parliamentarian and it would be helpful for him to speak on a bylaw revision that is coming before the assembly. 

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