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Point of order for continuing breach at special meeting not for that purpose

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Guest Guest DB

Our society uses RONR (11th ed.) as our parliamentary authority.

At a recent special meeting of our society, a point of order as an incidental main motion was raised by the chair and declared well taken. This point was not mentioned in the call to the meeting (nor on a prepared agenda distributed beforehand). The point was concerning a supposed violation, around a year prior, of a rule in the bylaws requiring a vote to be taken by ballot, which would qualify it as exempt from the timeliness requirement of points of order (RONR p. 251 ll. 20-23). Those voted in under the supposed violation were still in office. The timeliness requirement exception states that the point may be made "at any time during the continuance of the breach." (RONR p. 251 ll. 3-7, emphasis added). However, again, the point was not incident to the business stated on the call to the meeting (which qualifies it as an incidental main motion).

I have three questions:

  1. Can this point have been validly made at this special meeting?
  2. Did this point violate the rights of those absent from the meeting?
  3. Should the chair, who is a member, have been able to make this point while presiding, if it were a regular meeting? (it is a large assembly of over 100 present from a body of over 500)

 

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Guest Zev

I am going to guess that "at any time during the continuance of the breach" means exactly that. Therefore: yes, no, and yes. 

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Guest Guest DB

Thanks Zev, for your guess. The biggest problem I see is that RONR also states that, "The only business that can be transacted at a special meeting is that which has been specified in the call of the meeting." (RONR p. 93 ll. 3-4, emphasis addedThat would preclude any other main motion, supposedly including incidental ones such as a point of order. There appears to be a conflict here when taking both statements at simple face value. How would an absentee otherwise have known to go to the meeting to either appeal from the chair's decision or weigh in on such an appeal?

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Guest Zev

Your concern is not entirely baseless. I also thought of this possibility and came to the conclusion that the absent members from this meeting would only have a complaint that someone took an action to restore their rights that had been violated in the first meeting a year ago. Complaining that I wanted my rights to continue to be violated did not seem to be a reasonable stance. There may be some on this forum that believe that the prohibition against non-noticed subjects would also include this particular item. I am fully prepared to be reminded of a good reason why this Point Of Order cannot be raised at a special meeting, although I do not see it at this time. Come back later and let us see what the rest of the experts have to say. This is an unusual situation and a good learning moment.

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Guest Who's Coming to Dinner
11 hours ago, Guest Guest DB said:

The timeliness requirement exception states that the point may be made "at any time during the continuance of the breach." (RONR p. 251 ll. 3-7, emphasis added).

If we were to take "at any time" literally, then the point could be raised at a Denny's at 3 am with only one member present. Obviously, this rule applies to a meeting and therefore interacts with other rules about meetings. I agree with The Fisherman that it was out of order if it had no bearing on the conduct of the special meeting.

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Guest DB, a point of order may be raised and ruled on only at a properly called and noticed meeting with a quorum present. It doesn't count if the president has a sudden Awakening in the middle of the night and grabs a pen and a piece of paper and declares something previously adopted null and void. He can do all the declaring and writing and ordering that he wants to in the middle of the night, but it is not effective unless it takes place in a meeting.

Since the only business that can be conducted at a special meeting is business which has been specifically listed in the call of the meeting, a point of order to set aside action taken at a previous meeting would be out of order unless specifically noticed for the special meeting. 

Mr. Honemann has it exactly right... as would be expected! :)

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Guest Guest DB

Thanks for the responses.

To Daniel: No, the point of order was not incidental to the business of the meeting nor on that specified in the call. It was not even close. Hence my labeling it as an incidental main motion.

I assume this violates the rights of those absent then?

 

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2 hours ago, Guest Guest DB said:

Thanks for the responses.

To Daniel: No, the point of order was not incidental to the business of the meeting nor on that specified in the call. It was not even close. Hence my labeling it as an incidental main motion.

I assume this violates the rights of those absent then?

Yes, that is correct. A Point of Order may still be raised regarding the violation concerning the vote which should have been taken by ballot, but this must be done at a regular meeting or at a special meeting called for that purpose. 

So to answer your original questions: No, Yes, Yes.

Edited by Josh Martin

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Guest Guest DB

My last question (#3) concerns the rules for the impartiality of the chair. In a large assembly such as this, can the chair make a point of order such as this and remain impartial (assuming it were a regular meeting)? Would he or she have to temporarily vacate the chair in order to make the motion? What restrictions are in place? What remedies are allowed?

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9 hours ago, Guest Guest DB said:

My last question (#3) concerns the rules for the impartiality of the chair. In a large assembly such as this, can the chair make a point of order such as this and remain impartial (assuming it were a regular meeting)? Would he or she have to temporarily vacate the chair in order to make the motion? What restrictions are in place? What remedies are allowed?

The chair (even in a large assembly) is free to raise a Point of Order on his own initiative, rule on that point, and speak in debate and vote on any appeal raised from his ruling, all while remaining in the chair. The usual rules on impartiality do not apply here, since it is the chair’s job to enforce the assembly’s rules.

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I am reminded of a story about taciturn U.S. President Calvin Coolidge, who earned the nickname "Silent Cal".

His wife was feeling ill one Sunday and sent the president to church alone.  When he returned, she asked him to relate what the pastor's sermon was about.

"Sin,"  said Cal.

"Well, yes, but what did he say about sin?" she asked.

"He's against it."

So it is with presiding officers.  When it comes to the question of a failure to follow the rules, the chair is not supposed to be impartial.  He's supposed to be against it.

 

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On 11/4/2018 at 9:45 PM, Josh Martin said:

Yes, that is correct. A Point of Order may still be raised regarding the violation concerning the vote which should have been taken by ballot, but this must be done at a regular meeting or at a special meeting called for that purpose

So to answer your original questions: No, Yes, Yes.

This raises the obvious question of what happens if, at a special meeting called for an unrelated purpose and to which none of the actions involved are incidental, a new point of order is raised that the chair's ruling on the previous point of order is null and void.

The chair would have to say something like, "The point of order is well taken and, for the same reason, is out of order at this meeting, so the point of order is not well taken." :)

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Guest Zev

And if the expression "at any time" had been interpreted to mean at any time then the ruling would have been different. Simplicity in itself!

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15 hours ago, Shmuel Gerber said:

This raises the obvious question of what happens if, at a special meeting called for an unrelated purpose and to which none of the actions involved are incidental, a new point of order is raised that the chair's ruling on the previous point of order is null and void.

The chair would have to say something like, "The point of order is well taken and, for the same reason, is out of order at this meeting, so the point of order is not well taken." :)

Well-taken and therefore out of order. I like it.

I used to have a Zippo lighter that was engraved on two sides:

  1. The statement on the other side is false.
  2. The statement on the other side is true.

 

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