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Guest Jim Adams

Parliamentarian as acting board member?

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Guest Jim Adams

Is it acceptable to have an active board member (meaning one that participates in debate and votes) act as parliamentarian?  Our organization is a mid-size not-for-profit that is subject to RR.  Our bylaws do not state that the parliamentarian is a board member.  That said, the parliamentarian for the board of directors has historically been an active director.  If acceptable, must the bylaws be changed to define the role as it is currently being fulfilled? I appreciate your thoughts on this. 

**(For further reference, our board is also run by a president who participates in debate but only votes to break ties.  This role is also not specifically defined in this way but has always been fulfilled in this manner.)

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Do your bylaws specifically provide for a parliamentarian?   Or is there just usually someone on the Board who is knowledgeable in parliamentary procedure that the Chair and other Board members look to for advice?

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9 minutes ago, Guest Jim Adams said:

Is it acceptable to have an active board member (meaning one that participates in debate and votes) act as parliamentarian? 

 

9 minutes ago, Guest Jim Adams said:

Our bylaws do not state that the parliamentarian is a board member.  That said, the parliamentarian for the board of directors has historically been an active director.  If acceptable, must the bylaws be changed to define the role as it is currently being fulfilled? I appreciate your thoughts on this. 

I think a special rule of order would suffice. But are you talking about a bylaws-defined position, or simply someone the chair can ask questions to? The chair can ask anyone he wants for advice without giving that person a title and invoking the rules about impartiality. (Of course, people might still object to the chair getting advice from someone who is not impartial.)

11 minutes ago, Guest Jim Adams said:

**(For further reference, our board is also run by a president who participates in debate but only votes to break ties.  This role is also not specifically defined in this way but has always been fulfilled in this manner.)

Assuming you are not using small board rules, this is contrary to RONR, which says the chair should not participate in debate, and (perhaps more importantly) may vote when it would impact the outcome, not only to break ties. I say the latter is more important because the chair (assuming he is a member) has the right to participate and to vote, but is expected not to exercise those rights while presiding. 

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I have an additional question:  How large is your board and how many members usually attend its meetings?

As to your question about the parliamentarian, here is what RONR says about a "member parliamentarian" on page 467:

"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."

So, in other words, if you have a member serving as parliamentarian, he should not make motions, participate in debate or vote except when the vote is by secret ballot.  If it is desired that a member parliamentarian be allowedd to do those things, you can suspend the rules with a two-thirds vote on a case by cases basis or adopt a special rule of order providing that a member parliamentarian may participate in meetings to whatever extent you desire.   That issue is addressed in other threads in this forum.  You can search for them using the search term "member parliamentarian" and select the option for the system to look for posts with "all words" rather than just any of those  words.

If the parliamentarian is not a member, he has no right to do any of those things.  You can permit him to make motions and debate by suspending the rules with a two thirds vote, but it is not possible to give him the right to vote.  Only members can vote.

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Guest Parliamentarian - stated

The bylaws do not state that there is a designated parliamentarian but the board of directors has had someone assigned to that role (and listed as such in all appropriate printed materials) for (to my direct knowledge) the past 20 years.  The person has been chosen from the pool of elected board members by the president.

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Guest Parliamentarian actions
56 minutes ago, Joshua Katz said:

I think a special rule of order would suffice. But are you talking about a bylaws-defined position, or simply someone the chair can ask questions to? The chair can ask anyone he wants for advice without giving that person a title and invoking the rules about impartiality. (Of course, people might still object to the chair getting advice from someone who is not impartial.)

The position is not currently a bylaws-defined position but the a director has the goal to make it a defined position being filled by an active director who takes part in debate and votes.  The meetings are currently run in a quite casual fashion but RONR is stated in the bylaws as the governance.  To my knowledge, no meeting held has ever been run strictly in the proper format.  The parliamentarian has always been active in debate but is expected to serve as the parliamentary "bouncer" with impartiality.  I am aware that this is not appropriate per RONR.

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Well, if the goal is to add it to the bylaws, then you can easily make it however you'd like it since your bylaws take precedence. (That, of course, says nothing about whether or not it's a good idea.) And, if currently there is no parliamentarian, then I don't see a problem with the chair asking for advice. I'm not sure what you mean by "bouncer" though. If he's just raising points of order, he's not acting as a parliamentarian at all.

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1 hour ago, Joshua Katz said:

Assuming you are not using small board rules, this is contrary to RONR, which says the chair should not participate in debate, and (perhaps more importantly) may vote when it would impact the outcome, not only to break ties. I say the latter is more important because the chair (assuming he is a member) has the right to participate and to vote, but is expected not to exercise those rights while presiding. 

Again, I am going to state current practice...  The chair currently brings topics and issues to the floor, gives background/commentary (in other words, is not impartial), then asks for a director to make a motion if the directors feel one should be made.  I have never seen him try to make a motion himself.  He asks for discussion (which, oddly takes place after the introduction of the topic, not after a motion is on the floor) and has participated in discussion on a regular basis.  In my direct experience, the chair does not vote but does make it clear where he stands on topics.  Per the size of the organization, we do not qualify for small board rules.

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Guest Clarification
15 minutes ago, Joshua Katz said:

I'm not sure what you mean by "bouncer" though. If he's just raising points of order, he's not acting as a parliamentarian at all.

My meaning is that the parliamentarian in this organization has always acted with full parliamentary authority.  Every other organization I've been involved with (that was subject to RONR) has operated as prescribed by RONR; the chair holds parliamentary authority and final decision.  I've never seen this structure before.

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I see it was asked once before by Mr. Brown but I haven't seen an answer - how many board members are there, and how many are usually in attendance at board meetings?

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4 hours ago, Guest Parliamentarian actions said:

The parliamentarian has always been active in debate but is expected to serve as the parliamentary "bouncer" with impartiality. 

 

4 hours ago, Guest Clarification said:

My meaning is that the parliamentarian in this organization has always acted with full parliamentary authority.  Every other organization I've been involved with (that was subject to RONR) has operated as prescribed by RONR; the chair holds parliamentary authority and final decision.  I've never seen this structure before.

Yes, this is quite unusual. Special Rules of Order would be needed to facilitate this arrangement, if it is desired to keep it.

4 hours ago, Guest Actions of Chair said:

Again, I am going to state current practice...  The chair currently brings topics and issues to the floor, gives background/commentary (in other words, is not impartial), then asks for a director to make a motion if the directors feel one should be made.  I have never seen him try to make a motion himself.  He asks for discussion (which, oddly takes place after the introduction of the topic, not after a motion is on the floor) and has participated in discussion on a regular basis.  In my direct experience, the chair does not vote but does make it clear where he stands on topics.  Per the size of the organization, we do not qualify for small board rules.

This is bizarre. The only reason to require the chair to refrain from voting except when his vote would affect the result is to maintain the appearance of impartiality, and that apparently is not a concern. This insistence on a procedure for breaking a tie seems to be based on the common misconception that a tie vote leaves a motion in some sort of limbo. In actuality, a tie vote simply means that the motion fails.

Edited by Josh Martin

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Guest Jim Adams
On 3/14/2019 at 3:42 PM, Bruce Lages said:

I see it was asked once before by Mr. Brown but I haven't seen an answer - how many board members are there, and how many are usually in attendance at board meetings?

My apologies...

There are 25 board members which includes four officers.  We consistently have 23 members at meetings.

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Guest Jim Adams
On 3/14/2019 at 6:31 PM, Josh Martin said:

This insistence on a procedure for breaking a tie seems to be based on the common misconception that a tie vote leaves a motion in some sort of limbo. In actuality, a tie vote simply means that the motion fails.

I have never seen a tie vote on this board, but I believe that, if a tie vote occurred, the chair would cast his vote which would decide the outcome.  Again, this has been a bizarre experience.  II have brought up the issue of proper procedure more than once with the support of the organization's written bylaws, but no one else seems to care that it is not being followed.  Maybe I should just find a way to resign from this board, but I accepted a term and do not like to shirk my obligations, either.  

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25 minutes ago, Guest Jim Adams said:

I have never seen a tie vote on this board, but I believe that, if a tie vote occurred, the chair would cast his vote which would decide the outcome.  Again, this has been a bizarre experience.  II have brought up the issue of proper procedure more than once with the support of the organization's written bylaws, but no one else seems to care that it is not being followed.  Maybe I should just find a way to resign from this board, but I accepted a term and do not like to shirk my obligations, either.  

To clarify, the outcome of a vote is never undecided. if a tie vote occured, the chair could cast his vote, not to decide the outcome, but to change the outcome.  A tie vote, since it is less than a majority, decides the outcome in the negative.  If the chair decides to vote Aye, that would change the vote to achieve a majority, and the outcome would be in the affirmative. In this case there would be no point in the chair casting a No vote, since the motion would fail even without it.

Under the rules in RONR the chair may vote any time that his single vote would matter.  So if the chair was opposed to a motion, but the motion passed (on a counted vote) by one vote, the chair could cast a No vote, creating a tie, and defeating the motion.

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1 hour ago, Guest Jim Adams said:

There are 25 board members which includes four officers.  We consistently have 23 members at meetings.

Thank you.  In that case, the "small board rules" in RONR would not be your default rules.  The small board rules are the "default" rules for boards with no more than about a dozen members in attendance. Your board can still follow them, but it should do so by actually adopting a motion  to follow the "Small Board Rules" as set out in  RONR.  Your board might already follow them by custom...  I don't remember what has been said about that in the prior  posts.  The small board rules permit your board to act more informally, permit the chair to participate just like the other members, and ease the speaking restrictions, among other things.   The "Small Board Rules" are set out on pages 467-468 of RONR.

 

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On 3/16/2019 at 5:01 PM, Richard Brown said:

but it should do so by actually adopting a motion  to follow the "Small Board Rules" as set out in  RONR.

I presume that this would require a 2/3 vote (or unanimous consent), as it's effectively implementing special rules of order?

On 3/16/2019 at 5:01 PM, Richard Brown said:

The "Small Board Rules" are set out on pages 467-468 of RONR.

Nitpick: 487-488.

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22 minutes ago, Benjamin Geiger said:

I presume that this would require a 2/3 vote (or unanimous consent), as it's effectively implementing special rules of order?

This is an interesting question. It has generally been my understanding that a board decides for itself whether to use the small board rules, and that a special rule of order is not necessary to do so, however, I’m not certain this question has yet arisen for a board which is clearly not “small” as RONR defines it. RONR provides on pg. 487 that a small board is one in which there are not more than about a dozen members present. While “about” provides some latitude, we are told that this board consistently has 23 members present, which is about twice as large.

On the other hand, the actual definition of small boards seems to include even more latitude, stating that “Whenever reference is made in this book to "small boards," the size implied will depend somewhat on conditions, but such boards are usually to be understood as consisting of not more than about a dozen persons.” (RONR, 11th ed., pgs. 9-10)

So I’m not entirely certain whether the board in question would need to adopt a special rule of order if it wished to use some or all of the small board rules.

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