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Guest Christine White

Voting Delegate Responsibilities for Subordinate Chapters

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Guest Christine White

My organization has subordinate chapters with a yearly convention of voting delegates.  Voting delegates are defined as current or past presidents in good standing.  

This year, the governing board has passed along a 40+page listing of proposed amendments to our by-laws.

At the regular subordinate chapter meeting, am I required to read every single by-law and amendment for the membership?  Traditionally, this has been done but most years, the list of proposals is very short.  I suspect that reading and discussion of each of the proposed changes could potentially take several hours.

Someone suggested that as the current president, I am the voting delegate and should already be entrusted by the electing body to vote in the best interest of our chapter.

Can I forgo reading of all of these pages of proposals?  If so, what language is used for the minutes?  Do I need someone to make a motion?

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19 minutes ago, Guest Christine White said:

My organization has subordinate chapters with a yearly convention of voting delegates.  Voting delegates are defined as current or past presidents in good standing.  

This year, the governing board has passed along a 40+page listing of proposed amendments to our by-laws.

At the regular subordinate chapter meeting, am I required to read every single by-law and amendment for the membership?  Traditionally, this has been done but most years, the list of proposals is very short.  I suspect that reading and discussion of each of the proposed changes could potentially take several hours.

Someone suggested that as the current president, I am the voting delegate and should already be entrusted by the electing body to vote in the best interest of our chapter.

Can I forgo reading of all of these pages of proposals?  If so, what language is used for the minutes?  Do I need someone to make a motion?

Here is the rule in RONR:  "When any paper is laid before the assembly for action, it is a right of every member that it be read once; and, if there is any debate or amendment, that it be read again before members are asked to vote on it."  RONR (11th ed.), p. 299

In your case, the assembly isn't voting on it because they can't adopt these proposed amendments, but rather, they may want to give you instructions as their voting delegate on how to vote on particular amendments or instructions suggesting how you should propose amendments to the proposed amendments. In my view they do need to be read aloud on the demand of a single member since there may be a motion arising out of it to provide you with the aforementioned instructions.

Edited by George Mervosh

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Guest Christine White

Thank you George.  Would that change if I am not the only voting delegate from my chapter?  For instance, this year there are 6 voting delegates in attendance.  

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Guest Christine White

Thank you George.  Does it make a difference that copies of the proposed amendments have been available to the membership for over 30 days for their perusal?

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2 minutes ago, Guest Christine White said:

Thank you George.  Would that change if I am not the only voting delegate from my chapter?  For instance, this year there are 6 voting delegates in attendance.  

Even though I used the singular in the previous response, it doesn't change my opinion (which stay tuned, others may disagree with).

Just now, Guest Christine White said:

Thank you George.  Does it make a difference that copies of the proposed amendments have been available to the membership for over 30 days for their perusal?

No.

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1 hour ago, George Mervosh said:

In my view they do need to be read aloud on the demand of a single member since there may be a motion arising out of it to provide you with the aforementioned instructions.

It would seem to me that they need only be read if a motion actually is made concerning this matter, or if the assembly orders that they be read. (Even then, I am inclined to think that only the amendment(s) the motion is concerning would need to be read.) While it may be the case that a motion arising out of the proposed amendments will be made, the fact remains that unless and until such a motion is made, the document is not laid before the assembly for action.

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I agree with the above answers. I'd just ask - does your organization (at any level) have some rule that has led to this reading in the past?

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1 hour ago, Joshua Katz said:

I agree with the above answers.

Well, that is interesting, since the above answers do not agree with each other. :)

Mr. Mervosh’s position appears to be that the entire document must be read if demanded by a single member, because a motion may arise out of the report, such as a motion to instruct the delegates on how to vote on one or more of the amendments.

My own position is that there is no requirement to read this document (even if demanded by a member) unless a motion regarding it is actually made, and even then, only the relevant portions need to be read. If a motion is made to instruct the delegates on how to vote on a particular amendment, for example, I would think only that amendment would need to be read upon demand of a member. Alternatively, the assembly may adopt a motion ordering that the document (or a portion thereof) be read.

Edited by Josh Martin

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1 minute ago, Josh Martin said:

Well, that is interesting, since the above answers do not agree with each other. :)

 

The story is told of two men who bring a dispute to a rabbi. After listening to the first one, the rabbi says "you are right." After listening to the second, he then says "you are right." A student shouts at the rabbi that both men cannot be right, to which he replies "you know what? You're also right."

Anyway, I agree with what is common to the above answers. Where they disagree, I agree with Mr. Martin. What I meant was that I agree that there is no need to read them unless someone asks, which is common to both your answers. That is, I took the question as asking if they must be read as a matter of course, and both of you as saying no to that. 

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14 minutes ago, Joshua Katz said:

Anyway, I agree with what is common to the above answers. Where they disagree, I agree with Mr. Martin. What I meant was that I agree that there is no need to read them unless someone asks, which is common to both your answers. That is, I took the question as asking if they must be read as a matter of course, and both of you as saying no to that. 

Yes, I agree that, in any event, there is no requirement that the document (or any portion of it) be read if no member requests it. Even to the extent that this document (or a portion thereof) may be considered a document placed before the assembly, if such documents are distributed in advance (as is the case here), they need not be read unless requested to do so by a member.

“In the case of any resolution, motion, or paper placed before the assembly that has not been read even once, the chair normally should not put it to a vote or seek its approval or adoption without reading it (or having it read by the secretary) unless permission is first obtained by unanimous consent. In a case where the full text has been distributed to the members in advance and it is customary for the reading to be omitted, the chair may initially presume that there is no objection to omitting the reading (but any member still has the right to demand that it be read).” (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 46, footnote)

Edited by Josh Martin

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Guest Christine White

I've read our by-laws, rules, regulations and edicts and in no place does it stipulate that the document, or any portion there of, is required to be read before the assembly.  However, there is a grey area.  Normally, communications from the governing body are to be read before the assembly.  These proposed changes were sent to the Recorder for distribution only to those considered delegates.  In the past, it was customary to read these as a courtesy to our local assembly but no formal rule or standing rule exists.  When I arrive at the convention next week, they will read each item in full, including the amended portions and then bring to vote.  It's been mentioned that as an elected official of our local chapter, the members have inherently afforded me the authority and trust to vote in their best interest.  BUT, I do have some long standing members that may believe that custom = rule.  Similarly, it has been customary to introduce past president's during opening of the meeting but our by-laws specifically state that is at the discretion of the presiding president.

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1 hour ago, Guest Christine White said:

It's been mentioned that as an elected official of our local chapter, the members have inherently afforded me the authority and trust to vote in their best interest.

Well, that is not entirely correct. As noted above, the assembly may instruct you and the other delegates on how to vote on particular matters if it wishes to do so. I agree that you and the other delegates are free to vote based on your own judgment of what is in the chapter’s best interest in cases where there are no such instructions. The fact that particular delegates may also be officers makes no difference.

“A delegate is free to vote as he sees fit on questions at the convention, except as his constituent unit may have instructed him in regard to particular matters scheduled for consideration.” (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 605)

1 hour ago, Guest Christine White said:

BUT, I do have some long standing members that may believe that custom = rule. Similarly, it has been customary to introduce past president's during opening of the meeting but our by-laws specifically state that is at the discretion of the presiding president.

Regarding the status of custom...

“In some organizations, a particular practice may sometimes come to be followed as a matter of established custom so that it is treated practically as if it were prescribed by a rule. If there is no contrary provision in the parliamentary authority or written rules of the organization, the established custom should be adhered to unless the assembly, by a majority vote, agrees in a particular instance to do otherwise. However, if a customary practice is or becomes in conflict with the parliamentary authority or any written rule, and a Point of Order (23) citing the conflict is raised at any time, the custom falls to the ground, and the conflicting provision in the parliamentary authority or written rule must thereafter be complied with. If it is then desired to follow the former practice, a special rule of order (or, in appropriate circumstances, a standing rule or a bylaw provision) can be added or amended to incorporate it.” (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 19)

So it would seem to me that if it is a custom that this document be read, it should be read unless the assembly orders otherwise (and that in any event, a single member may still require those portions which are relevant to a motion made on this topic to be read), since it does not violate any rule to read this document.

In the other case you mention, since there is a written rule on the subject, the rule takes precedence over the custom.

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Guest Christine White

Thanks Josh - with all of that being said...let's say I begin to read each amendment (of the 96 I have) and at some point it is decided that we don't have enough time to read them all.  Let's be honest in that my meeting starts at 7pm and normal business would take us to about 8:30pm.  The reading and voting of each individual rule, proposed amendment, discussion and voting could potentially take several hours which would put us VERY late at night.  Is there anything I can say prior to commencing that portion of the meeting to give the members an opportunity to present a motion to forgo the reading of each one?  We have a lot of elderly members who often have difficulty with driving at night and usually hrumph when the meeting takes any longer than normal.  Oddly enough, these are the same members that would likely have any interest in going over each item.  I feel like I am in a no-win situation.

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Just speaking practically, you don't need to say anything from the chair. You can just talk to a friend before the meeting and encourage the making of said motion. (As an aside, I have trouble seeing why your organization developed such a custom, unless it started at a time when copies were hard to come by and reading them was the only way for people to know what was being considered.)

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59 minutes ago, Guest Christine White said:

Is there anything I can say prior to commencing that portion of the meeting to give the members an opportunity to present a motion to forgo the reading of each one?

Sure.

”It is customary to read the proposed amendments to our parent organization’s bylaws at this meeting. This year, however, the chair notes that there are 96 individual amendments, and that the reading of all of the amendments would take a considerable amount of time. A motion to dispense with this custom would be in order. If such a motion is adopted, the chair will only read those amendment(s) which the assembly specifically orders be read, or those which relate to any motions members make concerning these amendments. The chair also notes that the amendments have been distributed in writing in advance of this meeting.”

I would normally suggest requesting unanimous consent for this, but it sounds like such consent is unlikely to be forthcoming.

59 minutes ago, Guest Christine White said:

We have a lot of elderly members who often have difficulty with driving at night and usually hrumph when the meeting takes any longer than normal.  Oddly enough, these are the same members that would likely have any interest in going over each item.  I feel like I am in a no-win situation.

Well, it will ultimately be up to the members themselves to figure out how they want to handle this.

Edited by Josh Martin

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