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The chair: proper conduct?

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I have no idea if the following would be considered a violation of decorum or not.

Example: we are in discussion of a proposal for trees to plant 

member, upon discussion of a proposal where a different tree type was on a prior proposal that had not been voted on:

member: these trees have a successful history on our site, and are green all year round

chair: well, I happen to think  those trees are ugly. They are the ugliest trees we have on site, in fact. I don’t like those trees, and I’ll never vote for them.

member: They were recommended by three different professional agencies, as well as the city, and they are very versatile. 

chair: Go ahead and make your motion if you want them approved, I’ll even be nice and second your motion.

member: I move that we approve these trees for planting

chair: second!

 chair: any discussion?

member: reiterates all the merits of the tree type to the fellow board members, who are all looking as if they are cringing 

chair: any other discussion? 

(None...blank stares)

chair: all in favor say aye!

member: is the only one that says aye

chair: the motion fails!

chair: looks at other members, then initial member and laughs: I guess nobody else wants those trees either! 

 

 

 

Edited by Nosey
Btw I have no idea how I ended up with giant font

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Guest Zev

For one thing, the chairman failed to ask for the no votes as is required. Also, the mocking tone is uncalled for. (You could have selected the text and then hit the "Size" button and chosen a different font size. Apparently you set a size and did not realize how to set it back.)

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26 minutes ago, Guest Zev said:

Apparently you set a size and did not realize how to set it back.)

Or perhaps the chair was yelling...😀

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3 hours ago, Nosey said:

I have no idea if the following would be considered a violation of decorum or not.

In my view, the situation described is not a violation of decorum. The relevant rule, as noted previously, is “When a question is pending, a member can condemn the nature or likely consequences of the proposed measure in strong terms, but he must avoid personalities, and under no circumstances can he attack or question the motives of another member. The measure, not the member, is the subject of debate.” (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 392)

The chair’s comments were regarding the perceived merits (or lack thereof) of the trees, not of the motion maker. As the text above notes, the proposal may be condemned in strong terms.

I don’t know that it is behavior I would look for when voting for a board member, let alone a chairman, but I would not describe it as a violation of decorum.

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4 hours ago, Nosey said:

I have no idea if the following would be considered a violation of decorum or not.

Example: we are in discussion of a proposal for trees to plant 

member, upon discussion of a proposal where a different tree type was on a prior proposal that had not been voted on:

member: these trees have a successful history on our site, and are green all year round

chair: well, I happen to think  those trees are ugly. They are the ugliest trees we have on site, in fact. I don’t like those trees, and I’ll never vote for them.

member: They were recommended by three different professional agencies, as well as the city, and they are very versatile. 

chair: Go ahead and make your motion if you want them approved, I’ll even be nice and second your motion.

member: I move that we approve these trees for planting

chair: second!

 chair: any discussion?

member: reiterates all the merits of the tree type to the fellow board members, who are all looking as if they are cringing 

chair: any other discussion? 

(None...blank stares)

chair: all in favor say aye!

member: is the only one that says aye

chair: the motion fails!

chair: looks at other members, then initial member and laughs: I guess nobody else wants those trees either!

Well, I'm going to disagree somewhat with Mr. Honemann and Mr.  Martin.

First, assuming this was not a board meeting using the small board rules, the chair's remarks that "well, I happen to think  those trees are ugly. They are the ugliest trees we have on site, in fact. I don’t like those trees, and I’ll never vote for them" were inappropriate and amounted to improper debate and expression of opinion by the chair. He should not have expressed his opinion of the trees unless he was going to step down from the chair. 

Second, although perhaps borderline, I think his overall sarcastic tone was also inappropriate.

Third, as Guest Zev stated, he should have called for the negative vote.

Now, having said that, and believing the chair's  behavior was inappropriate, it was not outrageous and probably did not violate anyone's rights.  Assuming that there is usually a degree of informality and less than strict adherence to the rules in this organization, I tend to agree with Mr. Honemann that perhaps what happened "was no violation of decorum worth complaining about", at least in the sense of raising a point of order.  It is often (usually?) better to let small breaches of the rules slide.

btw, I do not view what the chair said and did as a violation of  decorum so much as a pretty clear violation of the rules of order and debate.  There were clearly two violations:  The chair should not have commented on the merits of the proposal without relinquishing the chair and he should have called for the negative vote.  I have been in meetings where only one  or two people voted in support of a motion but when the negative vote was called for nobody voted no. For some reason, the members were perhaps  intimidated into just sitting silently and not expressing an opinion.  I will note for the record that even if there were no votes in the negative, the chair could have voted no, which would have created a tie and caused the motion to fail, but the rules still require the chair to call for the negative vote. " The chair must always call for the negative vote, no matter how nearly unanimous the affirmative vote may appear"  (RONR 11th ed., page 45)

I just don't see how anyone can say the highlighted portions of the original post constitute proper conduct by the chair.  Worthy of a point of order?  Perhaps not, depending on the circumstances of the group and the meeting.  But proper?  No.

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Thank you for your input.

We are using the small board rules.  Would it matter if the chair was right next to the member who they were speaking to and turned directly to them to tell them about the ugly thing, instead of addressing the room perhaps?

Or might thete have been a difference if the chair had said : “I think your choices are bad” (to the member) and then went on to say things about the ugly trees?

 

Edited by Nosey
Changed my mind about the question

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2 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

First, assuming this was not a board meeting using the small board rules, the chair's remarks that "well, I happen to think  those trees are ugly. They are the ugliest trees we have on site, in fact. I don’t like those trees, and I’ll never vote for them" were inappropriate and amounted to improper debate and expression of opinion by the chair. He should not have expressed his opinion of the trees unless he was going to step down from the chair. 

My understanding from previous threads by the OP is that the organization is, in fact, using the small board rules, and it therefore violates no rule for the chair to express his opinions in debate.

2 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

Second, although perhaps borderline, I think his overall sarcastic tone was also inappropriate.

By “inappropriate,” do you mean that it is in violation of some parliamentary rule, or that it is (in your opinion) conduct becoming of a member and presiding officer?

3 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

Third, as Guest Zev stated, he should have called for the negative vote.

I concur with you and Zev that the chair did violate a parliamentary rule by failing to call for the negative vote, although this has nothing to do with decorum.

3 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

btw, I do not view what the chair said and did as a violation of  decorum so much as a pretty clear violation of the rules of order and debate.  There were clearly two violations:  The chair should not have commented on the merits of the proposal without relinquishing the chair and he should have called for the negative vote.  I have been in meetings where only one  or two people voted in support of a motion but when the negative vote was called for nobody voted no. For some reason, the members were perhaps  intimidated into just sitting silently and not expressing an opinion.  I will note for the record that even if there were no votes in the negative, the chair could have voted no, which would have created a tie and caused the motion to fail, but the rules still require the chair to call for the negative vote. " The chair must always call for the negative vote, no matter how nearly unanimous the affirmative vote may appear"  (RONR 11th ed., page 45)

If the board is using the small board rules (which appears to be the case), then it would appear the only violation of a parliamentary rule is the failure to call for the negative vote.

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1 minute ago, Josh Martin said:

If the board is using the small board rules (which appears to be the case), then it would appear the only violation of a parliamentary rule is the failure to call for the negative vote.

We know NOW, from an update posted by the original poster, that this was a board meeting of a board using the small board rules, but that fact was not known to us and had not been stated by the original poster until AFTER I made my post.

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14 minutes ago, Richard Brown said:

We know NOW, from an update posted by the original poster, that this was a board meeting of a board using the small board rules, but that fact was not known to us and had not been stated by the original poster until AFTER I made my post.

Oh for heaven's sake, even I knew enough from previous posts to know that Nosey is talking about a small board using small board rules.   🙂

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11 minutes ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

Oh for heaven's sake, even I knew enough from previous posts to know that Nosey is talking about a small board using small board rules.   🙂

Some of us might have known it and some of us might not have known it, but it is a cinch that someone coming on here to do research who finds this thread will NOT know it and will assume that this is proper conduct for a presiding officer of a group operating under the regular rules of RONR.

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In my opinion, the rule against the chair's participation in debate is not, strictly speaking, a rule of decorum, which is why it is included under its own subsection in Section 43 and not under the subsection dealing with decorum in debate. A chair's participation in debate may be a violation of the rules, but it is no more indecorous than is speaking for longer than ten minutes, or debating an undebatable motion.

I can find no rule in RONR prohibiting employment of a mocking or sarcastic tone in debate.

 

 

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7 hours ago, Gary Novosielski said:

I would also note that the chair called the trees, and not the member, ugly and worse.

It was a specific point of discussion that those treees were that member’s recommendation, as it was their job in the months prior to recommend tree types. 

The chair initiated the member’s expulsion from the role, after the member questioned the chair’s power, in a prior interaction. 

 

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10 hours ago, Nosey said:

It was a specific point of discussion that those treees were that member’s recommendation, as it was their job in the months prior to recommend tree types. 

The chair initiated the member’s expulsion from the role, after the member questioned the chair’s power, in a prior interaction. 

 

Unfortunately, RONR can't make people do the right thing.  Remember, terrible things can be done, even within the rules.  E.g., RONR could assist an organization of mass murderers to operate more efficiently if they followed the General's advice.

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