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J. J.

Assembly and the Parliamentarian

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This is hypothetical, though it could come up (and may have for someone).

Question 1:

The parliamentarian advises the chair on if Motion B is in order; he does so quietly.

The Chair rules Motion B a out of order on the ground that it violated the bylaws; the chair's ruling is appealed.

A member requests that the chair tell the assembly what the parliamentarian's advice was.  The chair declines.

The member then moves "to suspend the rules and have the parliamentarian opine on if Motion B is in order."  The motion is adopted, though the chair still objects.

Is the parliamentarian obliged to state that opinion to the assembly?

Question 2:

Motion A, if in order, requires previous notice, but is not a bylaw amendment.  Previous notice is required.

The parliamentarian and the chair discuss Motion A prior to the meeting.  They do not speak together about the motion during the meeting

The Chair rules Motion A a out of order on the ground that it violated the bylaws; the chair's ruling is appealed.

A member requests that the chair permit the parliamentarian to opine on if the motion is in order.  The chair declines.

The member then moves "to suspend the rules and have the parliamentarian opine on if Motion A is in order."  The motion is adopted, though the chair still objects.

Is the parliamentarian obliged to state that opinion to the assembly?

Question 3

Is the same as Question #2, with this difference.  The motion to suspend the rules is "to suspend the rules and have the parliamentarian state any advice he has given the chair as to if Motion A is in order."

3a.  Is the motion  in order "to suspend the rules and have the parliamentarian state any advice he has given the chair as to if Motion A is in order," in order?

3b.  Is the parliamentarian obliged to disclose to the assembly any advice he gave the president prior to the meeting as to if Motion A is in order?

What would you think the answer, under the rules, would be the to these questions?

 

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With respect to Question #1, I suspect there is more to this than we are being told. Why not just make a Request for Information (as it is preferred to be called, now) and ask the chair if the Parliamentarian would be so kind as to express his opinion on the matter?

Edited by reelsman

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With regard to Question #3, my thoughts regarding Question #1 also apply. The Parliamentarian's opinion is not some kind of state secret. When asked to do so, the Parliamentarian should be willing to respond to a Request for Information for the good of the assembly.

Edited by reelsman

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33 minutes ago, reelsman said:

Why not just make a Point of Information (as it is preferred to be called, now)

I thought the 11th edition changed the preferred term from "Point of Information" to "Request for Information".

From the "most significant changes" to the 11th edition on page xxvi:  "12.    Establishment of Request for Information as the preferred name for the motion Point of Information, in an effort to reduce the common misunderstanding or misuse of this motion to give information rather than request it [294–95]."  

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36 minutes ago, reelsman said:

With regard to Question #3, my thoughts regarding Question #1 also apply. The Parliamentarian's opinion is not some kind of state secret. When asked to do so, the Parliamentarian should be willing to respond to a Request for Information for the good of the assembly.

Yes, I am seeing your point.

 

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These two lines from page 466 indicate to me that the parliamentarian should respond to such a request (or motion) from the assembly and that such a motion is on order:

"During a meeting the work of the parliamentarian should be limited to giving advice to the chair and, when requested, to any other member."

and:

"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."

Therefore, I think the answer to questions 1 and 2 is definitely "yes".  As to question 3, that is a bit tougher, but I'm inclined to think the answer to it is likewise "yes".   However, I don't think the parliamentarian can be compelled to answer, but his refusal could result in the assembly discharging him forthwith if the assembly has that power.  The assembly could also adopt a motion of censure as to the parliamentarian, the chair or both.

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Guest Zev

The above answers seem to take for granted that the presiding officer and the parliamentarian have no stake in the outcome and that the entire advice is relayed to the assembly. On rare occasions this may not be true. I know of one particular case in which the presiding officer and the parliamentarian concocted a ruse to deceive the convention and deny them the right to amend a motion on the floor that had originated as a report from a committee. Had anyone asked for the parliamentarian to repeat his advice to the chair I am certain that he would have just stated that he suggested that the motion was out of order and withheld the part where he and the presiding officer discussed the nature of the ruse while the microphones were turned off.

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Answering questions of the assembly may depend on the terms of the parliamentarian's contract with the organization. If the parliamentarian in these questions is a "member parliamentarian," then that's a different matter. 

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56 minutes ago, Ann Rempel said:

Answering questions of the assembly may depend on the terms of the parliamentarian's contract with the organization. If the parliamentarian in these questions is a "member parliamentarian," then that's a different matter. 

Ann makes a valid point.  If the contract with the parliamentarian provides that he shall provide advice only to the presiding officer and need not respond to member inquiries, then he is in a somewhat better position, but the assembly can still ask him for the information it wants and he can decide whether to comply.  But, no matter what his contract says, he can still be subject to a motion of censure and even to a complaint with the AIP or NAP, but his changes of prevailing on the complaint are enhanced if the contract says that he shall provide advice only to the presiding officer.

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2 hours ago, Ann Rempel said:

Answering questions of the assembly may depend on the terms of the parliamentarian's contract with the organization. If the parliamentarian in these questions is a "member parliamentarian," then that's a different matter. 

In this case, the parliamentarian is a non-member. 

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Hmm. This raises the question whether a Parliamentarian who is not a member of the assembly can respond to a Request for Information without suspending the rules. My reading of p. 466 leads me to believe that he can, although this should be avoided when possible.

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33 minutes ago, reelsman said:

Hmm. This raises the question whether a Parliamentarian who is not a member of the assembly can respond to a Request for Information without suspending the rules. My reading of p. 466 leads me to believe that he can, although this should be avoided when possible.

If that is the scenario, after the request is made, the chair says to the parliamentarian, "Don't answer that."   Under RONR, strictly, is the parliamentarian obliged to follow the instructions of the chair?

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Guest Zev

There is no vote on a Request For Information (p.293 ll. 12-19), so it appears to make no difference whether the parliamentarian is a member or not since the request is directed to the presiding officer. However, if the parliamentarian were asked to debate the pending question as a non-member, then I would expect a vote authorizing him to do so.

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Guest Zev
10 minutes ago, J. J. said:

Under RONR, strictly, is the parliamentarian obliged to follow the instructions of the chair?

If I am a non-member I would keep my mouth shut and let the presiding officer take the heat, but if I am a member I would do what the assembly ordered for the simple reason that the presiding officer cannot dismiss me from the society but the assembly most certainly can.

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A parliamentarian advises on matters of parliamentary procedure, and hence may be expected to advise the chair that a motion that conflicts with the bylaws is not in order (with a few very limited exceptions). The question as to whether a particular motion does or does not conflict with the bylaws is not, in my opinion, a question of parliamentary procedure. 

As a consequence, I do not think that a parliamentarian is obligated to express an opinion on a question as to whether or not a particular motion conflicts with the bylaws. 

Although I certainly agree with Ann Rempel that this parliamentarian had better take a careful look at his contract.  🙂

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1 hour ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

A parliamentarian advises on matters of parliamentary procedure, and hence may be expected to advise the chair that a motion that conflicts with the bylaws is not in order (with a few very limited exceptions). The question as to whether a particular motion does or does not conflict with the bylaws is not, in my opinion, a question of parliamentary procedure. 

As a consequence, I do not think that a parliamentarian is obligated to express an opinion on a question as to whether or not a particular motion conflicts with the bylaws. 

Although I certainly agree with Ann Rempel that this parliamentarian had better take a careful look at his contract.  🙂

Thank you.

A member, by a request for information, requests an answer by the parliamentarian as to if the motion violates the bylaws.  The chair says, "Don't answer that."   Is the parliamentarian obligated to follow this instruction of the chair in this matter?   Is the parliamentarian obliged to respond the member?  Is  it the parliamentarian's choice?

There is the same circumstance, except the assembly has adopted a motion, "That the parliamentarian give his opinion on if [a specific main motion] violates the bylaws."  The chair says, "Don't answer that."  Is the parliamentarian obligated to follow this instruction of the chair in this matter?  Is the parliamentarian obliged to give his opinion to the assembly?  Is  it the parliamentarian's choice?

I will note, since it has come up, that there is no contractual regulation of this; I trying to find an answer as to RONR.

I would assume that the parliamentarian is not obliged to answer a request for information, in general.  He may decline to answer, even if the chair does not say, "Don't answer that."

I really don't have an answer. 

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As I said, I do not think that a parliamentarian is obliged to express an opinion on a question as to whether or not a particular motion conflicts with the bylaws. 

And I agree with you that, generally speaking, a parliamentarian is not obliged to answer requests for information (and probably ought not do so).

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2 hours ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

As I said, I do not think that a parliamentarian is obliged to express an opinion on a question as to whether or not a particular motion conflicts with the bylaws. 

And I agree with you that, generally speaking, a parliamentarian is not obliged to answer requests for information (and probably ought not do so).

I would agree, with a modification to the parenthetical part.  I would say that the parliamentarian probably should not answer a request for information, unless requested to do so by the chair:)

I would that that I am not asking about a Parliamentary Inquiry, because that is directed to the chair. 

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20 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

"During a meeting the work of the parliamentarian should be limited to giving advice to the chair and, when requested, to any other member."

But can he be compelled to?  Interestingly the next line starts, "It is also a duty ..."  So does that mean giving advice to the chair and members is a duty and the next sentence refers to an additional duty OR does it mean that in addition to the work (that may be optional?)of giving advice there is other work that is a duty?

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5 minutes ago, J. J. said:

I would agree, with a modification to the parenthetical part.  I would say that the parliamentarian probably should not answer a request for information, unless requested to do so by the chair:)

If I was the parliamentarian and I was requested to respond to a Request for Information (within the meaning of such requests as referred to on pp. 294-95), I suppose my response would depend upon my understanding of the reason behind such an unusual request. Keeping within the bounds of the facts originally posited, I'm inclined to believe that I would decline to respond to a request for information concerning my opinion as to the meaning of what must be a somewhat ambiguous bylaw provision.

24 minutes ago, J. J. said:

I would that that I am not asking about a Parliamentary Inquiry, because that is directed to the chair. 

Well, I think it obvious from the facts as posited that you are not asking about a Parliamentary Inquiry.

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5 minutes ago, Drake Savory said:

But can he be compelled to?  Interestingly the next line starts, "It is also a duty ..."  So does that mean giving advice to the chair and members is a duty and the next sentence refers to an additional duty OR does it mean that in addition to the work (that may be optional?)of giving advice there is other work that is a duty?

1 minute ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

If I was the parliamentarian and I was requested to respond to a Request for Information (within the meaning of such requests as referred to on pp. 294-95), I suppose my response would depend upon my understanding of the reason behind such an unusual request. Keeping within the bounds of the facts originally posited, I'm inclined to believe that I would decline to respond to a request for information concerning my opinion as to the meaning of what must be a somewhat ambiguous bylaw provision.

 

For you, it is obvious that this would not refer to a Parliamentary Inquiry.  For some else, it may not be obvious.  :)

I am of the opinion, at least at this point, that the parliamentarian is answerable to the chair.  It would be legitimate for the chair to prohibit the parliamentarian to answer; that would be a legitimate order of the chair.

That said, there is nothing that would prevent the assembly from suspending the rules, and electing a chairman, pro tem, and the chairman instructing the parliamentarian to answer the question. 

Like any Request for Information, the answer may be, "I decline to answer."  The parliamentarian might also answer, "I don't know."  In the case of a presumed bylaw ambiguity, where an ambiguity does exist, the parliamentarian could indicate that the assembly will have to interpret the bylaw.

I think I have answered my own question, but I did so based on the answers.  Thank you all. 

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If the parliamentarian is not a member, then his opinion on whether a particular motion violates the bylaws is of no more weight than mine.  Faced with an ambiguous bylaws provision, the parliamentarian's response should be: "Ultimately, only the assembly can interpret the meaning of the bylaws."

The parliamentarian can and perhaps should affirm that motions which violate the bylaws are not in order, but I agree with D.H. that judging whether a particular motion does or does not conflict is beyond the scope of a non-member parliamentarian's duties. 

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2 hours ago, Gary Novosielski said:

If the parliamentarian is not a member, then his opinion on whether a particular motion violates the bylaws is of no more weight than mine.  Faced with an ambiguous bylaws provision, the parliamentarian's response should be: "Ultimately, only the assembly can interpret the meaning of the bylaws."

The parliamentarian can and perhaps should affirm that motions which violate the bylaws are not in order, but I agree with D.H. that judging whether a particular motion does or does not conflict is beyond the scope of a non-member parliamentarian's duties. 

I didn't specify that this was an interpretation of the bylaws.  It might be quite clear, one way or the other.  It might be that the one interpretation is wrong, clearly, but the bylaws are ambiguous.   

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