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Parlipal

Meeting Called to Order in a Manner Which Violates Internal Procedures

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An assembly calls a meeting to order in perfect accordance with the procedures outlined on Page 453 of RONR, but fails to notice that the assembly's internal Rules and Procedures state the following:

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The chair shall call meetings of the Senate to order. If fifteen minutes have elapsed since the start time proposed in the call for the meeting, any member of the Senate shall call the meeting to order and surrender the chair to whomever is first in the above line of succession. If none of these members are present, the Senate shall elect a temporary chair from the floor.

The meeting is called to order by a member of the assembly three minutes into the meeting rather than fifteen. No member of the assembly raises a point of order, and the chair nor any of the outlined members in the line of succession ever arrive to the meeting (this is recorded in the meeting's roll call votes and attendance records). Does the meeting still qualify as a meeting? Please note that I am specifically raising the question of whether or not the meeting qualifies as the assembly "holding a meeting" in order to determine whether or not this meeting qualifies as the assembly's first meeting of the term.

Edited by Parlipal
Edited to fix a typo

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Yes, it is a full fledged "meeting".

Any point of order about a failure to follow procedural rules must be timely - page 250.  You said there was no point raised.  End of story.   But...

Now the fun begins:  Was the premature call to order of the meeting a "continuing breach of order", for reason e) (page 251), i.e., the (tardy or no-show) absentees had the right to be assured that the meeting wouldn't start until (at least) 15 minutes after the planned opening time?  

I don't know.  I suspect the only authority that can answer that is the assembly itself interpreting your rules at a later meeting via a point of order raised then.  See page 588.   

If the answer is "Yes", the meeting shouldn't have happened and it should be declared null and void.  It, then, was not your first meeting of the term.

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The meeting was held and qualifies as the first meeting.

The bylaws excerpts you give all seem to be in the nature of Rules of Order, so any objection or point of order would have had to be raised in a timely manner.

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2 minutes ago, jstackpo said:

Now the fun begins:  Was the premature call to order of the meeting a "continuing breach of order", for reason e) (page 251), i.e., the (tardy or no-show) absentees had the right to be assured that the meeting wouldn't start until (at least) 15 minutes after the planned opening time?

I would say that that particular breach only continued for 12 minutes.

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29 minutes ago, jstackpo said:

Now the fun begins:  Was the premature call to order of the meeting a "continuing breach of order", for reason e) (page 251), i.e., the (tardy or no-show) absentees had the right to be assured that the meeting wouldn't start until (at least) 15 minutes after the planned opening time?  

I don't think this is anything other than a procedural rule regarding a chair pro tem, as Dr. Kapur noted earlier and I see nothing in the facts presented which would invalidate and entire meeting.

Edited by George Mervosh

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2 hours ago, Parlipal said:

. . . and surrender the chair to whomever is first . . . 

One thing is certain: the rule should say "whoever," not "whomever."

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Just now, Shmuel Gerber said:

One thing is certain: the rule should say "whoever," not "whomever."

(I added that comment mainly so that this topic could qualify for the Advanced Discussion forum.)

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3 hours ago, Parlipal said:

Does the meeting still qualify as a meeting?

Yes. In my view, the rule in question is in the nature of a rule of order, and failure to observe it does not constitute a continuing breach, at least certainly not in such a way which would invalidate the entire meeting.

3 hours ago, Parlipal said:

Please note that I am specifically raising the question of whether or not the meeting qualifies as the assembly "holding a meeting" in order to determine whether or not this meeting qualifies as the assembly's first meeting of the term.

I think there is no doubt that the meeting was validly held, and therefore qualifies as the assembly’s first meeting of the term.

1 hour ago, jstackpo said:

Yes, it is a full fledged "meeting".

Any point of order about a failure to follow procedural rules must be timely - page 250.  You said there was no point raised.  End of story.   But...

Now the fun begins:  Was the premature call to order of the meeting a "continuing breach of order", for reason e) (page 251), i.e., the (tardy or no-show) absentees had the right to be assured that the meeting wouldn't start until (at least) 15 minutes after the planned opening time?  

I don't know.  I suspect the only authority that can answer that is the assembly itself interpreting your rules at a later meeting via a point of order raised then.  See page 588.   

If the answer is "Yes", the meeting shouldn't have happened and it should be declared null and void.  It, then, was not your first meeting of the term.

The absentees can only be said to have any protection at all in this matter if it was known in advance that the regular chairman would not be present, otherwise the absentees had no reason to believe the meeting would start 15 minutes after the scheduled time. Even in such a case, I see no reason why the entire meeting would be invalid on this basis. At most, it seems to me the only business in jeopardy would be the business conducted in the twelve minutes between the time at which the meeting was called to order and the time at which the meeting was supposed to be called to order.

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1 hour ago, Shmuel Gerber said:

(I added that comment mainly so that this topic could qualify for the Advanced Discussion forum.)

And it's a good thing that you did because otherwise I probably would have moved it.  

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3 hours ago, Josh Martin said:

The absentees can only be said to have any protection at all in this matter if it was known in advance that the regular chairman would not be present, otherwise the absentees had no reason to believe the meeting would start 15 minutes after the scheduled time. Even in such a case, I see no reason why the entire meeting would be invalid on this basis. At most, it seems to me the only business in jeopardy would be the business conducted in the twelve minutes between the time at which the meeting was called to order and the time at which the meeting was supposed to be called to order.

With one exception: the chairman had the right to delay the meeting by 15 minutes. So:

5 hours ago, Atul Kapur said:

I would say that that particular breach only continued for 12 minutes.

 

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I agree, in part, with the other comments. 

My only disagreement is that the breach could have existed for the 12 minutes.  Once the time for the meeting to start arrived, the meeting could be called to order; this rule, who presides over the meeting is in the nature of a rule of order and, as such, is in order.  Though awkward, the rules could be suspended to permit someone other than the presiding officer to preside and call the meeting to order; there was no breach of a continuing nature as the rule violated is one in the nature of a rule of order.  The point of order would have to have been raised at the time the person called the meeting to order.

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I don't believe that you can properly suspend rules regarding calling the meeting to order. Without a valid meeting constituted, there is no assembly and therefore no power to adopt even an incidental main motion.

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1 hour ago, Alexis Hunt said:

I don't believe that you can properly suspend rules regarding calling the meeting to order. Without a valid meeting constituted, there is no assembly and therefore no power to adopt even an incidental main motion.

Going back to the facts of the specific situation, the organization’s rules require that, if the chair is not present (or for some other reasons fails to call the meeting to order), the members must wait fifteen minutes and, at that time, any member may call the meeting to order. The member is then to turn the chair over to the highest ranking person in the order of succession, or if no such person is present, the assembly elects a member as chairman pro tempore. In the situation described, the assembly largely followed this process, but they only waited for three minutes instead of fifteen.

It seems there are three levels to this.

1.) May a member call the meeting to order before the fifteen minutes have elapsed, and the assembly then suspends the rules which interfere with this?

2.) If the above is not proper, suppose a member nonetheless calls the meeting to order before the fifteen minutes have elapsed. No member promptly raises a Point of Order. Is there a continuing breach which can be challenged later?

3.) If there is a continuing breach, does the continuing breach affect the legitimacy of the business conducted between the time at which the meeting was called to order and the time at which it was supposed to be called to order, or does it affect the entire meeting?

Edited by Josh Martin

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Guest Zev

How can any of this be classified as a breach? What rule is being violated and who is violating it? Call the rule a "courtesy rule" or whatever. If the assembly reaches the indicated time and then does not wish to extend the courtesy to the absent chairman what prevents them? Whose meeting is this, the chairman's meeting or the Senate's meeting?

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47 minutes ago, Guest Zev said:

How can any of this be classified as a breach? What rule is being violated and who is violating it? Call the rule a "courtesy rule" or whatever. If the assembly reaches the indicated time and then does not wish to extend the courtesy to the absent chairman what prevents them? Whose meeting is this, the chairman's meeting or the Senate's meeting?

Well, if the assembly feels that way, then it should get rid of the rule in question. :)

It is one thing to suggest that the rule may be suspended or that it does not cause a continuing breach, but it is another thing to suggest the assembly should simply ignore the rule altogether. At some point, the assembly adopted this rule, and it presumably had a reason for doing so. Unless and until the rule is suspended, it should be followed (unless the assembly suspends it in a particular case, if that is an option).

As I have stated previously, I am skeptical of the idea that violation of this rule would cause a continuing breach at all, and even if it did, it seems to me that breach would apply only to the time between when the meeting was called to order and the time at which it should have been called to order. I am less certain of whether the rule may be suspended. As Mr. Hunt notes, the assembly obviously cannot take action outside of a meeting, and therefore cannot suspend the rule before the meeting is called to order. I think it may be possible, however, for a member to call the meeting to order and for the assembly to then suspend the rules to authorize the action which has just occurred.

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I think that the strictest interpretation that I could come up with would be "The quorum is not met during the first 15 minutes of the meeting if the chair is not present." This means that I could hardly agree that a breach would apply to all business of the meeting, rather than only business transacted during the first 15 minutes. I doubt that the membership intended this when enacting the rule, however, it is ultimately their choice of how to interpret the provision. The other possibility I might consider is that a motion decided in that time is only in continuing breach if it was decided by a single vote. This would be in the idea that case the chair has an absentee right not to have the motion decided without their presence, but this can only amount to a continuing breach if it would have made a difference, much in the manner of a motion where a member is denied a vote. It's actually an interesting question as to whether the same logic could be applied to inquorate meetings, though the circumstances which similar situations can arise either require high quorum requirements or low vote thresholds, making them quite rare. And US State assemblies seem on many occasions to take the other view, and in doing so demonstrate why a quorum requirement should never be larger than a majority.

If the interpretation is that there is an absentee right that leads to a continuing breach, I do not see how such a breach would heal automatically or be a suspendable rule. A continuing breach arises as a result of a violation of a fundamental right, and those are not suspendable. Nor do they heal automatically: a meeting which begins inquorate and transacts business does not, by later becoming quorate, thereby automatically ratify its earlier proceedings. Of course, nothing would stop it from doing so, and I believe that the same would apply in this case: after 15 minutes, the meeting could validly ratify its earlier actions.

(Incidentally, it is Ms. Hunt. :) )

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On 6/28/2019 at 5:43 PM, Josh Martin said:

Going back to the facts of the specific situation, the organization’s rules require that, if the chair is not present (or for some other reasons fails to call the meeting to order), the members must wait fifteen minutes and, at that time, any member may call the meeting to order. The member is then to turn the chair over to the highest ranking person in the order of succession, or if no such person is present, the assembly elects a member as chairman pro tempore. In the situation described, the assembly largely followed this process, but they only waited for three minutes instead of fifteen.

It seems there are three levels to this.

1.) May a member call the meeting to order before the fifteen minutes have elapsed, and the assembly then suspends the rules which interfere with this?

2.) If the above is not proper, suppose a member nonetheless calls the meeting to order before the fifteen minutes have elapsed. No member promptly raises a Point of Order. Is there a continuing breach which can be challenged later?

3.) If there is a continuing breach, does the continuing breach affect the legitimacy of the business conducted between the time at which the meeting was called to order and the time at which it was supposed to be called to order, or does it affect the entire meeting?

Given that this is an excellent characterization, I think it's worth addressing these explicitly. So here are my answers.

1. No. Once the meeting is called too order, the breach has occurred. If there is a continuing breach, then it cannot be suspended. If there is none, by the time the meeting would be considering the matter it would be too late, as motions to suspend the rules are not retroactive, only prospective. I don't believe you can therefore properly suspend the rules to ignore a requirement about calling the meeting to order, whether before or after.

2. I believe that it depends on whether the assembly believes that the rule confers an absentee right on the chair. I'm conflicted on this point, as I feel, on the one hand, that deference should be given to the potential of a chair relying on this rule. On the other hand, it was almost certainly not the intent to give the chair the right to delay the meeting. Indeed, the intent may have been to only establish 15 minutes as the outside bound. If the rule had been adopted in an organization that often had meetings greatly delayed or canceled by the chair's absence, I likely would lean to the interpretation that it confers no rights, and therefore there is no continuing breach.

3. As per my previous post, it only affects the business conducted up until 15 minutes have passed. Beyond that time, the business is unquestionably valid. It may be that all business during that time is invalid, or only business decided by a single vote.

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17 hours ago, Alexis Hunt said:

think that the strictest interpretation that I could come up with would be "The quorum is not met during the first 15 minutes of the meeting if the chair is not present."

But the rule has nothing to do with quorum.

17 hours ago, Alexis Hunt said:

I believe that it depends on whether the assembly believes that the rule confers an absentee right on the chair.

Even in the event the rule grants such a right (which I am not certain of), it would only seem to grant such protections to the chair in the event he arrived within the first fifteen minutes. After that time, the meeting could have started without him anyway. Since the chair never showed up to the meeting, and therefore could not have exercised any of his rights in any event, the rule certainly offered no protections to the chair in this particular instance.

In any event, I appreciate the clarification of your position that the facts certainly do not support the idea that the entire meeting is invalid, which appears to be all the original poster was concerned about.

Edited by Josh Martin

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On 7/1/2019 at 4:33 PM, Daniel H. Honemann said:

All this idle speculation in the Advanced Discussion Forum?  

Well, there isn't any Idle Speculation Forum.  And most non-speculative questions would belong in the general forum.

But I do feel the lack of a Tomfoolery forum.

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5 minutes ago, Gary Novosielski said:

Well, there isn't any Idle Speculation Forum.  And most non-speculative questions would belong in the general forum.

But I do feel the lack of a Tomfoolery forum.

Oh, idle speculation in this forum about the rules in RONR is fine. See this, for an example. Idle speculation about other things is to be discouraged. 

 

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