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Calion

Rules of order for BSA unit committees

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I'm rather hesitant to post this, either here or in Scouting forums. In Scouting forums, I will get "we don't need no rules of order!" Here, I suspect I will get—well, the opposite extreme. Still, I feel I must try. 

I'm a new Committee Chair for a new Scout Troop. A BSA Unit Committee is a strange animal. Its members are appointed, not elected. There are no rules of order specified, anywhere. It is a creature of its Chartered Organization, yet established in accordance with the rules of the Boy Scouts of America, which basically say that the Chartered Organization Representative will appoint a Chairman and at least two other Committee members—and that's about it. Everything else is guidelines, not rules.

It seems to me that such a body does not have the authority to set its own bylaws. I suppose that the bylaws of the Chartered Organization would apply—except that it's unlikely that anything in them will really be relevant. It's not a "committee" in the sense that it reports back to the body; it answers only to the Chartered Organization Representative (though of course the body or the organization head can direct him as it wishes). It's more a board that oversees the operation of the Troop. But even then, most decisions are made by the Scouts themselves, with veto power by the Scoutmaster for unsafe or infeasible activities. The Committee manages the money, though, so they do have the power of the purse. 

The best advice I've seen on this is from https://www.scouter.com/topic/6504-unit-bylaws/?tab=comments#comment-6503: "Scout units have no need for Roberts Rules. If you look at the Cub Scout leader book or the Troop Committee Guidebook, you will see the structure of a unit committee meeting. No where are the words motion, second, quorum or vote mentioned. Why? Because that's not how BSA unit committees work. Each committee member has a job, assigned by the committee chair (who is selected by the Chartered Organization). The committee chair is vested with the authority by the CO to run the unit according to the policies of the BSA and the CO. The Committee Chair delegates responsibilities to the committee members according to the positions they hold. The body of the meeting consists of the committee, under the direction of the chair, reporting on what they have accomplished on their responsibilities the previous month. The committee then takes up new business, again based on their responsibilities and completes that part of the planning for the month which falls within their responsibilities. (Of course, not taking program functions from the Boy scouts or Cubmaster, depending on the unit). There is little or nothing which would require a vote. Does a unit need **policies** regarding dues, Scout Accounts, parent recruitment? Yep."

I think this is mostly right, except that the Guidebook does mention "vote" once: It says that the Scoutmaster is not a member of the Committee and does not get a vote. 

What should or should not be voted on is not mentioned. 

I actually think that the advice here is pretty workable—the Chair basically rules by directive and unanimous consent. He can take votes if he pleases, say for large purchases, or issues he's not sure of or believes may be controversial. And there *are* some rules regarding spending—basically both the Treasurer and one other person (usually the Chair or the Scoutmaster) has to sign every check, and the Chair is supposed to review the bank statement every month. 

However—as everyone here will instantly notice, this leaves open the potential for acrimony or confusion. This isn't a problem I've run into—the difficulty is usually getting people to show up and help—but the potential is there. 

So what to do? What, if any, rules of order should/can I/we implement, or should I just follow the advice of the quoted text above and wing it as best I can?

Heck, I'm not even sure of the right way to develop, formalize and implement the "policies" mentioned above. 

Edited by Calion

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1 hour ago, Calion said:

I'm rather hesitant to post this, either here or in Scouting forums. In Scouting forums, I will get "we don't need no rules of order!" Here, I suspect I will get—well, the opposite extreme. Still, I feel I must try. 

I'm a new Committee Chair for a new Scout Troop. A BSA Unit Committee is a strange animal. Its members are appointed, not elected. There are no rules of order specified, anywhere. It is a creature of its Chartered Organization, yet established in accordance with the rules of the Boy Scouts of America, which basically say that the Chartered Organization Representative will appoint a Chairman and at least two other Committee members—and that's about it. Everything else is guidelines, not rules.

It seems to me that such a body does not have the authority to set its own bylaws. I suppose that the bylaws of the Chartered Organization would apply—except that it's unlikely that anything in them will really be relevant. It's not a "committee" in the sense that it reports back to the body; it answers only to the Chartered Organization Representative (though of course the body or the organization head can direct him as it wishes). It's more a board that oversees the operation of the Troop. But even then, most decisions are made by the Scouts themselves, with veto power by the Scoutmaster for unsafe or infeasible activities. The Committee manages the money, though, so they do have the power of the purse. 

The best advice I've seen on this is from https://www.scouter.com/topic/6504-unit-bylaws/?tab=comments#comment-6503: "Scout units have no need for Roberts Rules. If you look at the Cub Scout leader book or the Troop Committee Guidebook, you will see the structure of a unit committee meeting. No where are the words motion, second, quorum or vote mentioned. Why? Because that's not how BSA unit committees work. Each committee member has a job, assigned by the committee chair (who is selected by the Chartered Organization). The committee chair is vested with the authority by the CO to run the unit according to the policies of the BSA and the CO. The Committee Chair delegates responsibilities to the committee members according to the positions they hold. The body of the meeting consists of the committee, under the direction of the chair, reporting on what they have accomplished on their responsibilities the previous month. The committee then takes up new business, again based on their responsibilities and completes that part of the planning for the month which falls within their responsibilities. (Of course, not taking program functions from the Boy scouts or Cubmaster, depending on the unit). There is little or nothing which would require a vote. Does a unit need **policies** regarding dues, Scout Accounts, parent recruitment? Yep."

I think this is mostly right, except that the Guidebook does mention "vote" once: It says that the Scoutmaster is not a member of the Committee and does not get a vote. 

What should or should not be voted on is not mentioned. 

I actually think that the advice here is pretty workable—the Chair basically rules by directive and unanimous consent. He can take votes if he pleases, say for large purchases, or issues he's not sure of or believes may be controversial. And there *are* some rules regarding spending—basically both the Treasurer and one other person (usually the Chair or the Scoutmaster) has to sign every check, and the Chair is supposed to review the bank statement every month. 

However—as everyone here will instantly notice, this leaves open the potential for acrimony or confusion. This isn't a problem I've run into—the difficulty is usually getting people to show up and help—but the potential is there. 

So what to do? What, if any, rules of order should/can I/we implement, or should I just follow the advice of the quoted text above and wing it as best I can?

Heck, I'm not even sure of the right way to develop, formalize and implement the "policies" mentioned above. 

If the BSA has not adopted RONR as its parliamentary authority, there's not much we're going to be able to help you with, except to commiserate around the issue of what a bad idea that is.

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14 minutes ago, Rob Elsman said:

Well, that's hardly "...the opposite extreme." 🙂

Well, if the original assertion was  "we doan need no stinkin' rules", then calling that a very bad idea is sorta opposite, if not particularly extreme.  🙂

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2 hours ago, Calion said:

Scout units have no need for Roberts Rules. If you look at the Cub Scout leader book or the Troop Committee Guidebook, you will see the structure of a unit committee meeting. No where are the words motion, second, quorum or vote mentioned. Why? Because that's not how BSA unit committees work. Each committee member has a job, assigned by the committee chair (who is selected by the Chartered Organization). The committee chair is vested with the authority by the CO to run the unit according to the policies of the BSA and the CO. The Committee Chair delegates responsibilities to the committee members according to the positions they hold. The body of the meeting consists of the committee, under the direction of the chair, reporting on what they have accomplished on their responsibilities the previous month. The committee then takes up new business, again based on their responsibilities and completes that part of the planning for the month which falls within their responsibilities.

 

2 hours ago, Calion said:

So what to do? What, if any, rules of order should/can I/we implement, or should I just follow the advice of the quoted text above and wing it as best I can?

If this description of how the committees operate is correct, then it seems to me that these committees are not deliberative assemblies or anything resembling them. Indeed, it seems to me they are not committees in the parliamentary sense, as those operate more like deliberative assemblies. This seems to operate more like a supervisor and his subordinates.

As a consequence, I am inclined to agree that these committees have no need for Robert’s Rules of Order, or other rules of order, since such rules are used for the conduct of business in deliberative assemblies (or at least something resembling a deliberative assembly).

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Hmm. Okay, but it still seems to me that voting, on occasion, is a good idea, to avoid Committee members feeling that their input is irrelevant. Certainly voting happens on a regular basis in those Committee meetings I've attended where I was not the Chair (rather too many, in fact; often the chair has no awareness of the concept of unanimous consent).  

If there's voting (and the Guide at least implies the possibility of voting), there exists the possibility of needing more involved rules than just counting the votes after an informal discussion. 

But I suppose that I can just use RONR as an authority under general societal custom (as noted on P. 17) should the need arise, and do what I want otherwise. 

Edited by Calion

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4 hours ago, Calion said:

I actually think that the advice here is pretty workable—the Chair basically rules by directive and unanimous consent. He can take votes if he pleases, say for large purchases, or issues he's not sure of or believes may be controversial. And there *are* some rules regarding spending—basically both the Treasurer and one other person (usually the Chair or the Scoutmaster) has to sign every check, and the Chair is supposed to review the bank statement every month. 

 

I have the disadvantage of having no experience with this organization, but I don't see how this sums up what came before it. What came before it suggests to me that this is not a deliberative assembly, and does not make any decisions - it's just a group of people, all with autonomy to make decisions within a certain sphere, telling each other what they've decided. I don't see how the Chair rules everything by directive. It seems to me that, if my understanding is correct, there's only one major thing that will need to be decided - who is responsible for a particular item? Sometimes that will be obvious, sometimes it won't, but that needs to be decided somehow. 

 

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That's not quite how it works. There are decisions that get made—shall we buy a Troop trailer? If so, what features should it have, and how much shall we spend? The Scouts want to go to Philmont next year—should the Committee foot part of the bill, or should we encourage the Scouts to do more fundraising? Shall we charge dues to the Scouts on top of their annual fees? What fundraisers do we want to do this year?

As you see, most decisions are about money, but not all—the Committee has to approve the annual program plan created by the Scouts, for instance. 

It's true that most business is in the nature of "The Scouts have decided to go to Camp Lewellen this year; the Activities Coordinator needs to reserve a campsite," or "How can we increase membership?" which doesn't need a vote, and most of the rest can be done by unanimous consent. But the possibility of contention is not non-existent. 

Edited by Calion

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Guest Zev

My initial reading suggested that the only actual group was the three committee members of which Mr. Calion was the chairman. I suppose that he and his committee are free to conduct their business within the guidelines established by the BSA and overseen by the Organization Representative. The scouts themselves, however, appear to have a wide latitude in determining what activities they will pursue in consultation with their leader. I would strongly urge Mr. Calion to level with these scouts and inform them that if they decide to forgo proper parliamentary procedure or engage in consensus in order to reach the decisions of the group that some day in the future, perhaps not too far, that certain features inherit in these strategies will backfire and the problems they create will surely result in grief. It is not a requirement that the scouts become experts in this subject, but what is important is to believe that the majority prevails and that every one has a chance to contribute to a positive outcome. With respect, I must disagree with your statement that " '"How can we increase membership?' which doesn't need a vote,..." for the reason that if no vote is ever taken then no one takes any responsibility for what was supposedly decided. The act of voting attaches to the person voting in favor a moral responsibility to see that the proper result is attained, while at the same time those opposed are assured that they are not shut completely out of the process and may pursue alternatives within the rules.

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10 hours ago, Calion said:

That's not quite how it works. There are decisions that get made—shall we buy a Troop trailer? If so, what features should it have, and how much shall we spend? The Scouts want to go to Philmont next year—should the Committee foot part of the bill, or should we encourage the Scouts to do more fundraising? Shall we charge dues to the Scouts on top of their annual fees? What fundraisers do we want to do this year?

 

In that case, I fail to see why the guidance suggests that it doesn't need rules of order. Making decisions by consensus is just asking for trouble - it allows any person to hold up the works indefinitely, and leads to people adopting, not the most prudent or persuasive position, but the one whose advocates have the most endurance. 

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13 hours ago, Calion said:

Hmm. Okay, but it still seems to me that voting, on occasion, is a good idea, to avoid Committee members feeling that their input is irrelevant. Certainly voting happens on a regular basis in those Committee meetings I've attended where I was not the Chair (rather too many, in fact; often the chair has no awareness of the concept of unanimous consent).  

If there's voting (and the Guide at least implies the possibility of voting), there exists the possibility of needing more involved rules than just counting the votes after an informal discussion. 

But I suppose that I can just use RONR as an authority under general societal custom (as noted on P. 17) should the need arise, and do what I want otherwise. 

 

10 hours ago, Calion said:

That's not quite how it works. There are decisions that get made—shall we buy a Troop trailer? If so, what features should it have, and how much shall we spend? The Scouts want to go to Philmont next year—should the Committee foot part of the bill, or should we encourage the Scouts to do more fundraising? Shall we charge dues to the Scouts on top of their annual fees? What fundraisers do we want to do this year?

As you see, most decisions are about money, but not all—the Committee has to approve the annual program plan created by the Scouts, for instance. 

It's true that most business is in the nature of "The Scouts have decided to go to Camp Lewellen this year; the Activities Coordinator needs to reserve a campsite," or "How can we increase membership?" which doesn't need a vote, and most of the rest can be done by unanimous consent. But the possibility of contention is not non-existent. 

I am confused now. You said you received a response which said “Each committee member has a job, assigned by the committee chair (who is selected by the Chartered Organization). The committee chair is vested with the authority by the CO to run the unit according to the policies of the BSA and the CO. The Committee Chair delegates responsibilities to the committee members according to the positions they hold. The body of the meeting consists of the committee, under the direction of the chair, reporting on what they have accomplished on their responsibilities the previous month.” This description suggests that the chairman is in charge and tells the other members of the committee what to do. You said that you “think this is mostly right.”

Now you are saying that actually, the committee does make the decisions, it just generally does so by unanimous consent, but the committee could vote if there was disagreement. That is line with a committee in the parliamentary sense, and such a committee should indeed use Robert’s Rules of Order (or some other rules of order) to conduct its business. Committees often operate informally, and RONR discusses a number of modifications for committees and small boards, discussed in RONR, 11th ed., pg. 487-488.

I have made my best attempt at trying to reconcile these conflicting descriptions. You tell me which one is right.

-The “committee” is run by the chairman as he sees fit. Some committee chairmen choose to seek the input of their committee members on occasion. Ultimately, however, the chairman is in charge.

-The committee is run by its members. The committee generally operates by unanimous consent, and the committee members grant a great deal of deference to the chairman’s opinions. Ultimately, however, the committee members (or at least enough of them to constitute a majority vote) is in charge.

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That's a good question!

I'm not sure what the answer is. 

The Chair and the rest of the Committee serve at the pleasure of the Chartered Organization Representative. The Chair can appoint, but not remove, committee members (and the COR can take that privilege away from the Chair, or give it to someone else, but in practice, the COR appoints the Chair and the Chair appoints the committee).

So what "rights" do members have? Can they override the wishes of the chair? Is this really an autocracy, with voting just to poll members for opinions, or make them feel that they have a say in what goes on?

The sum total of official rules on this subject that I can find is "Each chartered unit of the Boy Scouts of America must be supervised by a unit committee, consisting of three or more qualified adults, 21 years of age or older, selected by the organization with which the unit is connected…The unit must be operated under the guidance of the unit committee, one of whose members must be designated as chairman, in accordance with the Rules and Regulations, policies, and guidelines of the Boy Scouts of America " (https://filestore.scouting.org/filestore/membership/pdf/Rules_and_Regulations_June_2018.pdf, p. 10)

The only official guidelines I've seen are "All issues should be discussed and resolved in open dialogue" and "The Scoutmaster is not a member of the troop committee and has no vote." (http://www.magnificentsevens.org/docs/Resources/TroopCommitteeGuidebook/TroopCommitteeGuidebook.pdf, p. 35)

I think nearly anyone in another forum would say that I was making a mountain out of a molehill, and not to worry about it until problems arise. But I'd prefer to know what to do *before* problems arise, so that if a member insists on exercising his rights as a committee member (whether he words it this way or not), I'll know how to respond. 

Edited by Calion

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Just a friendly reminder from this Forum's Introductory page:

"The Question and Answer Forum is provided to allow an open exchange of views relevant to specific questions of parliamentary procedure under Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised."

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And my question is, 'What, if any, Rules of Order should/can I introduce?' e.g. would it be appropriate in this situation to (somehow) establish RONR as the parliamentary authority?

Perhaps that's not specific enough, but I'm not sure where else I could take this. 

Edited by Calion

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42 minutes ago, Calion said:

And my question is, 'What, if any, Rules of Order should/can I introduce?' e.g. would it be appropriate in this situation to (somehow) establish RONR as the parliamentary authority?

Perhaps that's not specific enough, but I'm not sure where else I could take this. 

I don't know that anybody is actually suggesting that you introduce any particular rules of order.  But, I think it has (properly) been suggested that when one of these committees actually has a meeting and acts as a deliberative body to reach a decision, the committee may certainly voluntarily follow the rules in RONR.  If you are going to introduce anything parliamentary, my suggestion at this point would be to just introduce a motion that RONR be the parliamentary authority, using language substantially similar to that on pages 580 and 588 of RONR.  Such a motion should be in the nature of a bylaw amendment or a special rule of order.

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2 hours ago, Calion said:

The Chair and the rest of the Committee serve at the pleasure of the Chartered Organization Representative. The Chair can appoint, but not remove, committee members (and the COR can take that privilege away from the Chair, or give it to someone else, but in practice, the COR appoints the Chair and the Chair appoints the committee).

So what "rights" do members have? Can they override the wishes of the chair? Is this really an autocracy, with voting just to poll members for opinions, or make them feel that they have a say in what goes on?

I was afraid that this would be the response. :(

These are questions that your organization will need to answer for itself. It would therefore seem prudent for the superior organization to, at a minimum, adopt rules clarifying this matter. If the members are simply subordinates of the chair, and “voting” is done merely to poll members for their opinions and to make them feel like they have a say, then these groups are not a deliberative assembly or anything resembling a deliberative assembly. As a consequence, it would not be prudent for the organization to adopt Robert’s Rules of Order, or other rules of parliamentary procedure for the conduct of business in the committee, since such rules are incompatible with the manner in which the committees are operated. To the extent that the chair chooses to solicit opinions from his committee members, he could use whatever rules are suitable to his purposes.

On the other hand, if these are real committees in the parliamentary sense, in which each member of the committee has equal say in the decisions of the committee (as expressed by the member’s vote), then it would be beneficial for the superior organization to adopt rules of order for the conduct of the committee’s business. Generally, this is done by the adoption of a recognized parliamentary manual, such as Robert’s Rules of Order. It should be noted that this is the manner in which committees operate under Robert’s Rules of Order, for whatever that is worth in this society.

Finally, it should be noted that, if the chairman is authorized to appoint and remove members of the committee (which we are told is often, but not always, the case), then the chairman will certainly exert a great deal of influence over the committee’s business, even if the committee is operated under the procedures in RONR, since the chairman ultimately would have the ability to remove members who disagree with him.

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11 hours ago, Calion said:

I think nearly anyone in another forum would say that I was making a mountain out of a molehill, and not to worry about it until problems arise. But I'd prefer to know what to do *before* problems arise, so that if a member insists on exercising his rights as a committee member (whether he words it this way or not), I'll know how to respond. 

I certainly agree with this. Too often, people will say "oh, we don't need rules, we all get along." Then, when rules are needed because they've ceased getting along, it is much more difficult to adopt some.

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21 hours ago, Guest Zev said:

My initial reading suggested that the only actual group was the three committee members

A minimum of three. There's no maximum size, and the more the better.

Quote

I suppose that he and his committee are free to conduct their business within the guidelines established by the BSA and overseen by the Organization Representative.

Yes. But that doesn't really address my issue.

Quote

The scouts themselves, however, appear to have a wide latitude in determining what activities they will pursue in consultation with their leader. I would strongly urge Mr. Calion to level with these scouts and inform them that if they decide to forgo proper parliamentary procedure or engage in consensus in order to reach the decisions of the group that some day in the future, perhaps not too far, that certain features inherit in these strategies will backfire and the problems they create will surely result in grief. It is not a requirement that the scouts become experts in this subject, but what is important is to believe that the majority prevails and that every one has a chance to contribute to a positive outcome.

That's a separate issue, and one that is more the Scoutmaster's purview than mine—although of course I could make suggestions.

The Scouts elect leaders once every six months, and the Patrol Leader's Council (the Board, in essence) meets monthly to vote on what activities to perform in the next few months (and prepares an Annual Program Plan once a year). Certainly the Scouts could use RONR or the like for these meetings (though there are no bylaws, just guidelines from BSA), and perhaps teaching them about rules of order would be a good idea—but there's a real question as to how much 11–17 year old kids are willing to learn on the subject; we can't really force them, and wouldn't if we could. Any resources on this topic would be helpful.

Quote

With respect, I must disagree with your statement that " '"How can we increase membership?' which doesn't need a vote,..." for the reason that if no vote is ever taken then no one takes any responsibility for what was supposedly decided. The act of voting attaches to the person voting in favor a moral responsibility to see that the proper result is attained, while at the same time those opposed are assured that they are not shut completely out of the process and may pursue alternatives within the rules.

Fair enough, but normally what happens in these situations is that if the body reaches some sort of consensus as to what should happen, the Chair will ask, 'Member X, would you take care of that?' which works out to the same thing in my eyes.

But sure, that could be a voting matter as well.

Edited by Calion

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10 hours ago, Josh Martin said:

These are questions that your organization will need to answer for itself. It would therefore seem prudent for the superior organization to, at a minimum, adopt rules clarifying this matter.

If by "superior organization" you mean the BSA, that's extremely unlikely to happen. If you mean our Chartered Organization…that seems like a kettle of fish I'd really rather not open.

Quote

If the members are simply subordinates of the chair, and “voting” is done merely to poll members for their opinions and to make them feel like they have a say, then these groups are not a deliberative assembly or anything resembling a deliberative assembly. As a consequence, it would not be prudent for the organization to adopt Robert’s Rules of Order, or other rules of parliamentary procedure for the conduct of business in the committee, since such rules are incompatible with the manner in which the committees are operated. To the extent that the chair chooses to solicit opinions from his committee members, he could use whatever rules are suitable to his purposes.

On the other hand, if these are real committees in the parliamentary sense, in which each member of the committee has equal say in the decisions of the committee (as expressed by the member’s vote), then it would be beneficial for the superior organization to adopt rules of order for the conduct of the committee’s business. Generally, this is done by the adoption of a recognized parliamentary manual, such as Robert’s Rules of Order. It should be noted that this is the manner in which committees operate under Robert’s Rules of Order, for whatever that is worth in this society.

Well, that's the question. I wouldn't say that members are "subordinates of the chair." We all serve at the pleasure of the Chartered Organization (whose will is normally expressed through its Representative, who is a Scouter himself and can join the committee as a member if he wishes). In essence, the Chair could get away with doing whatever didn't annoy the COR (that wasn't an actual violation of BSA ethics rules). Unduly irritating the rest of the Committee members would probably count as annoying the COR, because they would certainly complain to him.

Which I suppose is the issue: How do I conduct business in such a way as to a) efficiently get things done, and b) handle any potentially acrimonious situations neatly—in other words, not irritate the membership? The Guidebook does mention voting, and says "All issues should be discussed and resolved in open dialogue." I think the idea is that the Committee should act by consensus when possible, which I certainly agree with, and have 'casual' voting when it seems relevant. I just want to be prepared if that's not sufficient—though I suppose the common response to a member getting up in arms about getting his way is to ask the COR to remove the committee member, rather than to worry about rules of order. Though even that doesn't resolve the problem of the committee finding itself divided into two different "camps" on some issue—something I've certainly seen happen in other bodies. I suppose, though, if that happens, you could just bring the issue to the COR and ask him to resolve it, since his word is law. Hm. I hadn't thought of that possibility before.

Quote

Finally, it should be noted that, if the chairman is authorized to appoint and remove members of the committee (which we are told is often, but not always, the case), then the chairman will certainly exert a great deal of influence over the committee’s business, even if the committee is operated under the procedures in RONR, since the chairman ultimately would have the ability to remove members who disagree with him.

No. Normally the Chair has the power to appoint members, but he cannot remove them. Only the Chartered Organization Representative can do that, though presumably the Chair's word would hold a lot of weight.

Edited by Calion

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11 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

I don't know that anybody is actually suggesting that you introduce any particular rules of order.  But, I think it has (properly) been suggested that when one of these committees actually has a meeting and acts as a deliberative body to reach a decision, the committee may certainly voluntarily follow the rules in RONR.  If you are going to introduce anything parliamentary, my suggestion at this point would be to just introduce a motion that RONR be the parliamentary authority, using language substantially similar to that on pages 580 and 588 of RONR.  Such a motion should be in the nature of a bylaw amendment or a special rule of order.

Yeah, I think that's roughly what I plan to do. Thanks (to everyone) for helping to clarify things for me.

What I'm thinking of now is writing up a list of Rules of Order—basically Special Rules of Order, except that there are no "general" rules of order for this list to be "special" to—describing how I plan on doing things (specifying RONR as authority, implementing "small board" rules, &c), and keeping that "in my pocket"—conducting business according to it, and having it available for the committee to implement formally if anyone asks just what exactly the rules are—or before then if I think I can get away with it. 

My main question (I see now) was whether it made any sense for a committee of this nature to have its own rules of order, and it sounds like the answer is Yes.

Hm…I think I'll have to mess with the Quorum rules. I really don't want those to get in the way of doing business. Most things could be done with just the Chair and Treasurer (so that the Chair can't just do whatever he wants with the money). In fact, I suspect most Committees do a lot of business "offline"—small purchases not requiring authorization by the committee, just the Chair instructing the Treasurer to pay for something, for instance, or scheduling a campsite, or whatever. The Committee really exists to have people to do things, not so much to make deliberative decisions.

Aaaand…now I'm confused again. If decisions can be made outside of a meeting, is it really a deliberative assembly? No wonder BSA doesn't specify Rules of Order. It would be really hard to cover every reasonable situation, and then they'd be long and complicated, or unnecessarily restrictive—not what you want for a volunteer service organization.

Edited by Calion

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10 hours ago, Calion said:

If by "superior organization" you mean the BSA, that's extremely unlikely to happen. If you mean our Chartered Organization…that seems like a kettle of fish I'd really rather not open.

I think I mean the chartered organization, since that appears to be the body which is more directly connected to the committee at issue. Committees generally are not authorized to adopt their own rules. Even if this committee is authorized to adopt its own rules, it seems rather difficult for the committee to make this decision if it isn’t even clear how the committee makes decisions.

10 hours ago, Calion said:

Well, that's the question. I wouldn't say that members are "subordinates of the chair." We all serve at the pleasure of the Chartered Organization (whose will is normally expressed through its Representative, who is a Scouter himself and can join the committee as a member if he wishes). In essence, the Chair could get away with doing whatever didn't annoy the COR (that wasn't an actual violation of BSA ethics rules). Unduly irritating the rest of the Committee members would probably count as annoying the COR, because they would certainly complain to him.

Which I suppose is the issue: How do I conduct business in such a way as to a) efficiently get things done, and b) handle any potentially acrimonious situations neatly—in other words, not irritate the membership? The Guidebook does mention voting, and says "All issues should be discussed and resolved in open dialogue." I think the idea is that the Committee should act by consensus when possible, which I certainly agree with, and have 'casual' voting when it seems relevant. I just want to be prepared if that's not sufficient—though I suppose the common response to a member getting up in arms about getting his way is to ask the COR to remove the committee member, rather than to worry about rules of order. Though even that doesn't resolve the problem of the committee finding itself divided into two different "camps" on some issue—something I've certainly seen happen in other bodies. I suppose, though, if that happens, you could just bring the issue to the COR and ask him to resolve it, since his word is law. Hm. I hadn't thought of that possibility before.

Olay, so you’re all subordinates of the COR.

This really doesn’t sound like a deliberative assembly to me. It sounds like these people all work for the COR and do things, sometimes collectively, sometimes individually. Sometimes they discuss things and vote if they feel like it. Perhaps it could be run as more of a deliberative assembly, but that certainly doesn’t sound like that’s what it is now.

10 hours ago, Calion said:

Hm…I think I'll have to mess with the Quorum rules. I really don't want those to get in the way of doing business. Most things could be done with just the Chair and Treasurer (so that the Chair can't just do whatever he wants with the money). In fact, I suspect most Committees do a lot of business "offline"—small purchases not requiring authorization by the committee, just the Chair instructing the Treasurer to pay for something, for instance, or scheduling a campsite, or whatever. The Committee really exists to have people to do things, not so much to make deliberative decisions.

Aaaand…now I'm confused again. If decisions can be made outside of a meeting, is it really a deliberative assembly? No wonder BSA doesn't specify Rules of Order. It would be really hard to cover every reasonable situation, and then they'd be long and complicated, or unnecessarily restrictive—not what you want for a volunteer service organization.

Under Robert’s Rules, business may only be conducted at a properly called meeting with a quorum present. Business may not be conducted outside of a meeting unless so authorized by the organization’s rules. As you suggest, getting together and deliberating about things is at the heart of what makes something a deliberative assembly. The rules could also authorize the officers to take certain actions on their own. The organization could adopt rules of order, and then also adopt other rules for these other situations.

Even if Rules of Order are not adopted, I still think that other rules should be adopted. What sorts of decisions can be made by the Chair and Treasurer acting alone? What sorts of decisions must be made by the committee as a whole? If the committee can make decisions outside of a meeting, how is this done? I agree that “long and complicated, or unnecessarily restrictive” rules are not desirable, but I don’t think having no rules at all is a good plan either. It sounds like your only rule right now is “We all do whatever we want until we get fired.”

Edited by Josh Martin

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32 minutes ago, Josh Martin said:

It sounds like your only rule right now is “We all do whatever we want until we get fired.”

Yeah, basically. That seems to be how it's set up. Nobody cares until somebody cares, at which point the Chartered Organization Representative can get involved if he wishes, and at that point it's do what he says or get fired. So the trick is to figure out how to do things in such a way that A) is effective, and B) doesn't annoy people overly much, including being able to resolve conflicts effectively. 

Which is what rules of order are supposed to be for, but I suppose here you're just supposed to be able to use your sterling personality to smooth things over before they get out of hand. 

Edited by Calion

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Hm. Here's an interesting bit I missed, from the Guidebook: "The troop committee is the troop's board of directors and supports the troop program."

That clarifies things a little bit, anyway. Maybe. 

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3 hours ago, Calion said:

Hm. Here's an interesting bit I missed, from the Guidebook: "The troop committee is the troop's board of directors and supports the troop program."

That clarifies things a little bit, anyway. Maybe. 

I would say that is a pretty important find!

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