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9 hours ago, rbk said:
Is that a worry? Doesn't RONR 40:12 offer protection against such disputes?
"...a point of order relating to the absence of a quorum is generally not permitted to affect prior action...."

RONR 40:12 does not completely protect against a Point of Order being raised regarding the absence of a quorum at a prior time. A Point of Order may be raised in such cases if there is clear and convincing proof that a quorum was not present.

In any event, that rule certainly provides no protection from there being a dispute over the contents of the minutes.

My point is that you are perhaps being a bit cavalier with this insistence that approving the minutes is a procedural formality. In the event (however unusual it may be) that there is an actual dispute over the contents of the minutes, it would seem problematic that such a dispute may be resolved by less than a quorum.

I suppose my own suggestion, in the event there is nothing at all which can be done to shorten the time needed to determine the presence of a quorum (which would be the first choice), would be to rearrange the order of business so that some of these other "informational" items occur prior to the approval of the minutes.

9 hours ago, rbk said:

RONR 40:11 says it's the chair's "duty to determine... that a quorum is present." Wouldn't due diligence require him to do a headcount?

No, not necessarily. The chair's duty in this regard is simply to determine whether or not a quorum is present, not to determine the exact number of members present.

Suppose, for example, that the quorum for an assembly meeting in person is ten members and there are fifty members present. The chair can probably determine with a quick glance in such a case that at least ten people are present, and there is no need for a headcount.

If the number of members present was closer to the quorum, then it is certainly conceivable that it may be necessary to count. Even in such cases, however, it should once again be noted that the duty is simply to determine whether a quorum is present, so the chair could stop counting after reaching the quorum number.

Edited by Josh Martin
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17 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

As to determining whether a quorum is present at the beginning of the meeting, the way I read 40:11 and 40:12, the chair can call the meeting to order without the necessity of actually conducting a count of the members present.  If he believes that a quorum is present and calls the meeting to order, the continued presence of a quorum is presumed unless the chair or a member notices that a quorum is not present.  Any member noticing the lack of a quorum can make a point of order to that effect, just as with the rules of the U.S. Senate.

 

3 hours ago, Josh Martin said:

The chair's duty in this regard is simply to determine whether or not a quorum is present, not to determine the exact number of members present.

 

I should have mentioned this sooner, to help explain why it takes us so long to know if we have a quorum. Not all of our members meet the qualification requirements in our bylaws to count towards a quorum. Currently in our organization, only about half of our members are qualified members.

Imagine that an organization with 100 total members, 50 "qualified" members, and a quorum requirement of 10 held a meeting with 40 members present. Could the chair observe the large group, "believe" there must be at least 10 qualified members present, and proceed with business, knowing that any member may ask for a quorum call?

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4 minutes ago, rbk said:

 

 

I should have mentioned this sooner, to help explain why it takes us so long to know if we have a quorum. Not all of our members meet the qualification requirements in our bylaws to count towards a quorum. Currently in our organization, only about half of our members are qualified members.

Imagine that an organization with 100 total members, 50 "qualified" members, and a quorum requirement of 10 held a meeting with 40 members present. Could the chair observe the large group, "believe" there must be at least 10 qualified members present, and proceed with business, knowing that any member may ask for a quorum call?

In my opinion, yes.  RONR does not require an actual count, merely a "determination" by the chair that a chair is present.  Therefore, it seems clear that if he believes a quorum is present, he may call the meeting to order.

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@rbk  if this quorum issue at the beginning of a meeting is such a problem, and if members who do not count for quorum purposes are mixed in with members who do count, there seem to be plenty of solutions.  The first and easiest is to do as many organizations do and separate the seating of voting members (or members who count for quorum purposes) from non-voting members.  That is quite common, especially at conventions, so that the chair can be confident that only voting members are voting. It can be done with a standing rule.  If your meetings are taking place online, such as via Zoom, the problem might be a bit more problematic but Zoom and some other platforms provide methods of identifying or separating voting members from guests and non-voting members.   The chair can also assign a member or officer or a host the duty of ascertaining and keeping up with whether a quorum is present so that the chair is not having to constantly perform head counts of voting members.

Another method is to amend your bylaws to either lower the quorum requirement for the entire meeting or for certain items of business. 

Another is to adopt a bylaw amendment or a special rule of order which specifies that the presence of a quorum at all meetings shall be presumed unless a member raises a point of order that a quorum is not present.  If I remember the "senate rule" correctly, that is essentially what it says. 

Edited by Richard Brown
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1 hour ago, rbk said:

I should have mentioned this sooner, to help explain why it takes us so long to know if we have a quorum. Not all of our members meet the qualification requirements in our bylaws to count towards a quorum. Currently in our organization, only about half of our members are qualified members.

Imagine that an organization with 100 total members, 50 "qualified" members, and a quorum requirement of 10 held a meeting with 40 members present. Could the chair observe the large group, "believe" there must be at least 10 qualified members present, and proceed with business, knowing that any member may ask for a quorum call?

Yes, I think so. We are told that "about half of our members are qualified members," and in the facts provided, the number of persons present is four times the quorum requirement. If at least a quarter of these persons are qualified members (which seems highly likely), then a quorum will be present. So yes, I believe it would be reasonable based upon these facts for the chair to determine that a quorum is present.

I would also note that the term "quorum call" does not appear in RONR, although a member who is uncertain whether a quorum is present (or believes that a quorum is not present) certainly could raise a Parliamentary Inquiry or Point of Order to that effect.

The assembly likely should still adopt additional rules in such circumstances to be able to more easily identify the qualified members, since being able who is and is not a "qualified" member will matter for more things than just determining if a quorum is present - such as voting, for instance.

Edited by Josh Martin
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9 hours ago, rbk said:

Imagine that an organization with 100 total members, 50 "qualified" members, and a quorum requirement of 10 held a meeting with 40 members present. Could the chair observe the large group, "believe" there must be at least 10 qualified members present, and proceed with business, knowing that any member may ask for a quorum call?

8 hours ago, Josh Martin said:

Yes, I think so. We are told that "about half of our members are qualified members," and in the facts provided, the number of persons present is four times the quorum requirement. If at least a quarter of these persons are qualified members (which seems highly likely), then a quorum will be present. So yes, I believe it would be reasonable based upon these facts for the chair to determine that a quorum is present.

I would also note that the term "quorum call" does not appear in RONR, although a member who is uncertain whether a quorum is present (or believes that a quorum is not present) certainly could raise a Parliamentary Inquiry or Point of Order to that effect.

The assembly likely should still adopt additional rules in such circumstances to be able to more easily identify the qualified members, since being able who is and is not a "qualified" member will matter for more things than just determining if a quorum is present - such as voting, for instance.

Using the hypothetical above, if instead of 40 in attendance at the meeting there were 30 or 20, could the chair presume a quorum is present? Is the presumption solely the chair's prerogative?

Even though "a point of order relating to the absence of a quorum is generally not permitted to affect prior action" (40:12), you wrote that "40:12 does not completely protect against a Point of Order being raised regarding the absence of a quorum." What problems might arise if minutes are approved and later the recorded attendance shows that a quorum is not present (i.e., the presumption might not have been correct)?

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50 minutes ago, rbk said:

Using the hypothetical above, if instead of 40 in attendance at the meeting there were 30 or 20, could the chair presume a quorum is present?

I will ultimately leave it to the chair to make the call of under what circumstances it would be reasonable to conclude that a quorum is present. Factors to weigh in this determination may include, for instance, how many of the members present are generally qualified members.

50 minutes ago, rbk said:

Is the presumption solely the chair's prerogative?

A Point of Order (potentially followed by an Appeal, if necessary) could be raised. Short of that, I suppose so. The chair should, of course, use reason and logic in applying this presumption.

50 minutes ago, rbk said:

Even though "a point of order relating to the absence of a quorum is generally not permitted to affect prior action" (40:12), you wrote that "40:12 does not completely protect against a Point of Order being raised regarding the absence of a quorum." What problems might arise if minutes are approved and later the recorded attendance shows that a quorum is not present (i.e., the presumption might not have been correct)?

A Point of Order can be raised regarding the absence of a quorum at a prior time if there is "clear and convincing proof" that a quorum is not present. Ultimately the assembly will determine what level of proof is needed for this. In the event such a determination is made, the actions taken during the absence of a quorum would be null and void, although they could be ratified at a meeting with a quorum present.

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On 5/12/2021 at 10:59 AM, rbk said:

Any member noticing the lack of a quorum can make a point of order to that effect, just as with the rules of the U.S. Senate.

Well, the Senate rules regarding quorum are more "creative" than RONR.  The most common use of a quorum call there is simply to waste time.  A member suggests the absence of a quorum and the clerk calls the roll at a pace that makes a snail look positively fleet of foot.  And when enough time has been wasted someone can effectively say "never mind" and the count stops.  Apparently the concept of a recess has not yet reached west of the rotunda.

Under RONR if a point of order is raised that there appears to be less than a quorum present, the determination would be done as if the answer mattered, and would not be halted because the person raising the point no longer cares.

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1 hour ago, Gary Novosielski said:

Well, the Senate rules regarding quorum are more "creative" than RONR.  The most common use of a quorum call there is simply to waste time.  A member suggests the absence of a quorum and the clerk calls the roll at a pace that makes a snail look positively fleet of foot.  And when enough time has been wasted someone can effectively say "never mind" and the count stops.  Apparently the concept of a recess has not yet reached west of the rotunda.

Conversely, the US Senate will also conduct routine business with only two members (one from each party) present, and they will not "notice" the fact that a quorum is not present. So as you say, the rules are quite "creative," and I continue to maintain that they are not advisable rules for the average assembly.

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I agree with the two comments immediately above by Mr. Novosielski and Mr. Martin. In my opinion, the rules of the US Senate are not at all suitable for most ordinary deliberative assemblies. They are specialized rules in the nature of special rules of order that suit the particular needs of the US Senate.

Edited to add: if an organization wants a quorum rule similar to that of the Senate so that only a couple of members need to be present to conduct business, that organization may and perhaps should adopt a special rule of order to that effect. Personally, I think such a rule would be a mistake but it is up to rbk’s organization to decide what is in that organization’s  best interest.

Edited by Richard Brown
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23 minutes ago, Richard Brown said:

I agree with the two comments immediately above by Mr. Novosielski and Mr. Martin. In my opinion, the rules of the US Senate are not at all suitable for most ordinary deliberative assemblies. They are specialized rules in the nature of special rules of order that suit the particular needs of the US Senate.

Edited to add: if an organization wants a quorum rule similar to that of the Senate so that only a couple of members need to be present to conduct business, that organization may and perhaps should adopt a special rule of order to that effect. Personally, I think such a rule would be a mistake but it is up to rbk’s organization to decide what is in that organization’s  best interest.

If the organization wishes to adopt a rule so that only a couple of members need to be present to conduct business, then it should simply adopt a rule providing for a lower quorum requirement.

What I think would be a mistake is adopting a rule where the assembly just pretends that a quorum is present, although I agree that ultimately the organization can adopt such a rule if it wishes. :)

Edited by Josh Martin
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16 minutes ago, Josh Martin said:

If the organization wishes to adopt a rule so that only a couple of members need to be present to conduct business, then it should simply adopt a rule providing for a lower quorum requirement.

Yes, I agree. The quorum requirement would probably have to be in a bylaw provision, anyway, not in a special rule of order.

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