Jump to content
The Official RONR Q & A Forums

Intrepretation of "no more than 1/3"


Guest Bruce

Recommended Posts

I noticed in the minutes of a town council meeting that someone questioned why there were two elected officials appointed to a commission when the ordinance states that "no more than 1/3 of the commission's members may be elected officials." The commission in question is comprised of 5 members. One-third of 5 is 1.6667. The town attorney claims that translates to two members can be elected officials. I say that interpretation is incorrect and that 2 is more than 1/3, so only 1 member of the commission may be an elected official. I believe RONR does not allow "rounding up" in this case. What is the correct interpretation?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I noticed in the minutes of a town council meeting that someone questioned why there were two elected officials appointed to a commission when the ordinance states that "no more than 1/3 of the commission's members may be elected officials." The commission in question is comprised of 5 members. One-third of 5 is 1.6667. The town attorney claims that translates to two members can be elected officials. I say that interpretation is incorrect and that 2 is more than 1/3, so only 1 member of the commission may be an elected official. I believe RONR does not allow "rounding up" in this case. What is the correct interpretation?

Actually the rounding up does apply, generally. For a quorum that requires 1/3 of members, with a 100 members and 1/3 being 33 1/3, the quorum threshold is rounded up to 34. Of course, in the quorum instance, the concept is "at least" not "no more than." Stay tuned.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I noticed in the minutes of a town council meeting that someone questioned why there were two elected officials appointed to a commission when the ordinance states that "no more than 1/3 of the commission's members may be elected officials."

The commission in question is comprised of 5 members.

One-third of 5 is 1.6667.

Weird.

It appears that your rule originally was meant to apply to a committee of exactly three members.

Why would a rule about 5-member committees not have as its calculation base the number five?

1/5 =20%

2/5 =40%

3/5 =60%

4/5 =80%

5/5 =100%

The town attorney claims that translates to two members can be elected officials.

Not using Robert's Rules, but using a fifth-grade textbook of arithmetic, your town attorney has no scientific justification for this conclusion.

I say that interpretation is incorrect and that 2 is more than 1/3, so only 1 member of the commission may be an elected official.

I believe RONR does not allow "rounding up" in this case.

What is the correct interpretation?

For the numerically challenged, you can do the arithmetic this way:

• "You may have one elected-official member for every 2 non-elected-official members."

or

• "You may have up to a maximum of 1 elected official within each group of 3."

• Using my two above methods, you group the committee by threes, and then inspect your committee for compliance, checking for a ratio of 1:2 in every group.

or

• Using my two above methods, you group the committee by twos of non-elected officials, and for every two-grouping (of non-elected officials), you get to elect one elected-official.

Thus, you'd count off, non-elected officials to elected-officials:

No. No. Yes.

No. No. Yes.

...

That will allow you to jump outside of decimals, and jump outside of fractions, and deal 100% with integers.

Think ratios.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

See also FAQ #5.

Substitute "one-third" for "two-thirds" and "not more than" for "at least".

It appears that your town attorney might need a refresher course in math.

I agree. The town attorney is in bed with the folks who wat two, not one. In addition, the town attorney seems to be an idiot. Two (2) is clearly and unambiguously more than 1/3 of five (5) .

Link to comment
Share on other sites

See also FAQ #5.

Substitute "one-third" for "two-thirds" and "not more than" for "at least".

It appears that your town attorney might need a refresher course in math.

I agree. The town attorney is in bed with the folks who want two, not one. In addition, the town attorney seems to be an idiot. Two (2) is clearly and unambiguously more than 1/3 of five (5) .

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Analogy, for calculating a 2:1 ratio, in a group of exactly five components.

***

Water is chemically formulated as: H2O

(i.e., one oxygen atom for every 2 hydrogen atoms).

Let me regroup the chemical formula so that the separation is visually clearer:

Water is chemically "hydrogen hydroxide", H-O-H

i.e., a mix of an acid (H-...) plus a base (...-O-H).

Water has a "rule" that you get

ONE oxygen atom for every

TWO hydrogen atoms.

Quiz, using this rule:

Q. If you had a test tube which holds a maximum of FIVE ATOMS, and

If you have a mix of oxygen and hydrogen, and

If you cannot have more oxygen than this fixed 2:1 ratio,

then

how many oxygen atoms MAXIMUM may you have?

Answer: Since you are free to have as many hydrogen atoms as you please, then the only groupings-of-five which are allowable are these two groups:

group #1 = HHHHH

group #2 = HHHHO

You are free to have a group without an oxygen atom.

(i.e., "no more than one oxygen atom for every two non-oxygen atoms.)

You cannot have a group like HHHOO (or any group with more oxygen) because there won't be enough H to allow oxygen to combine with, where your maximum is five atoms.

To have two oxygen atoms, you must supply 4 hydrogen atoms; but that would sum to six atoms MINIMUM, which would exceed the fixed limit of five atoms MAXIMUM.

Count the number of oxygen atoms in the group with the MAXIMUM number of oxygen atoms.

Answer: See group #2, where there is ONE oxygen atom.

Conclusion:

If you have a rule where there is a fixed limit of 2:1 for a certain ELEMENT, then where the maximum number of all components is five, you cannot have more than one component of the restricted ELEMENT within that group of five.

***

Note that the above never uses DECIMALS, nor FRACTIONS.

Only a RATIO.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Respectfully, I don't see anything here as being applicable to their rule. And they've already interpreted it.

On the contrary, the town attorney weighed in with an opinion, but only the body itself can truly "interpret" the rule, and I didn't see a mention of that happening.

What we learn from this scenario is that, when faced with a knotty parliamathematical problem like whether six thirds qualifies as more than five thirds, a lawyer is apparently not going to be your go-to guy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What we learn from this scenario is that, when faced with a knotty parliamathematical problem like whether six thirds qualifies as more than five thirds, a lawyer is apparently not going to be your go-to guy.

Well, maybe just not that particular lawyer. This is certainly not the place to paint all lawyers with a broad brush. Or, at least, not with a brush broader than that which can so easily paint most parliamentarians.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, maybe just not that particular lawyer. This is certainly not the place to paint all lawyers with a broad brush. Or, at least, not with a brush broader than that which can so easily paint most parliamentarians.

Actually, with that particular lawyer, you could paint him with a brush that's one-sixth broader, and he wouldn't know the difference.

But point taken.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We all fear the wrath of Dan - but we don't seem to have any fear of (or respect for) someone else's legal council ...

I agree completely with Mr. Mervosh

An attorney who thinks that two is not more than one-third is getting all the respect he deserves. Being an attorney, or a parliamentarian, doesn't make a wrong answer right.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

An attorney who thinks that two is not more than one-third is getting all the respect he deserves. Being an attorney, or a parliamentarian, doesn't make a wrong answer right.

Of course I agree - two is more than 1/3 of five. And I wouldn't put it past an attorney to think otherwise...

But in this case, the attorney is interpreting an "ordinance" that he has complete access to - and we're saying he is wrong based on a partial sentence that we have access to.

And I don't see anything in RONR that addresses how to interpret such a sentence in one's orinances.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While the explicit wording may not exist, many references (quorum, voting threshold, etc) in RONR support the "rounding up" process as it pertains to such things as requiring "at least" (or perhaps, synonymously, "no less than") a certain number. From this, a reasonable person might draw the conclusion that "at most" (or, as in this case, "no more than") would employ the "rounding down" approach, at which point "no more than 1/3", as applied to the number 5, brings us to 1, not 2.

Given "at least 1/3" of 5, the result is 2 (or more). I don't see how "no more than 1/3" of 5 can attain the same result.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Before calling anyone an "idiot" there may well be an interpretation of the statute that impacts on this. It might have been intended for a 3 member board and a judge may have determined that the statute refers to council members not having a majority on the board. There may be more to the statute.

Mathematically, two out of five is greater than 1/3.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While the explicit wording may not exist, many references (quorum, voting threshold, etc) in RONR support the "rounding up" process as it pertains to such things as requiring "at least" (or perhaps, synonymously, "no less than") a certain number. From this, a reasonable person might draw the conclusion that "at most" (or, as in this case, "no more than") would employ the "rounding down" approach, at which point "no more than 1/3", as applied to the number 5, brings us to 1, not 2.

Given "at least 1/3" of 5, the result is 2 (or more). I don't see how "no more than 1/3" of 5 can attain the same result.

I don't agree that RONR requires any rounding (up or down). For quorum or majority calculations defined as "more than half" no rounding is required to determine whether 50 is greater than 50.5 (it's not). For a 2/3 vote, one might need to determine whether 66 was at least 66_2/3 (it's not). Rounding isn't required. All that's needed is to be able to compare two numbers, and to know the meaning of the phrases "at least" and "greater than". In the case of the mystery ordinance it sounds like all one needs to understand is the meaning of "not more than" which is the equivalent of "less than or equal to ."

It is when people begin rounding up, or down, that they get themselves into trouble. All one needs to do is compare.

Oh, and one more assumption: that counting people will always result in an integer, and never some fraction of a person. But that's not "rounding" people to the nearest integer. It's just counting them.

But I will quit the lawyer bashing. I must admit that if a lawyer could not do simple math problems, I would have no problem with that at all. (As long as he was working for the other side.) <rimshot>

Okay NOW I'll quit the lawyer bashing.

:rolleyes:

Honest.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wish to thank everyone for their reply. The discussion was very interesting and informative.

Actually, I thought of another way to look at the problem, which is perhaps closer to my line of reasoning when I came to my original conclusion.

1. The requirement is "no more than 1/3 of the members" (of a committee of 5) may be elected officials.

2. This is the same as saying at least 2/3 of the members must not be elected officials. (Is that not correct?)

3. If a committee of 5 votes (all members voting) on a question that requires 2/3 in favor for the question to pass, then 4 affirmative votes are required. Three votes won't do because 3 is less than 2/3. I believe this is stated very clearly in RONR.

4. By anology, if at least 2/3 of the members must not be elected officials, then 4 of the 5 members must not be elected officials. Hence, only one member may be an elected official.

By the way, I once asked a lawyer a question regarding paliamentary procedure. His reply: "I'm a lawyer, not a parliamentarian. Ask a parliamentarian."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One more note: The stated requirement actually comes from the state statute governing the creation of certain commissions by municipalities. The exact wording of that requirement is: ...the appointing authority shall by resolution appoint a commission consisting of not fewer than five nor more than fifteen electors, not more than one-third of whom may hold any other public office in the municipality... The existing commission is made up of five members, two of whom hold public office. The "appointing authority" has been told by the town attorney that's OK. I don't agree.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
×
×
  • Create New...