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Who is allowed to speak in a Council meeting?


Guest Jeff

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Our Church is organized around a church Council. We, as a church, elect six members at large to a three year term. The terms are staggard so that we only elect one or two annually. In addition, we have the Pastor who is a member of the Council and also four other persons. A representative from the Finance Board, the Education Board, the Facility Board and the Deacon Board. The represenatives from these Boards are chosen from within the board on an annual basis. The Council has a total of eleven members. In our regular monthly Council meeting the person who heads our "Special Events" committee sometimes comes to give a rep[ort. Often this person, who knows they can't vote, still feels free to chime in on all other matters. Question: Is this permissable? Is the Council open to any all all who would like to attend and engage in discussions? Our Code of Bylaws does address this subject specifically. What would Robert's Rule have to say concerning this? To me, no one who is not a member of the Council should attend the meeting unless they have specific business with the Council or they are invited to a specific meeting to give a report. And after having given their report they should leave. Currently, we seem to operate like a "Town Hall" meeting. Is that right? Please help.

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To me, no one who is not a member of the Council should attend the meeting unless they have specific business with the Council or they are invited to a specific meeting to give a report.

That's correct. Only members of the council have the right to attend, speak, and vote at council meetings. Others can be invited to attend (and speak) as the council wishes (whether they have a report to give or not).

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When your council is meeting, only the members of the council have the rights to attend, make motions, speak in debate or vote. The council could choose to allow guests to attend and to speak in debate and they could withdraw those privileges at any time. They could be selective and only allow some guests to remain.

-Bob

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That's correct. Only members of the council have the right to attend, speak, and vote at council meetings. Others can be invited to attend (and speak) as the council wishes (whether they have a report to give or not).

Thank you for answering. If I state this in the Council meeting, can you give me a passage in Robert's Rule that would speak to this issue? Otherwise, I am afraid the response from some will be, "that is just one man's opinion".

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When your council is meeting, only the members of the council have the rights to attend, make motions, speak in debate or vote. The council could choose to allow guests to attend and to speak in debate and they could withdraw those privileges at any time. They could be selective and only allow some guests to remain.

-Bob

Thank you for answering. Can you sight something in Robert's Rule that would speak to this?

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If I state this in the Council meeting, can you give me a passage in Robert's Rule that would speak to this issue? Otherwise, I am afraid the response from some will be, "that is just one man's opinion".

You could show them p. 3. It's a fundamental principle that only members of the body that is meeting have any parliamentary rights at that meeting. Your organization may have other rules that supersede this (e.g. your bylaws might say that board meetings are open to all members of the organization).

Just remember that if a majority of the council wants to open the meeting to non-members (of the council), you won't be able to cite a rule to prevent it.

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Just remember that if a majority of the council wants to open the meeting to non-members (of the council), you won't be able to cite a rule to prevent it.

In the same way, if a majority of the council wants to restrict those attending--either allowing no guests, a few guest whom they name, or any guests but just for a particular part fo the meeting--they can do that. Note, also, however that they may not restrict council members from attending.

-Bob

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Considering the nature of your assembly, ask yourself if being a stickler on this point is wise. It is, after all, a small board and some protocol may be relaxed. Maybe handling it on a case by case basis would be better. A gentle reminder that votes should be members only or even a point of order if need be. Are you sure a majority of the council is not ok with a liberal guest policy?

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A gentle reminder that votes should be members only or even a point of order if need be.

The non-member already knows he can't vote, he's just debating on everything.

Are you sure a majority of the council is not ok with a liberal guest policy?

Well, I guess he'll find out when he makes his motion to remove the guests. I should note, however, that while a majority is sufficient to permit non-members to attend, a 2/3 vote would be required to permit non-members to speak in debate. So a majority is not sufficient to permit the current custom.

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"The non-member already knows he can't vote, he's just debating on everything."

I should note, however, that while a majority is sufficient to permit non-members to attend, a 2/3 vote would be required to permit non-members to speak in debate. So a majority is not sufficient to permit the current custom.

That's an important point. A guest can be invited to a meeting to give an address on any topic, and that would only take the agreement of a majority to extend the invitation.

But the rules in RONR prohibit non-members from speaking in debate. If a majority consents, non-members may be heard from during a time when no motion is pending, and business can be taken up after that hearing is ended. But no non-member may speak in debate while a motion is before the assembly, except under suspension of the rules, which, for rules such as this one, would require a 2/3 affirmative vote.

If it is desired to have non-members of the board attend, and give their views yet not interrupt business, it would be well to set aside a time on the agenda for such a hearing near the beginning of each meeting and when that hearing is closed, to enforce their silence during debate.

Some organizations have two hearings, one near the beginning (or at least before unfinished business) restricted to topics on the agenda or raised in reports, and another near at the end (but before new business) to address any topic.

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I was suggesting a friendly reminder about "members only" MIGHT be enough to jar this person into realizing he's not a member. I'm not unfamiliar with church councils where everyone thinks they're a member because they don't read their bylaws. No sense killing the gnat with a 10lb sledge when a tissue will do.

The point on the 2/3 vote to engage in debate is well taken. Thanks.

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