Robert’s Rules of Order

The purpose of using Robert’s Rules of Order or some other rules of parliamentary procedure is to allow a group to make decisions, allow all members of the group an opportunity to speak, and to do so in an orderly and controlled fashion.

If your group, regardless of size, has a process for meeting, talking, and making decisions that works for you, then it is probably OK, regardless of how closely it follows Robert’s Rules.  His rules were written for big groups, in which there may be contention and disagreement.  If your group does not have contention and disagreement, the rules are too formal to use.

The key to an orderly meeting really is the control that the presiding officer (usually the president) exercises in running the meeting and keeping things on track.  In small groups (under 8 or 10) a president can dictate how fast and fairly the meeting runs.  The president need not ask for motions, but can either make motions themselves (if they think a vote is necessary), or can simply state “if there are no objections, then we will (state action to be taken)”.  If the rest of the group sits silent, then there are no objections, and the decision is made.  It still needs to be recorded in the minutes.  This would be a motion by consensus.

When a group gets out of control (several people talking at once, people arguing back and forth, people talking about several things at a time, etc.) the President can tell everyone to stop talking, and then picks who gets to speak and in what order.  The president is “recognizing” each individual and they get a chance to speak without interruption.  The president then recognizes each person until all have spoken.  When everyone has had a chance to speak on a single topic, then a vote can be taken.

If you are following the Rules, no topic is supposed to be discussed unless a motion (a decision to be made) is before the group.  If one person makes a motion, and there is no “second” then the topic is not discussed.  If it is seconded, then the group has discussion, after which the motion made is voted on.  There are rules for amending and substituting motions to change it during discussion.  But this formality is rarely required in meetings for homeowner associations.  As long as the group understands the motion (the decision) being made they can vote.  If most of the group votes the same, no formal process for counting the votes is necessary (as with a motion passed by the president “if there are no objections”).  If you have a contentious decision, you should record the vote with written ballots or a roll call vote (where each member present is asked to state their vote for the record).

You can certainly spend the money and time reading Roberts Rules of Order, but what is more important is finding a process for your group that works for you to have orderly meetings, where all voices can be expressed (but not dominate) and decisions for the group can be made.  There are several sources on line with more detail on this matter.

If you have any questions we can answer, please feel free to leave a comment or contact us directly.  We look forward to continuing this conversation with you in our future posts!

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13 Responses to Robert’s Rules of Order
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Condo Law Group, Valerie Farris Oman. Valerie Farris Oman said: New on CondoLaw blog Robert’s Rules of Order: The purpose of using Robert’s Rules of Order or some other rules o… http://bit.ly/flxYN4 […]

  2. Carol Forward
    August 19, 2011 | 1:04 am

    I am a condo co-owner and went to a board meeting with a pre approved agenda via our management company. I had some questions to ask the board and the board does go by Roberts Rules. When almost finished with my questions I was interrupted by the president and she indicated that the board had several issues to discuss and I was dismissed. Is this parliamentary correct? The meeting was only 20 minutes into the session. It is my understanding that as long as I had an agenda and was on the table for the meeting that I should have been heard through all my issues which was 3.
    Thank you
    Carol

  3. Carol Forward
    August 19, 2011 | 3:39 pm

    Just a follow up to my e-mail dated 8/18/11 regarding the board meeting and my early dismissal. I must reiterate that I was only about 8 minutes into to my questions as another person was before me with her concerns. As I stated previously the president did not table my partially finished questions, but rather stated that the board “had a lot to discuss”. That then was the end of my voice at that meeting. Does the president have that much control that she/he can just dismiss you without just cause? Just because I may have asked a question(s) that she felt was either irrelevant or non consequential in her eyes.
    Thanks and I await your response.
    Carol

  4. Valerie Farris Oman
    August 19, 2011 | 5:18 pm

    Hi, Carol,

    Unless the Bylaws for your association provide otherwise, owners do not have the right to speak at Board meetings. Even if an agenda has been prepared with an owner on it, the owner is not entitled to speak.

    The president is the officer that presides over Board meetings and can refuse to entertain any comments from owners at any time. Even if the Board chooses to allow an owner to begin to speak, they can also choose to stop the owner from speaking at any time.

    I’m sure that’s not the answer you were hoping to hear, but it is an accurate description of the Board’s/President’s authority in conducting Board meetings.

  5. Shelly Baskin
    January 2, 2012 | 6:42 pm

    When do minutes of the meeting hjave to be posted? Do they get posted w/in 30 days of the last meeting or w/in 14 days of the next meeting which coujld be months later.

    Thanks

  6. Shelly Baskin
    January 2, 2012 | 6:44 pm

    When do minutes get posted– -within 30 days of the meeting or 14 days before next meeting?

  7. Dom Macoretta
    January 28, 2012 | 3:25 am

    Is a member of an organization allowed to speak directly to the membership, and if so what would the time limit be ?

  8. Valerie Farris Oman
    January 28, 2012 | 9:34 pm

    Shelly – The requirements of when/how the minutes of your board meetings are published should be in your bylaws. Generally “posting” (by which I assume you mean putting up by the mailboxes or on a bulletin board?) is not sufficient to meet the requirements of “publishing” them to owners – that usually has to be done by simply placing them in the mail, not certified. But the specifics for your association should be in the bylaws.

    Dom – There is no law that prohibits members from speaking to the association at large but there are several practical obstacles. First, even an association that holds open board meetings is only obligated to allow owners to attend – owners do not have the right to participate. Plus not many owners actually attend board meetings. The annual association meeting might be a better venue for speaking to the membership at large, but generally associations require that you be placed on the agenda to speak at a meeting like that.

    Either way, as long as the board adopts reasonable rules and they are uniformly enforced (i.e., each person gets to speak for 2 minutes), the board has broad discretion for how to handle members speaking at meetings.

    You governing documents also probably provide for members petitioning the board to hold a special meeting for a particular purpose, if that holds any interest for you.

  9. Reggie Ahearn
    March 28, 2012 | 12:04 am

    I am a new board member of my HOA. There is one board member who speaks to other members in a disrespectful and/or condescending manner. He is constantly interrupting the person who holds the floor. The person also like to hear himself talk and states his arguments over and over and over and over again. The President does very little to reign him in and move the meeting along. Can you provide some suggestions following Robert’s Rules that I can use to bring some maturity to the meeting?
    It is much appreciated.

  10. Valerie Farris Oman
    March 30, 2012 | 6:45 pm

    Hello Reggie,

    I’m sorry that you’re having a difficult time with your board meetings! Hopefully we can provide some helpful information.

    First, your governing documents (bylaws, most likely) might provide that if a conflict arises about how to conduct board meetings, Robert’s Rules of Order are to be followed. You’ll need to review your bylaws to see if that’s the case.

    Second, your Declaration and/or bylaws might also provide that while board *members* are elected by the ownership as a whole, *officer* positions are determined by the board itself. In other words, your association might elect five different people to the board, but your documents might provide that it is you five board members who determine who serves as president, treasurer, etc.

    So part of my thought for you is that if your board president is ineffective in how he/she runs the meetings, the board might want to consider removing him/her from the president role and appointing another board member to serve as president.

    Finally, even though you are not president, there are a few things you can do to hopefully help the situation you’re dealing with. First, you can make a motion that the board adopt reasonable rules for board meeting conduct. And if such rules are already in place, you can simply break in when the “offender” interrupts or insults and say, “Let X finish his thought, he has the floor,” or “Let’s keep it civil.”

    Robert’s Rules of Order are, at their core, really about running efficient and effective meetings. Common courtesy should be the foundation upon which your meetings are run. Unfortunately, “common” courtesy is not all that common anymore.

    I hope this helps!

  11. […] use it. Or, your community can adopt or create a different set of rules. You can read our blog post Robert’s Rules of Order for more information about having a set of rules and why they are a great tool to keep order in […]

  12. R.C. Remick
    March 10, 2014 | 12:58 am

    We have 6 members on our board of directors. When we vote for officers I expect 3 votes for one person and 3 votes for another. Who breaks the tie? Do we have to follow Roberts Rules?

  13. Valerie Farris Oman
    May 14, 2014 | 5:07 pm

    RC – The answers to you question may lie in the Bylaws or other governing documents for your association. It is unusual for us to see a board with 6 members; most governing documents require a board composed of 3 or 5 members to avoid precisely the situation you are describing. If your documents do call for 6 board members, my hope is that they also describe how to deal with a “tie” in a board vote. Failing that, while your association does not have to follow Robert’s Rules, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to use that for guidance as you navigate this situation. Good luck!

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Robert’s Rules of Order

The purpose of using Robert’s Rules of Order or some other rules of parliamentary procedure is to allow a group to make decisions, allow all members of the group an opportunity to speak, and to do so in an orderly and controlled fashion.

If your group, regardless of size, has a process for meeting, talking, and making decisions that works for you, then it is probably OK, regardless of how closely it follows Robert’s Rules.  His rules were written for big groups, in which there may be contention and disagreement.  If your group does not have contention and disagreement, the rules are too formal to use.

The key to an orderly meeting really is the control that the presiding officer (usually the president) exercises in running the meeting and keeping things on track.  In small groups (under 8 or 10) a president can dictate how fast and fairly the meeting runs.  The president need not ask for motions, but can either make motions themselves (if they think a vote is necessary), or can simply state “if there are no objections, then we will (state action to be taken)”.  If the rest of the group sits silent, then there are no objections, and the decision is made.  It still needs to be recorded in the minutes.  This would be a motion by consensus.

When a group gets out of control (several people talking at once, people arguing back and forth, people talking about several things at a time, etc.) the President can tell everyone to stop talking, and then picks who gets to speak and in what order.  The president is “recognizing” each individual and they get a chance to speak without interruption.  The president then recognizes each person until all have spoken.  When everyone has had a chance to speak on a single topic, then a vote can be taken.

If you are following the Rules, no topic is supposed to be discussed unless a motion (a decision to be made) is before the group.  If one person makes a motion, and there is no “second” then the topic is not discussed.  If it is seconded, then the group has discussion, after which the motion made is voted on.  There are rules for amending and substituting motions to change it during discussion.  But this formality is rarely required in meetings for homeowner associations.  As long as the group understands the motion (the decision) being made they can vote.  If most of the group votes the same, no formal process for counting the votes is necessary (as with a motion passed by the president “if there are no objections”).  If you have a contentious decision, you should record the vote with written ballots or a roll call vote (where each member present is asked to state their vote for the record).

You can certainly spend the money and time reading Roberts Rules of Order, but what is more important is finding a process for your group that works for you to have orderly meetings, where all voices can be expressed (but not dominate) and decisions for the group can be made.  There are several sources on line with more detail on this matter.

If you have any questions we can answer, please feel free to leave a comment or contact us directly.  We look forward to continuing this conversation with you in our future posts!

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
13 Responses to Robert’s Rules of Order
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Condo Law Group, Valerie Farris Oman. Valerie Farris Oman said: New on CondoLaw blog Robert’s Rules of Order: The purpose of using Robert’s Rules of Order or some other rules o… http://bit.ly/flxYN4 […]

  2. Carol Forward
    August 19, 2011 | 1:04 am

    I am a condo co-owner and went to a board meeting with a pre approved agenda via our management company. I had some questions to ask the board and the board does go by Roberts Rules. When almost finished with my questions I was interrupted by the president and she indicated that the board had several issues to discuss and I was dismissed. Is this parliamentary correct? The meeting was only 20 minutes into the session. It is my understanding that as long as I had an agenda and was on the table for the meeting that I should have been heard through all my issues which was 3.
    Thank you
    Carol

  3. Carol Forward
    August 19, 2011 | 3:39 pm

    Just a follow up to my e-mail dated 8/18/11 regarding the board meeting and my early dismissal. I must reiterate that I was only about 8 minutes into to my questions as another person was before me with her concerns. As I stated previously the president did not table my partially finished questions, but rather stated that the board “had a lot to discuss”. That then was the end of my voice at that meeting. Does the president have that much control that she/he can just dismiss you without just cause? Just because I may have asked a question(s) that she felt was either irrelevant or non consequential in her eyes.
    Thanks and I await your response.
    Carol

  4. Valerie Farris Oman
    August 19, 2011 | 5:18 pm

    Hi, Carol,

    Unless the Bylaws for your association provide otherwise, owners do not have the right to speak at Board meetings. Even if an agenda has been prepared with an owner on it, the owner is not entitled to speak.

    The president is the officer that presides over Board meetings and can refuse to entertain any comments from owners at any time. Even if the Board chooses to allow an owner to begin to speak, they can also choose to stop the owner from speaking at any time.

    I’m sure that’s not the answer you were hoping to hear, but it is an accurate description of the Board’s/President’s authority in conducting Board meetings.

  5. Shelly Baskin
    January 2, 2012 | 6:42 pm

    When do minutes of the meeting hjave to be posted? Do they get posted w/in 30 days of the last meeting or w/in 14 days of the next meeting which coujld be months later.

    Thanks

  6. Shelly Baskin
    January 2, 2012 | 6:44 pm

    When do minutes get posted– -within 30 days of the meeting or 14 days before next meeting?

  7. Dom Macoretta
    January 28, 2012 | 3:25 am

    Is a member of an organization allowed to speak directly to the membership, and if so what would the time limit be ?

  8. Valerie Farris Oman
    January 28, 2012 | 9:34 pm

    Shelly – The requirements of when/how the minutes of your board meetings are published should be in your bylaws. Generally “posting” (by which I assume you mean putting up by the mailboxes or on a bulletin board?) is not sufficient to meet the requirements of “publishing” them to owners – that usually has to be done by simply placing them in the mail, not certified. But the specifics for your association should be in the bylaws.

    Dom – There is no law that prohibits members from speaking to the association at large but there are several practical obstacles. First, even an association that holds open board meetings is only obligated to allow owners to attend – owners do not have the right to participate. Plus not many owners actually attend board meetings. The annual association meeting might be a better venue for speaking to the membership at large, but generally associations require that you be placed on the agenda to speak at a meeting like that.

    Either way, as long as the board adopts reasonable rules and they are uniformly enforced (i.e., each person gets to speak for 2 minutes), the board has broad discretion for how to handle members speaking at meetings.

    You governing documents also probably provide for members petitioning the board to hold a special meeting for a particular purpose, if that holds any interest for you.

  9. Reggie Ahearn
    March 28, 2012 | 12:04 am

    I am a new board member of my HOA. There is one board member who speaks to other members in a disrespectful and/or condescending manner. He is constantly interrupting the person who holds the floor. The person also like to hear himself talk and states his arguments over and over and over and over again. The President does very little to reign him in and move the meeting along. Can you provide some suggestions following Robert’s Rules that I can use to bring some maturity to the meeting?
    It is much appreciated.

  10. Valerie Farris Oman
    March 30, 2012 | 6:45 pm

    Hello Reggie,

    I’m sorry that you’re having a difficult time with your board meetings! Hopefully we can provide some helpful information.

    First, your governing documents (bylaws, most likely) might provide that if a conflict arises about how to conduct board meetings, Robert’s Rules of Order are to be followed. You’ll need to review your bylaws to see if that’s the case.

    Second, your Declaration and/or bylaws might also provide that while board *members* are elected by the ownership as a whole, *officer* positions are determined by the board itself. In other words, your association might elect five different people to the board, but your documents might provide that it is you five board members who determine who serves as president, treasurer, etc.

    So part of my thought for you is that if your board president is ineffective in how he/she runs the meetings, the board might want to consider removing him/her from the president role and appointing another board member to serve as president.

    Finally, even though you are not president, there are a few things you can do to hopefully help the situation you’re dealing with. First, you can make a motion that the board adopt reasonable rules for board meeting conduct. And if such rules are already in place, you can simply break in when the “offender” interrupts or insults and say, “Let X finish his thought, he has the floor,” or “Let’s keep it civil.”

    Robert’s Rules of Order are, at their core, really about running efficient and effective meetings. Common courtesy should be the foundation upon which your meetings are run. Unfortunately, “common” courtesy is not all that common anymore.

    I hope this helps!

  11. […] use it. Or, your community can adopt or create a different set of rules. You can read our blog post Robert’s Rules of Order for more information about having a set of rules and why they are a great tool to keep order in […]

  12. R.C. Remick
    March 10, 2014 | 12:58 am

    We have 6 members on our board of directors. When we vote for officers I expect 3 votes for one person and 3 votes for another. Who breaks the tie? Do we have to follow Roberts Rules?

  13. Valerie Farris Oman
    May 14, 2014 | 5:07 pm

    RC – The answers to you question may lie in the Bylaws or other governing documents for your association. It is unusual for us to see a board with 6 members; most governing documents require a board composed of 3 or 5 members to avoid precisely the situation you are describing. If your documents do call for 6 board members, my hope is that they also describe how to deal with a “tie” in a board vote. Failing that, while your association does not have to follow Robert’s Rules, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to use that for guidance as you navigate this situation. Good luck!

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