When Robert's Rules might apply
Q: I hope you can settle the problem of whether or not Robert's Rules is the go-to authority on working board meetings.
In reading your columns, you seem to say that Robert's Rules is not to be considered an authority related to private condominium matters.
Our board holds a monthly working meeting. After discussion of an agenda item, the board votes on the agenda item.
Any discussion by the members is held after the board has completed the agenda items but before the meeting is adjourned.
I would appreciate your thoughts related to this matter.
A: The statutes override Robert's Rules of Order. However, this is a blunt statement and Robert's can be used but is not necessary in most association board meetings if certain meeting policies have been established.
Before I go to Robert's, let me say that the purpose of a board meeting is for the board to conduct business. It is not a meeting for the members to voice items that are not on the agenda.
If you read Chapter 1 of Robert's, you will see that they list six items that must be applicable to a meeting for Robert's parliamentary actions to be followed.
One of these items says, "The opinion of each member present has equal weight, as expressed by vote, in the decisions made." A board meeting only allows the directors to vote — not the members in attendance. In other words, this one item fails the requirements of using Robert's.
Since there are five other requirements, even some of these do not apply as well. The statutes have changed over the years from not allowing members to talk at a board meeting to allowing them to address agenda items for three minutes.
But the statute goes further by saying that the board can establish policies to allow the members to talk at a board meeting.
If a member does not like an action by the board or has a personal problem, then they must write a letter to express their need for an answer. If the member wants to have it on the agenda, then the letter must be sent more than a week before the meeting. The board has the option of not including it on the agenda.
What is difficult about requiring that people write letters? In my decades of management, owners' letters of this nature were very few. What they wanted to do was stand up at a board meeting and put the board on the spot.
Getting back to Robert's, it is a guide to follow in many meetings. It can work in board meetings, but for the directors not the members. It is a tool to help if the board has parliamentary problems. In most meetings, it is not necessary. It may be needed in an annual meeting of the members if you have disruptive members. Most meetings go without any problems, and Robert's is not needed.