Robert’s Rules: 10 Common Mistakes
This brief overview of Robert’s Rules of Order can be beneficial to new board members for understanding the basic process of how a meeting is to be performed.
- One person may speak or have the floor at a time.
- The Chair of the meeting decides who that person will be.
- The speaker may discuss only the issue being considered.
- Other board members wishing to speak should be given an opportunity.
- Decisions require a motion, a second, and a vote.
- Once voted upon, no further discussion is allowed.
If your HOA property management company is well versed on running a meeting, they will advise you to follow Robert’s Rules of Order. If properly utilized, Robert’s Rules of Order allows an assembly to conduct business in an efficient manner. Some mistakenly believe their application is a hinderance to conducting a meeting. This mistaken understanding of Robert’s Rules is usually the result of incorrect usage. The following are ten of the most common mistakes.
- Being recognized: Probably the most common mistake is speaking without being recognized by the chair. To make most all motions, the chair must first recognize the member. Once recognized, the member can then make their motion.
- Call the question: During debate someone who has not been recognized by the chair will call out, “I call the question.” This person should have asked to be recognized and then make a motion. To call the question during debate and without being recognized by the chair is out of order and disrespectful of the assembly. The proper way to do this is by the chair calling the question after ensuring everyone who wished to participate in the debate has been allowed to participate.
- Dispensing with the minutes: Minutes cannot be dispensed with. However, a deliberate assembly can dispense with the reading of the minutes. The chair can ask for any corrections, and if none, the minutes are approved as distributed. If there are corrections, the minutes can be approved as distributed and corrected. It is not necessary to vote to approve meeting minutes.
- To table: Moving to table a motion is often mistaken for removing the motion from further consideration. The motion to lay on the table is done to set a pending motion temporarily aside. This is normally used to take up a more pressing issue. To remove a motion from further consideration, a motion to “Postpone Indefinitely” is needed.
- Lay on the table until next month: This use of table is incorrect and should be stated as; “I would like to postpone to the next board of directors’ meeting on June 10.” It is not proper to just state, “lay on the table.”
- To reconsider a vote: Occasionally, there will be a desire to reverse or change a prior board decision. To reconsider can only be accomplished at the meeting in which the decision was originally voted upon and passed.
- Point of information: Mistakenly, it is believed that to obtain the floor to speak to present information, all one must do is make a motion to request a point of information. A point of information is simply a request for information or clarification, not an opportunity to have the floor again.
- A motion to accept a report: It is not necessary, in most situations, to entertain a motion to accept a report. The exception to this would be if a report contained an action that the board must take. In those situations, the chair calls the question on the motion that is made based on the report presented. This is not to adopt the specific report or the recommendations but, again, a motion that is made from the report. However, in almost all instances, the meeting chair should just thank the reporting member and move on to the next item on the agenda.
- Old business: Old business means that the assembly is reconsidering matters that have already been disposed of. The correct term would be “unfinished business” which means that the assembly is continuing with matters which have not been completed.
- So moved: So moved is a phrase that is commonly used during parliamentary procedure that means nothing and is not in order. A member must state the actual motion to prevent confusion in the assembly.
A competent HOA property management company can train the board on how to run an effective meeting by utilizing Robert’s Rules of Order.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can a proxy from an absent director or board member be exercised by a director or board member who is present at the board of director’s meeting?
A: Exercising proxies is not permitted in board of director meetings. Deliberative assemblies such as a board meeting are not conducive to the use of a proxy; primarily because proxies are incompatible with the essential characteristics, discussion and debate, of a deliberative assembly. [RONR (10th ed.), p. 414-15.]
Q: When a Board member calls the question, must debate on a motion stop immediately?
A: Any member who wants to end debate must first obtain the floor by being recognized by the chair and must then move the “Previous Question.” This motion must be seconded, and then ratified by a two-thirds vote, or by unanimous consent. It is almost never in order to interrupt a speaker with “Question” or “Call the Question;” the board member must always be recognized by the chair. [RONR (10th ed.), p. 193-94; see also p 35-37 of RONR In Brief.]
Q: How can I add an item to the agenda?
A: At the time that an agenda is presented to the board of directors at a meeting, it is in order for any board member to move to amend the agenda by adding an item(s). The president “sets the agenda,” but the agenda becomes binding when it is presented and accepted by the board. Agendas are typically accepted by unanimous consent. [RONR (10th ed.), p. 363, l. 8-20; see also p. 16]
Q: Doesn’t the Secretary of the Board have to summarize all matters discussed at a board meeting in the minutes to be a thorough record?
A: Not only is it not necessary to summarize all matters discussed at a meeting in the minutes of that meeting, it is generally considered improper to do so. Minutes are a record of what was done at a meeting, not a record of what was said. [RONR (10th ed.), p. 451, l. 25-28; see also p. 146 of RONR In Brief.]
Q: When minutes of a prior meeting are corrected, are the corrections entered into the minutes of the meeting in which the corrections were made?
A: If corrections to minutes are made; these corrections must be made in the text of the minutes being approved. The minutes of the meeting at which the corrections are made should merely indicate that the minutes were approved “as corrected.” [RONR (10th ed.), p. 452, l. 12-15; p. 458, l. 10-16; see also p.151 of RONR In Brief.]
Q: Can meeting minutes be corrected after they have been approved?
A: If it is necessary to correct minutes after they have been approved, such corrections can be made by means of the motion to “Amend Something Previously Adopted.” The exact wording of that motion, whether adopted or rejected, should be entered in the minutes of the meeting at which it was considered. [RONR (10th ed.), p. 452, l. 12-15; p. 458, l. 10-16; see also p.151 of RONR In Brief.]
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