Emailing a motion during a meeting
April 30, 2013 6:03 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone familiar with Roberts Rules of Order enlighten me: does emailing a motion during a meeting violate parliamentary procedure?
posted by Morpeth to Law & Government (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What do you mean by "emailing a motion?"
posted by grouse at 6:10 AM on April 30, 2013

Response by poster: introducing a motion by emailing it to the chair before or during the meeting.
posted by Morpeth at 6:16 AM on April 30, 2013

The last time I was involved in a group that used Roberts, the only people who could make motions were people who were physically present at the meeting, and motions could only be considered if there was a quorum. Of course, this was also at a time when the Web and email for regular people were in their infancies.

Was the person emailing the motion physically present? Does your group have rules about what can be heard from members who cannot be at the meeting (for instance, you may have rules about who can act as a proxy for someone and in what situations)? It's been a million years since I read/lived under Roberts in any way, but my guess is this isn't a rule covered by Roberts; it's one that your group must decide independently.
posted by rtha at 6:21 AM on April 30, 2013

I would have to be believe that it does - how can the chair recognize the member, and how could the motion be seconded?
posted by jquinby at 6:22 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

how can the chair recognize the member,

Mmm, yeah, that.
posted by rtha at 6:24 AM on April 30, 2013

Robert's Rules generally considers email to be a form of absentee voting. If your bylaws allow for introduction of motions by physically absent members in other forms, then they should be interpreted to allow introduction of motions via email.
posted by Etrigan at 6:24 AM on April 30, 2013

If you can proxy introduce, you should be able to email introduce.
posted by corb at 6:26 AM on April 30, 2013

Key is what your rules say. Then check Roberts.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:28 AM on April 30, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks. This is in a situation where a speaker will be present for part of the time. This person has power to hire and fire others at the meeting. There is no language in existing by-laws governing this situation. The chair would like to allow a motion to be sent via email while speaker is present, then after speaker leaves have the motion read aloud by the member who made it, at which point it can be seconded.
posted by Morpeth at 6:28 AM on April 30, 2013

I'm not clear on the need for e-mailing the motion in advance if it's to be read aloud by the member who makes the motion. Why not just wait until the appropriate time (that is, after the speaker leaves)?
posted by jquinby at 6:34 AM on April 30, 2013

Providing the text of a motion or resolution to the chair in advance or during the meeting is not the same thing as making the motion. That is absolutely routine. When a member of the meeting receives the floor, is recognized by the chair, announces the motion and is seconded, that is when the motion is made and not before.

I don't really understand how the speaker affects anything, why people might need the chair or meeting's permission to send an email, or why it is important that an email be sent while the speaker is there but the motion not introduced until the speaker leaves. Could you explain further?
posted by grouse at 6:35 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I am not sure of the logic myself, but I suspect there is a concern that the motion to adjourn will be made while speaker is in the room, pre-empting any other motions.
posted by Morpeth at 6:37 AM on April 30, 2013

That's a bit tricky, then, since the motion wouldn't be carried if everyone else in the room knew there was still business to conduct. Even trickier if the speaker-in-question moves to adjourn. If you're trying to set up a situation where the speaker leaves and other business can be conducted, you could concoct a bunch of nonsense motions to conduct and debate in the hope that this person will become bored enough to leave.
posted by jquinby at 6:43 AM on April 30, 2013

So someone is trying to ensure that a particular speaker isn't present for a particular motion? That's less "Can we email a motion?" and more "Can we conduct business without someone knowing that we're conducting business?"

Given your point that the speaker can hire or fire people in the meeting, it sounds like you're trying to prevent undue influence. That is absolutely something that your bylaws should address, but this is probably not the best way to accomplish it.
posted by Etrigan at 6:46 AM on April 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

The motion to adjourn is generally privileged and procedurally wouldn't be affected in any way by someone emailing the text of a motion.

If the point is to put people on notice that they shouldn't vote to adjourn because there is useful business coming afterward, the proper way to do that is to put the business on the agenda. I think trying to ambush people with pre-planned motions that you let people know about at the last minute doesn't contribute to a well-informed and prepared presentation and is sneaky at best.

That said, unless your meeting is affected by rules or laws requiring that business be placed on the agenda in advance or prohibiting members from communicating with the whole meeting privately (as is the case for some government bodies), then it's hard to see a reason not to. But someone who can fire meeting participants might not appreciate the subterfuge.
posted by grouse at 6:54 AM on April 30, 2013

Response by poster: Sorry, I was in error before. It's a motion to postpone rather than adjourn that seems to be at stake. The concern is that a motion to postpone discussion of the speaker's presentation will be made as soon as the speaker leaves. As for conducting business this way--I agree that it is shady-seeming, and would prefer that the motion be voiced in the flesh. However, the speaker is well aware of the possibility of a hostile motion and is not a member of the deliberative body. Any motion calling for discussion of the speaker's presentation would specify closed deliberation.
posted by Morpeth at 7:00 AM on April 30, 2013

Emailing the text of a motion has no bearing on a motion to postpone. If the chair wants to recognize someone offering a main motion before someone a motion to postpone, they should simply to do that. You don't get precedence by sending an email though.
posted by grouse at 7:07 AM on April 30, 2013

Response by poster: ok thanks, everyone. I will continue to push for simply making the motion after speaker leaves. Would rather not be on thin parliamentary ice.
posted by Morpeth at 7:30 AM on April 30, 2013

This is where some behind the scenes work is valuable. Tell your 5-10 allies in the room what what your strategy is so you can generate momentum behind your plan (which I don't fully understand still).
posted by amaire at 8:00 AM on April 30, 2013

A motion becomes a motion when a member of the body makes it, and if seconded, it then moves forward for deliberation and vote. An email sent to everyone during the meeting isn't a motion until someone moves it, in person, at the meeting. If someone else wants to table it (which I think is what you mean by postpone), then the group will decide that, according to the usual rules.

It's definitely good form to let other members of the body know if you have a motion prepared, but it's not required, in terms of parliamentary procedure.

It sounds like a speaker will be making a presentation and then leaving, and you want to ensure that any decisions based on that presentation occur after the speaker has left? Is that it? But other people will only want to have the discussion with the speaker in the room? Or they won't want to have it at all and will move to table?

It all sounds shady as fuck, but I guess that's the point.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:20 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

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