The answers below should in all cases be read in conjunction with the more detailed discussion of the subject in Guide for
Meetings and Organisations 8th edition by N E Renton (Law Book Company). None of the opinions offered amounts to legal advice.
WITHDRAWAL OF LIFE MEMBERSHIPS
Q. As the president of a sporting organisation I am to chair our AGM
shortly and to preside over a properly constituted motion "That the life membership held by Mr
... be rescinded." The person concerned has behaved rather badly in recent years.
As I see it, I have no option but to accept the motion and to allow debate. However, I can't
help feeling that no good will come of the action whichever way it goes and there may be
recriminations. How should I handle this situation?
A. The wisdom or otherwise of removing a life membership is, of course,
entirely a question for the members. There was talk of stripping the celebrated author Jeffrey
Archer of his life peerage when he was gaoled, but this does not seem to have actually happened.
If the constitution of an organisation contains a clause similar to that in paragraph 3.46 of
Volume 1 then, of course, the motion would be void as being ultra vires and it should not be
accepted by the Chair. If passed in ignorance of such a provision then the motion would be of no
However, such a clause could be amended in accordance with the usual amendment provisions -
say, by adding "and may withdraw any life membership so conferred by way of honour". After
that, a new motion such as that cited in the question would be valid (although a verb other than
"rescind", which refers to resolutions, would be more elegant).
WITHDRAWAL OF RESIGNATIONS
Q. Can a motion accepting a letter of resignation be rescinded after it has
been accepted at a full committee meeting? The president of our incorporated association had the
secretary table his letter of resignation for a personal matter. Because of this the committee
accepted it and elected the vice-president to the then vacant office of president. A few days
later, the former president changed his mind and asked that his letter of resignation be
A. This question raises a number of points:
Resignations do not need to be "accepted" - that is a courtesy only. They are
effective immediately they are submitted or in accordance with the letter of resignation itself or
While a resolution can always be rescinded that would not invalidate any action
legitimately taken in good faith before the rescission - otherwise there would never be certainty
in regard to implementing any decision and the rights of other parties could be adversely affected.
Thus in your case the election of the new president would stand.
Of course, the new president if so minded could resign, thus creating a casual vacancy in
that office which the former president could contest. However, other members could also be
Subject to the constitution a special meeting of members (not of the committee) could
declare certain offices vacant and then proceed to fill them.
Q. The constitution of our club requires a quorum of sixty members for
annual general meetings and extraordinary general meetings.
The constitution states that members are to be of age six and above; however, the constitution
also specifically excludes members under age 18 from voting. It therefore seems to me to be morally
incorrect to include those under age 18 in the quorum. What is the legal situation?
A. Such provisions seem bizarre as well as immoral.
The whole purpose of prescribing a quorum is to ensure that decisions are made by a reasonable
number of persons eligible to vote. Under the rules that you describe it would be possible to have
a valid meeting of 60 non-voting members - a meeting which would then be unable to transact any
business. And how democratic would a meeting of 59 non-voting members and one voting member be?
It is understandable that an adult organisation would not wish to have six-year-olds making
decisions, but in that case counting these persons in the quorum would not make sense.
The legal position is as follows: While rules against public policy would be void, being stupid
is not against the law. If an organisation sees fit to have absurd rules then the courts would
regard this as a purely internal matter and would most probably not interfere.
ELECTION OF CHAIRMAN
Q. Is there a standard for the election of the Chair of a body? Should such
an election be by the board of the body or by its members?
A. Organisations can draft their rules either way.
For smaller organisations such as local sporting clubs it is common to let the members vote
directly for their president and for the holders of other executive positions. This is regarded as
more democratic. It makes sense where most of the voters know the candidates for office
For larger organisations such as listed companies it is common for members to elect members of
the board and for the board then to elect one of their number to be the Chair. It is felt that this
approach produces the most useful result, as the members of the board would be in a better position
than the membership at large to choose the best person for the job and to identify a person with
whom the rest of the board can work effectively.
However, there is no universal standard and no single "right" way to deal with the
VOTING BY EMPLOYEES
Q. A paid employee of an incorporated voluntary association has been moving
motions at annual general meetings and executive meetings of the association.
The employee concerned is not an elected or appointed member of the executive of the
association and is not recorded as a member of the association. Furthermore, the motions are ones
in which the employee could be considered to have an interest.
Is it appropriate for the employee to be moving motions under these circumstances? The
constitution of the association appears to be silent on this.
A. What you describe is certainly most inappropriate, but several separate
aspects need comment:
The motions have not been properly moved, but if a meeting actually passed them they would
be binding. Uncontroversial matters are sometimes put to a vote without a formal motion.
If the employee attempted to vote then that employee's vote should be disregarded.
The conflict of interest matter is much more serious.
"Office-bearers who have any direct or indirect interest in any contract or proposed
contract with their organisation should declare their interest to the committee and should, unless
the rules provide otherwise, leave the room when the matter is under discussion or being voted
upon. Both their declaration of interest and the fact that they were not present during
consideration of the matter should be recorded in the minutes.
"Rules can, of course, be drafted to permit office-bearers to remain in the room after
disclosing their interest, either with a requirement to refrain from voting or, if desired, with
normal voting rights and the right to be included in the quorum. However, having regard to the
emotions which can arise on many such occasions and the need to consider personalities, it seems
better that an interested party should not remain present during the debate and vote.
"Such a procedure will:
(1) facilitate frank discussion amongst the disinterested office-bearers;
(2) minimise embarrassment both to the interested office-bearers and to those who might wish to
(3) reduce the chance that the interested office-bearers' mere presence might intimidate the
(4) deny the interested office-bearers an excessive debating advantage;
(5) enable justice to be both done and seen to be done."
At general meetings, as distinct from committee meetings, it is usual to allow members with a
vested interest to exercise their normal rights as members, notwithstanding the conflict.
VOTING BY UNFINANCIAL MEMBERS
Q. Some people voted at our AGM while not financial, as required by our
constitution. Does that make the meeting null and void, even though those votes did not determine
the outcome? Our main concern is that these people may have influenced others to vote a particular
A. Your concern that "those people may have influenced others" is
justified, but persons vote a particular way for many reasons and it would not be practicable to
look into these.
The meeting would not be void. In fact, even the result of the vote under discussion would not
be void unless fraud on the part of the Chair could be established or the result was defective on
its face (for example, if the total numbers announced exceeded the number of members).
Thus, even if the votes of the unfinancial members had altered the outcome, a declaration of
the result which was not challenged at the time would normally have to stand, although steps to
rescind a passed motion or to reintroduce a failed motion could, of course, be taken later on,
subject to the rules.
For a fuller discussions, see paragraphs 2.98 to 2.99 and 8.26 to 8.28 of Volume 2.
EX OFFICIO MEMBERS
Q. In paragraph 12.147 of Volume 2 it is stated that unless the rules
provide otherwise ex officio members have full voting rights. If the constitution of an
organisation does not mention how many persons can be ex officio members is this comment still
A. Ex officio members do not exist unless they are mentioned in the
constitution, usually in terms such as: "The immediate past president shall be an ex officio
member of the committee." There is thus no need to mention a figure.
VOTING RIGHTS OF EX OFFICIO MEMBERS
Q. At an annual general meeting a resolution was passed to make a
particular officer a full member of our executive and a new rule was added creating a sub-committee
with all power being given to that sub-committee. Can these thus be classed as ex officio members
of our executive?
A. The resolution would make the officer a co-opted member, not an ex
officio member. Presumably there is a power of co-option in the constitution; if not, the
resolution would be void.
The status of the sub-committee would depend on the precise wording of the rule. The words
"ex officio" are not essential, but the use of the term "sub-committee" would
imply that its members are not members of the parent executive. If they are to have voting rights
then this would need explicit words in the constitution.
Q. The Chair of our organisation claims that he has the right to terminate
the membership of one of our members simply because he is empowered to do this under the
<Associations Incorporation Act>. Is this really correct?
A. Expulsion is a very serious step. Constitutional provisions must be
followed very precisely. Natural justice must be followed - for example, the member concerned needs
to be given details of any alleged offence and a right to be heard. The action of the Chair in
purporting to expel a member is clearly void. It also leaves him open to be sued for defamation.
Q. A member of our organisation who was expelled recently challenged this
decision in court. The court found, in the circumstances of that case:
That the member's expulsion had been unreasonable and oppressive and in breach of the
<Associations Incorporations Act>.
That the organisation had acted ultra vires its constitution in proceeding to the
determination of termination of his membership.
That the organisation was in breach of its contract with the member.
The court ordered, inter alia, that the purported expulsion of the member was null and void.
However, the bitter dispute which led to the expulsion has not been resolved and the committee
which was responsible for the problems remains in office despite some strong criticism by the
court. What further litigation should now be instituted?
A. In cost/benefit terms it does not seem worth while to spend any more
time, money and effort on litigation. It is obvious that the incumbent committee needs to be
removed, but this is best done at the ballot box. This can happen if those who seek change can get
candidates of the right calibre to stand for office and can get the numbers. This would also be the
strategy least damaging to the organisation.
Publicity may help - the strong language in the judgement could get one or two journalists
interested. Whenever anything is written in the course of any campaign the words should be
carefully chosen and the message made self-sufficient, with its later publication in the press
clearly in mind.
Q. What is the correct procedure for the role of a scrutineer at an AGM? I
belong to a local organisation and the committee have asked me to take the chair for the AGM.
A. Scrutineers work behind the scenes when votes are counted, usually on
behalf of a candidate for election, to ensure the accuracy of the count.
Constitutions usually specify who is to chair an AGM. The duties of a Chair are set out in
detail in Chapter 3 of Volume 2. The main task is to call on speakers in accordance with the
NON-COMPLIANCE WITH THE RULES
Q. Can organisations be held accountable for non-compliance of their own
A. Office-bearers who act contrary to the constitution of their
organisation could be taken to court, but this could be very expensive.
You might like to consider some of the following alternative devices:
calling for an extraordinary meeting
voting the offenders out of office
resigning in bulk and starting a rival body
exposure in the media.
PROPOSED BREACH OF THE CONSTITUTION
Q. The present committee of our organisation has the support of about 60
per cent of the membership, but it persists in completely disregarding the contrary views of the
remaining 40 per cent.
The committee is intent, despite protests, on throwing away the bulk of our modest accumulated
funds on a project which seems doomed to failure but which would provide certain benefits to the
leadership. Furthermore, the proposed expenditure seems to be beyond the powers contained in our
How can the committee be stopped?
A. It seems likely that any legal battle to get around this problem would
cost more than the assets concerned were worth.
Mass resignations by members of the 40 per cent minority and its supporters might not be very
palatable, but it would allow them to form a new organisation and to devote their energies towards
making that a success rather than continuously banging their heads up against a brick wall.
Such a course of action would also enable them to get some useful publicity. For example, they
could issue press releases which
invite interested persons to attend the inaugural meeting
spell out the social problems which the organisation seeks to address
make passing references to its being formed following the failure of the old body's office-
bearers act in a democratic fashion
and so on.
The authorities might also be more inclined to intervene if the media get interested.
Q. Our organisation has a regular agenda item "Correspondence", at
which letters received by post since the previous meeting are considered. However, these days we
also receive messages by e-mail. How should we treat these?
A. Correspondence is not defined by reference to the mail officer.
Correspondence can also come by hand delivery, by fax, by e-mail or possibly by some future
mechanism not even thought of today.
Some e-mails may look sloppy, but these days a valid legal contract can be constituted by an
exchange of e-mails.
So certainly if your organisation would regard something as correspondence if it bore a 50-cent
stamp then it should not discriminate against it just because it arrived on a computer instead.
MAIL ADDRESSED TO AN ORGANISATION
Q. In a community organisation, is it in order for the secretary to open
<all> mail addressed to the organisation even where it is addressed to another official
although not specifically marked "Private and Confidential"?
A. This is not a black and white issue. Custom and balance of convenience
come into it. The following protocol is suggested:
Mail addressed to an official by title or by name and title should be regarded as being
sent to the organisation and can be opened by the secretary.
Mail addressed to an individual only by name should be regarded as personal unless there
are special circumstances, such as:
- an invitation in a newsletter to send responses to such a person
- fact that the addressee is overseas and that not dealing with the mail would cause an undue
- begging letters addressed to former office-bearers, where the sender's ignorance of the
current position is strong evidence that the addressee is not really known to the sender.
SPEAKING RIGHTS OF SECONDERS
Q. Is the seconder of a motion obliged to speak in favour of that motion or
may he or she speak against it, when the seconding was not pro forma?
A. The right of movers and seconders to change their minds when voting,
especially if they become convinced by the counter arguments and/or if the motion is amended out of
all recognition, is dealt with in paragraph 8.24 of Volume 2.
Although not specifically spelt out there, the seconder (who, unlike the mover, may not have
spoken already) is certainly entitled to speak against a motion even if it has not been seconded
However, as a courtesy, the seconder should alert the Chair in advance if he or she intends to
do this, to enable the traditional alternation of speakers for and against to be maintained.
AMENDMENTS TO MOTIONS ON NOTICE
Q. If the constitution of an organisation requires, say, 21 days' notice of
motion for a change to the constitution by special resolution, can an amendment to that motion be
accepted by the Chair on the night of the meeting? If "yes", does the vote to accept the
amendment need to be 75 per cent plus or can it be just 50 per cent plus of those voting?
A. While not all authorities agree with the following view it seems highly
desirable that amendments to a motion on notice should be permitted, provided only that their
passage would lead to an intermediate position between passing and rejecting the original motion.
The detailed reasons for this are set out in paragraph 5.6 of Volume 2:
"Some authorities maintain that a motion on notice must be either passed or defeated in its
original form, and that amendments cannot be proposed because the only notice given referred to the
original wording. Such a stand would produce the absurd situation that the two extreme positions -
complete acceptance `white' or complete rejection `black' - would be allowable, but an
<intermediate> position - say, `grey' - would not be. Yet such an intermediate position
(that is, the motion embodying a suitable amendment) might be a compromise much more acceptable to
the meeting than either of the two extremes. Alternatively, it might just be an improvement on the
original proposal. If amendments are not allowed then these alternatives cannot be tested and the
meeting may have to either settle for an inferior solution (by carrying the original motion), or
reject the proposal in the hope (not necessarily achievable) that on another occasion a more
satisfactory form of wording might be put up. While a further meeting could, of course, always be
called for this purpose, this would normally involve additional inconvenience and expense, with no
guarantee that a similar problem might not arise on the second occasion. In any case, it seems
undesirable to force those merely wishing to improve a motion into the position of having to either
totally oppose it, thus risking (even inviting) its complete defeat, or totally accept it, thus
making likely its passage with known imperfections. If a motion cannot be amended then the only
course of action available to some people who might not fully agree with the wording would be to
vote against the whole motion, and this would obviously be in the interest of nobody. To sum up, it
is illogical to deny a meeting any opportunity to consider a material and relevant alternative to a
question under discussion. The purposes of the notice convening the meeting are to inform members
of the subject matter to be discussed and to give them an opportunity to be present. These purposes
are in no way defeated by allowing amendments within the scope of the notice. It would, of course,
be quite impractical, in most cases, having regard to the usual timetable between the issue of a
notice of meeting and the date of the meeting, to require notice to be given of any proposed
As regards the query in regard to the majority required, only the final vote needs to be passed
by the special majority specified in an organisation's constitution. Amendments can be carried by a
simple majority (50 per cent) in the usual way, as passing them does not by itself lead to any
change in the constitution.
RESCINDING A MOTION
Q. Do two-thirds of the members have to agree to allow discussion before a
procedural motion to rescind a substantive motion can be entertained or can such procedural motions
be moved at any time by any member?
A. Subject to any rule to the contrary, a rescission motion can be proposed
at any time that there is no other question before the chair. However, because such a privilege can
be abused, some organisations provide in their standing orders that such motions can be moved only
at the discretion of the Chair or alternatively only with the consent of a specified majority of
those voting. That majority could but does not need to be two-thirds.
One purpose of such a provision would be to stop those who had been against a proposal which
had been adopted from frivolously trying to recanvass the issue, perhaps ad nauseam. Another would
be to stop members from taking unfair advantage of the absence of supporters of the original
proposal who were unaware that a rescission motion was being contemplated.
Of course, quite apart from the above considerations, a Chair should not accept a rescission
motion if its passage would serve no purpose - for example, if such a motion sought to withdraw
authority for the incurring of some expenditure when the relevant transaction had already been
AUTOMATIC RESCISSION OF RESOLUTIONS (SUNSET CLAUSES)
Q. Your name was quoted at a recent committee meeting by our president, who
announced that in future any motion passed by our committee would be relevant only for the current
year and that, at the end of that year, all motions passed prior to the beginning of the new year
would be regarded as of no effect.
As I have never been on a committee functioning in that way, I searched the local libraries and
bookshops to find the source and exact wording of the statement he purported to quote, but without
A. The following principles may assist:
No committee can bind its successors, although the members of an organisation could
enshrine policy by constitutional amendment.
However, a committee could, if it wished, pass a resolution to the effect that its past and
future resolutions shall cease to be of effect as from a specified date. But, naturally, such a
resolution could be rescinded specifically. It could also be overridden on a case-by-case basis by
a resolution on the lines of "Notwithstanding the resolution passed on ...".
Such a policy cannot be instituted by mere edict of the Chair.
Most organisations would regard such a procedure as inefficient, as it would require an
incoming committee to "reinvent the wheel".
RESCISSION OF A RESCISSION MOTION
Q. Can a rescission motion itself be rescinded?
A. A Chair faced with a motion seeking to rescind an earlier rescission
should use the discretionary power vested in all presiding officers to rule it out of order.
A rescission motion once carried has the effect of restoring the position which existed
immediately before the rescinded motion was passed.
If the organisation desires to adopt the relevant proposal after all then it can easily achieve
that object directly by passing a fresh motion, either in the same form as the rescinded motion or
in a different form. This would need to be done at a subsequent meeting - see paragraph 4.53 of
To allow the rescission of a rescission motion would serve no useful purpose and would
certainly be confusing to those attending the meeting. It would also make the consideration of
amendments very messy.
Furthermore, it could open up the way to have further rescission motions of rescission motions
ad infinitum. Such an idea should not be entertained.
DETAIL IN MINUTES
Q. How much detail about the discussion leading to the vote on a motion
should be included in the written minutes that are presented for adoption?
A. At one extreme, minutes can record just the words of any motion or
amendment voted on and the result of that vote, preferably together with the names of the mover and
seconder. This is the minimalist position.
At the other extreme, minutes can record also the debate verbatim - a virtual
Most organisations use minutes of the former type, which is certainly easier for the minute
However, it is good practice, in the case of motions which have been amended during the course
of the debate, to set out both the original wording (at the start of the entry) and the final
wording (at the end of the entry).
Some organisations also include a summary of the key arguments which were advanced for and
against, with or without the names of those who made them. This is useful if a report of the
meeting needs to go to a wider audience.
However, such a summary requires editorial choice and this can pose some problems in
The risk of conscious or unconscious bias in selecting what to put in and what to leave
The difficulty in adequately summarising a complex proposition in only a relatively few
The possibility of upsetting speakers who might feel rightly or wrongly that the summary is
not an accurate reflection of their remarks.
The possibility of upsetting speakers whose remarks are left out of the summary.
CONFIRMATION OF MINUTES
Q. In paragraph 2.14 of Volume 2 you say, in relation to the motion to
confirm the minutes of a previous meeting: "The motion need not be moved or seconded by persons
who were present at the meeting concerned, although such a course is preferred".
This view leaves me dissatisfied and having the feeling that the determination is inconclusive
and may be taken in the interests of expediency.
Your comment is certainly not in dispute and I accept that it was probably given in good faith,
but I can't see how a non-attendee can move that the minutes are a correct record if he or she was
not present at that particular meeting.
A. The following points can be made:
People can believe that the earth is round without having personally circumnavigated the
The actual decision as to whether or not to pass any motion (including a motion to confirm
the minutes) is made by the meeting, not by the mover.
While getting a mover for a routine and uncontroversial motion is courteous, this is not
essential. A Chair could put such a motion to a vote without its having been formally moved from
It is desirable that meetings should make decisions in an efficient manner. Devices which
are expedient can help this objective.
AMENDMENTS TO MINUTES
Q. There seems to be a difference of opinion in relation to corrections
made to the minutes of meetings of my organisation.
I circulate minutes in draft. Should an error be pointed out at the confirmation stage it was
my practice to record an appropriate amendment in the minutes in the next meeting.
It has been suggested that the correct way to deal with these aspects is as follows:
I should put a heading on the top of the circulated minutes which states that the document
represents "Draft Minutes of the Meeting held on ... (subject to Confirmation at the Meeting to
be held on ...)".
After the correction of the minutes has been agreed to, I should go straight to the place
where the error occurred and insert the correct words there.
What is the best way to deal with such incidents?
A. The precise way to deal with the aspects you raise is largely a matter
of taste, but the following analysis is for those preferring simplicity:
Draft minutes can be labelled "Draft Minutes" or "Draft Minutes subject to
Confirmation", but this is not essential where their nature is obvious from the context, as
when they are attached to a notice of meeting which includes their confirmation as an agenda
The motion for their confirmation, usually at the next meeting, should itself be recorded in
the minutes of the confirming meeting in the same way as for any other motions.
Similarly, any amendments to the confirming motion dealing with corrections should be recorded
in the same way as for amendments generally.
Then the motion becomes: "That the minutes as circulated and as amended be taken as read
and confirmed" or something similar. However, if the desired change is simple and non-
controversial then the Chair can dispense with requiring a formal amendment from the floor and can
just put such a motion to the meeting.
Either way, the minute book copy of the minutes should have any passed amendment inserted in
manuscript and initialled by the Chair signing the minutes as a correct record.
Alternatively, in this word processing age, a clean copy of the minutes incorporating the
passed amendment could be produced. This can then be signed by the Chair as the official record.
See also paragraphs 2.14 to 2.23 of Volume 2.
Q. In the course of a lengthy debate one of our members moved: "That
the question be now put." The Chair immediately announced that the closure had been moved and
promptly put the original motion (not the procedural motion) to a vote. Was that correct?
A. Clearly not. The Chair obviously felt that there had been sufficient
debate and should thus have accepted the procedural motion and put that motion to the vote. This
would have allowed those who would have preferred that the discussion should still go on the
opportunity to vote against the closure.
The debate on the original substantive motion should be terminated only if the procedural
motion is voted on and carried, but even then the vote on it should not be taken until after the
mover of it has, if desired, exercised his or her normal right of reply.
Q. I am to chair the AGM of a residential body corporate shortly and wish
to ensure that the meeting is conducted in an orderly fashion. In previous years there was no
control and everyone kept talking at once across the table and the agenda was mainly ignored. Even
arguments between individual owners across the table were allowed.
Whilst I know how a meeting should be run (and have run many over the years without difficulty)
this upcoming body corporate meeting is going to be a real challenge. This is because a few of the
owners like the sound of their own voice and do not accept any authority at all.
How do I shut them up? I was planning to threaten to adjourn the meeting for a week if I could
not maintain reasonable order but the local government office for body corporate matters told me
that there is no legal provision for me to do that.
Have you any ideas which would help me?
A. The circumstances that you describe are not all that unusual, although
you might be under more strain than most presiding officers.
Your members have got into bad habits and clearly need to reform. In your favour is the fact
that they are not acting maliciously or capriciously and have a genuine interest in protecting both
their assets and their lifestyles.
In the days before the meeting speak to each known troublemaker individually and seek his
or her co-operation. Point out that this will speed things up and get better decisions.
Arrange a 20-minute segment with refreshments before the scheduled start of the meeting,
for informal discussion.
At the start of the formal meeting, give a little pep talk, ask for respect to be shown to
the Chair, assure those present that all desiring to speak will be given a chance to do so - but
only one at a time and only on receiving the call.
Get their agreement to observe normal formality.
Be firm. If your rulings are disregarded, adjourn the meeting for 10 minutes.
If problems persist, warn them that you will vacate the chair and they can choose someone
else to conduct the meeting.
A CHAIR EXCEEDING AUTHORITY
Q. At a recent meeting of our organisation, the president made the
"For all future meetings it will be a requirement that all motions be put in writing to be
received by the secretary no later than seven days before the meeting date, to allow for
investigation. Any motion put forward at a meeting will be listed for discussion at the next
This was relating to any motion which was going to involve a discussion lasting more than 10
Could you please advise whether this is legal meeting procedure.
A. The following assumes that the constitution and standing orders are
silent on this issue.
The concept itself is not illegal, but it would need to be a decision of a meeting, not simply
an edict of the president.
Of course, even a decision of a meeting could be rescinded later on. Alternatively, a meeting
could give permission for a different procedure on a case-by-case basis.
For the "motions in writing" aspect, see paragraph 4.19 of Volume 2.
As regards "any motion which was going to involve a discussion lasting more than 10
minutes", if this aspect is desired then it would naturally need to be incorporated in the
STACKING A MEETING
Q. We have two controversial motions listed for discussion at our next
meeting. A letter from a member to the president was received less than a week before the meeting
at which these are to be considered. It challenged the right of persons to join and become
financial for the first time immediately prior to the meeting and then to take part in the vote.
Our membership register is updated shortly after each meeting, rather than immediately before
the next meeting.
It seems unreasonable to require potential members to attend the meeting before the one dealing
with the controversial business, simply so as to acquire the right to vote at it. Attendance and
participation is difficult enough to ensure, as people tend to come only when there is something
that interests them.
The counter-argument is that allowing people to join at the last minute amounts to stacking the
We have no formal constitutional rules or by-laws which address this matter.
A. In the absence of rules specifically preventing this, eligible persons
are able to join an organisation at any time.
Similarly, in the absence of rules requiring membership for a specified minimum period,
eligible persons are entitled to vote as soon as they become financial members.
The procedures being used to update the membership register have no bearing on the rights set
out above. Of course, if these procedures caused administrative difficulties then it would be
desirable to bring these procedures into line with the voting requirements, not the other way
Organisations which are concerned about "stacking of meeting" aspects need to amend
their constitutions accordingly. But, of course, in the circumstances you describe stacking could
be initiated by both sides of a debate and in the end decisions will follow the number of votes
cast by financial members who are interested enough to be involved - which is as it should be.
GETTING AN INDEPENDENT PERSON TO TAKE THE CHAIR
Q. I have been asked to assist a committee of which I am not a member by
chairing a meeting at which some members are seeking to get rid of the Chair by using a vote of no
How should I chair such a meeting for them, bearing in mind that I need to consider the
interests of all concerned.
Can I even chair such a meeting? If so, what is the correct procedure?
A. It is not unusual for an independent person to be asked to chair a
meeting in circumstances such as you describe. You can certainly chair the meeting if the meeting
passes a motion to that effect. As a non-member you would, of course, have no deliberative vote.
Paragraphs 12.70 to 12.81 of Volume 2 may assist you.
Once you are in the chair in this temporary capacity and someone has moved the motion of no
confidence in the normal Chair you might wish to lay down some ground rules for the debate,
preferably with the concurrence of the meeting - for example, in regard to the number of speeches
per side and the length of these.
The person who is the subject of the motion should be guaranteed the right to speak at a time
of that person's choosing between the seconding of the motion and the mover's speech in reply at
the conclusion of the debate.
The mover of the motion and the person who is the subject of the motion could, if desired, be
given greater speaking time limits than the other speakers.
At the end of the debate you should conduct the vote very carefully. The meeting might or might
not want to vote by secret ballot.
ELIGIBILITY TO VOTE
Q. Do the mover and seconder of a motion have to be persons who are
eligible to vote at the meeting?
A. It is fundamental that, unless the rules specifically state otherwise,
the right to vote includes the power to attend and to participate in a meeting in all related
capacities - for example, to speak, to move and second motions and amendments, to nominate persons
for election, to call for a quorum, to take points of order, to call for a division or poll, and so
Correspondingly, a person without the right to vote is unable to do any of these things.
However, there are ways of getting round this limitation in practice. For example:
The non-voting person might be able to obtain a proxy from a voting member.
The non-voting person might be able outside the meeting to induce a voting member to propose
The non-voting person might be able in the course of a speech to the meeting to suggest that
some voting member might be willing to propose the motion.
The non-voting person might be able in the course of a speech to the meeting to invite the
Chair to use his or her discretionary power and with the consent of the meeting to allow a
discussion of the matter even without a formal motion from the floor - see paragraph 4.70 of Volume
If this is an ongoing problem then, of course, the rules could be changed or the person
concerned could join up as an ordinary member.
Q. At the AGM of our organisation certain positions are declared vacant. If
a position is not filled, does the incumbent remain in that position unless he or she formally
A. The rules of most organisations provide that certain positions become
vacant automatically at the end of an AGM. The "declaration" is just a courtesy to keep the
meeting informed and there is no need for incumbents to resign. If there are no fresh nominations
then a casual vacancy arises.
Some organisations provide in their rules that existing office-bearers are deemed to have
renominated unless they indicate otherwise. In such cases, of course, if there are no other
nominations then the incumbent would automatically be re-elected for a further term.
AUTHORITY TO SPEND MONEY
Q. At a special meeting of our organisation a decision was made to spend a
considerable portion of its funds, but the members were not given the entire story. In the
circumstances, is this decision binding?
A. If the meeting was valid then the decision would have been binding. But
if fraud was involved then the matter should be reported to the police. In addition, the committee
members involved could be voted out of office either at the next election or at a meeting called to
declare all offices vacant.
INITIATING A DISCUSSION
Q. What is the procedure for having an issue discussed at an annual general
A. If a member of an organisation wants the discussion to lead to a
particular decision then that member should draft a suitable motion and ask to have it included on
In other cases, the matter can be raised when an item such as "General Business" or
"Any Other Business" is reached, usually as the last item on the agenda.
Alternatively, a member could circulate a discussion paper canvassing the issues that are of
concern and then give notice of a motion such as: "That the paper on ... dated ... prepared by
... be noted."
Q. Does a proposal by an incorporated association to spend a very large sum
of money on a project require an ordinary or a special resolution?
A. The legislation requires special resolutions only for serious matters
such as a change of name, a change of rules, mergers and winding-up. Unless an organisation's own
rules require a special resolution for the matter one will not be needed.
MOTIONS FROM THE CHAIR
Q. I have always understood that the Chair of a meeting may not move
motions or vote on them except to maintain the status quo. The current president of our
organisation claims that, in taking the chair at meetings, he is being discriminated against
because of his loss of voting rights. He claims that he has a legitimate vote as a member. Could
you clarify this issue for us?
A. It is undesirable for any Chair to move motions or to cast deliberative
votes because such actions prejudice his or her reputation for impartiality. Exceptions are in
relation to motions adopting reports by the Chair in the capacity as president of an organisation
or in committee.
Whether the person presiding over a meeting actually has the legal right to move motions or to
cast deliberative votes depends on the precise wording in the constitution of the organisation
concerned. If that wording gives that right to every member then that would technically allow that
person, if a member, to exercise that right.
The question of preserving the status quo refers to a different aspect, namely the resolution
of deadlocks. Again, this is primarily a matter for the constitution - there is no casting vote at
common law. If the rules provide for one, then it is preferable for it to be exercised in favour of
preserving the status quo so that the matter can be dealt with again later on if desired.
When it comes to drafting the rules, the conflicting factors which bear on the question of
whether the member actually chairing a meeting should have a deliberative vote - as distinct from a
casting vote on an equality of voting - can be analysed as follows:
Firstly, the democratic principle is that all persons who are members of an organisation
should have a say in its running.
Secondly, and overriding this, is the view that the person presiding over a meeting should
be seen to be impartial and should as part of this give up the normal entitlement to a vote while
occupying the chair.
Thirdly, and overriding this again, can be the need in the case of some organisations to
preserve the intended voting power of persons attending a meeting as delegates of another body or
as representatives of some specific group intended to have a particular voting power.
If a person in the chair feels discriminated against by not being morally or legally free to
participate in a particular debate then it would seem preferable for that person to vacate the
chair before the debate starts.
Q. Why do you think Toastmasters International follows Robert's Rules and
A. This question refers to the well-known work of United States General
Henry Martyn Robert (1837-1923). The first edition of "Robert's Rules of Order" was
published in 1876 and set out to codify meetings procedure in the United States and to encourage
uniformity in that country.
Organisations based in the United States are always parochial, but in any case Robert's book
was around long before Renton (1931-) was even born.
AN UNTIDY DRAFT
Q. Our secretary has drafted the following motion:
"That Council be given approval to proceed with the re-development of the Clubhouse and
surrounds, as set out in the brochure forwarded to members on ..., at an estimated cost of $5
million and subsequently modified in accordance with the Captain's letter of ... and the
authorisation to borrow a sum not exceeding $3 million, to build in accordance with the developed
plans and Council be given approval to proceed with the redevelopment with a contingency of 5% on
the Capital Cost ($350,000)."
However, the wording seems hard to follow and this may cause members to vote against the
motion. How could it be improved?
A. The following might be clearer:
"That Council be given approval:
(a) to proceed with the redevelopment of the Clubhouse and surrounds, as set out in the
brochure forwarded to members on ... and as subsequently modified in accordance with the Captain's
letter of ..., at an estimated capital cost of $5 million
(b) to borrow a sum not exceeding $3 million to carry out these works in accordance with the
(c) to incur, if necessary, further costs up to a maximum of five per cent of the estimated
capital cost, namely, $250,000."
MODEL STANDING ORDERS
Q. As you are obviously well versed and well respected in this field, how
about producing a model set of meeting procedure rules and standing orders which clubs such as ours
could either adopt in toto or adopt with appropriate amendments.
For instance, last year we had a situation where, following the moving of a motion at a general
meeting to change a by-law, a member immediately gave notice of motion to virtually revert to the
A. Chapter 10 of Volume 2 of the book does precisely what you are asking
for. It includes a complete set of suggested standing orders and samples of others which could be
used according to taste.
Your example uses the word "immediately". The Chair should clearly have ruled such a
notice of motion out, as contradicting a motion just passed.
PUBLIC SPEAKING TRAINING
Q. At our public speaking club there has been recent discussion as to
whether or not a part of a meeting may be chaired by any floor member of the club.
Our constitution states: "In order to carry out its mission, this Club shall (amongst other
things) increase its individual members' knowledge of the rules of parliamentary procedure and
their skills in conducting meetings."
However, our constitution also states: "The president (or in his absence the next highest
ranking officer) shall preside at all meetings of this Club."
This would seem to prevent ordinary members getting experience in the chair. Given the specific
nature and intent of our organisation, is there a way around this?
A. Your Club's main purpose is to give training in all aspects of public
speaking, so to deny members the opportunity to gain practical experience in chairing meetings
would not seem to make much sense.
All that is needed then is a formula that fits in with your existing constitution - although,
of course, that document could no doubt also be amended if it no longer suits the current
How about adjourning the formal meeting before the start of each training session and then
opening an informal meeting? This informal meeting would be governed by common law and could then
choose its own chairman and conduct its business as it saw fit.
When that business has been concluded the adjourned formal meeting could be resumed.
Q. Yesterday, the newly elected board of our club met for the first time,
as our constitution says that they must meet to determine who amongst them will be the Chairman and
Deputy Chairman for the ensuring year.
Before the meeting was able to be officially opened, one of the directors said he had a
statement to make and insisted that it be made without the tape recorder on. (The minute secretary
normally uses a tape recorder to help her to transcribe the meeting accurately.)
He proceeded to make some very derogatory remarks about the previous board and management, and
raised issues mostly concerning financial matters of the club that he had had every opportunity to
raise previously. He refused to let anyone else speak when members attempted to address the issues
he was raising.
Once the meeting was officially underway, he nominated himself for the position of Chairman.
This went to a secret ballot and the voters elected someone else. He did not nominate for the
position of Deputy Chairman.
The newly elected Chairman asked this director to sit on the finance committee for this new
year, but he declined. He said that he felt that his opinions would not be listened to, even though
the Chairman reassured him that he wanted all directors to be actively involved in voicing their
opinions whilst he was Chairman of the Board.
Can a director be allowed to take over a meeting in this fashion?
If not, what is the correct procedure to stop him?
Can the board as a whole demand that issues be raised only when they are being officially
Do the other board members who served during the previous term and about whom he spoke in
derogatory terms have any redress, especially having regard to the fact that he could have and
should have raised his issues previously?
A. As the speech was made before the meeting opened it should just be
The person who would have conducted the election for a new chairman should have just told the
speaker to sit down. He could also have suggested that the complaint should be put in writing, with
a copy sent to the auditor.
Subject to its rules a board can conduct its business as it sees fit. Thus it could, if it
wished, go into a secret unminuted session - but the fact that it did so should itself be
The fact that matters could have been but were not raised on an earlier occasion is not in
itself a bar to their being raised later on, but such a delay would naturally reduce their
Of course, a meeting can if it so wishes also resolve that a speaker be no longer heard.
Those aggrieved by the remarks described above might have a right to sue for defamation.
PROXIES AND THE QUORUM
Q. In counting the numbers present at an AGM does Mary Smith (a member) who
has a proxy for Joan Brown (an absent member) count as one person present or as two for the purpose
of deciding whether a quorum is present?
The following extracts from our constitution may be relevant:
"Rule 23(2). No business shall be transacted at any general meeting unless a quorum of
members is present at the time when the meeting proceeds to business. For the purposes of this rule
`member' includes a person attending as a proxy or representing a corporation which is a
"Rule 25(6). A member may vote in person or by proxy or by attorney and on a show of hands
every person present who is a member or a representative of a member shall have one (1) vote and in
a secret ballot every member present in person or by proxy or by attorney or other duly authorised
representative shall have one (1) vote."
A. Normally proxies are not counted in the quorum - see Volume 2 of the
book, paragraph 2.14, Note (4), and paragraph 11.19(b), Note (11).
Your organisation's Rule 23(2) departs from the normal pattern by defining "member" for
the purpose of calculating a quorum as including a person - here meaning a non-member - attending
as a proxy.
However, a member who is also proxy does not suddenly get two heads. The purpose of having a
quorum is to allow decisions to be made using the intellectual contributions of a minimum number of
different persons. It would be absurd to regard a member who holds proxies for 100 other members as
being 101 persons.
Rule 25(6) deals with voting rights, but this is a different concept from the concept of a
quorum. However, a constitution could, if desired, define a quorum as persons representing a
particular percentage of the total votes.
Q. My wife is the vice-president of our organisation and I am its
secretary. Of late we have suspected that the president, the treasurer and another committee member
have been using their positions for personal financial gain.
On several occasions they have been asked to produce financial statements but have refused.
The minutes are a shambles. The minutes have been read out, but have not been confirmed or
A motion of no confidence in the committee was moved and seconded at our last meeting, but the
Chair refused to entertain the motion.
We have now called for a meeting where we can officially deal with the motion of no confidence
and seek an election.
Is there a better way to clear up this awful mess?
A. If fraud is being alleged then the police should be informed.
Leaving that aside, the best approach might be to ask the other side for a meeting chaired by
an independent chairman at which a motion to declare all offices vacant can be dealt with.
This might be less inflammatory than a no confidence motion and would probably lead to one side
or the other getting a clear mandate.
Q. I belong to a group which has formed an association. There are certain things which I do not believe they are going lawfully. Are non-members allowed to attend meetings? The notice of a meeting specifically indicated that the meeting was for members only. If a non-member attends, does the association have the right to refuse him entry?
A. The right to invite persons onto premises belongs to the owner of the premises concerned or to those who derive their occupancy rights from the owner as tenants or licensees. Thus if the organisers of a meeting have hired a meeting room then they can invite whom they please and refuse entry as they see fit. The position is no different to teenagers trying to gatecrash a party being held in a private home.
Obviously, owners of a building can also invite persons in on some occasions but not on others.
Q. One of our friends' membership was cancelled. When he made an application to appear and called for a special meeting so that the body of the association could discuss this cancellation he was refused and his request went unactionable.
A. If the cancellation of membership was done in accordance with the rules then the former member has no greater rights than any other member of the public. If it was not, then he is still a member and can exercise all rights available to members.
Requests for special meetings usually need to be made in accordance with specific provisions in the rules.
While it would be courteous for the organisers to give your friend a chance to put his side of any argument, in the absence of very specific rules to that effect they are under no duty to do so.
Q. Are the non-members able to get a number of members to sign a petition asking that the non-members be allowed to attend the meeting?
A. Petitions can be a useful tool in a public relations battle - but they are all too easily ignored by those to whom they are addressed.
CIRCULATION OF BACKGROUND MATERIAL
Q. I have handed a discussion paper to our secretary to be added to our AGM agenda. She became very upset with me as I wanted to have a copy sent out to all our lady members before the AGM and she said to me that this can be done only on the day. Is there a correct way to do this?
A. In the absence of rules you would have no automatic right to make the secretary send out your material. But neither would this be prohibited.
Your secretary is probably concerned with the resources your request would require. You might resolve this by stuffing envelopes yourself or paying a mailing house to do it.
VOTING RIGHTS OF RETURNING OFFICERS
Q. At our club's last AGM the returning officer informed the members at the meeting that the scrutineers and he himself as returning officer had the right to vote if and when two or more nominations were accepted for a position. In past years it has been noted that scrutineers were unable to vote and that the returning officer had the right to vote only if the votes were tied. Which is correct?
A. The returning officer and the scrutineers would have voting rights only if they were members (unless your constitution was unusual and had a different provision).
As regards the casting vote on an equality of voting, the returning officer would normally decide the winning candidate by lot and not by casting a personal vote.
MOTIONS ON NOTICE
Q. The following was recently suggested to our executive:
"The usual tradition of calling for a mover and seconder is surely redundant for motions on notice. These are admitted to the meeting in advance by the secretary on behalf of the executive (approving them as in order, not defamatory, and so on) and then circulated to those attending. They thus need no further proposer or seconder to get them deliberated by the meeting."
Would that not be a sensible reform?
A. No. The mover of a motion has two important roles:
to start the debate off by explaining the motion and urging its adoption
to act as last speaker, summarising the arguments for and rebutting the arguments against, at the critical time just before the vote is taken.
Thus for any motion of significance a mover is really essential.
At common law no seconder is required. Furthermore, from what you say, a seconder would not really be required by your organisation, as it often is in other places, as a means of filtering out frivolous proposals. Nevertheless, it is often useful to have a seconder who can complement the information supplied by the mover.
LACK OF A QUORUM
Q. We are an unincorporated club. In our club rules it states that the quorum for the AGM is double the size of the committee plus 1. The committee consists of four office-bearers and three ordinary committee members. In my book that means that the quorum is 15. Is that a correct interpretation?
Q. We know that we are not going to get 15 financial members at the meeting. Does the quorum have to be 15 members or would it be sufficient for just 15 people to attend the meeting but with only the financial members able to vote?
A. Only financial members can be counted for quorum purposes. Any other persons present would have to pay subscriptions before the meeting starts.
Q. As we are unincorporated is there any legal standing to our rules or can they be changed at any time if the members agree?
A. Presumably your rules have a provision dealing with amendments to the rules - typically a two-thirds vote of the financial members voting; and subject to 21 days' notice.
Of course, this would not help you if you lack a quorum.
If this is a permanent problem then you would need to wind up the existing organisation (in accordance with the rules, which may allow winding-up if the number of members drops below a certain level) and then start a new body with more realistic quorum requirements.
Q. Does the mover of a rescission motion have to have attended the meeting at which the original motion was passed?
Q. On what grounds may such a rescission motion be presented?
A. No restrictions apply in regard to moving such a motion, but naturally if the mover's speech does not convince the meeting then the motion will fail.
A chairman has a discretion to reject the motion if it frivolous or if a similar motion has recently been rejected (unless circumstances have changed).
Q. How should such a motion be moved and seconded?
A. In the same way as for any other motion. But check the constitution for any special requirements.
Q. Our organisation recently held a special general meeting to consider a motion of no confidence in one of its officers.
There were 27 members present. At the conclusion of the debate, the meeting appointed two scrutineers, as it was to be a secret ballot. At this point a member asked the chairman if abstentions would be counted for the motion and he replied, "Yes". Nobody challenged his response. As the ballot papers were being distributed, the chairman was asked to make it quite clear to members that abstentions would be counted for the motion. He did this and again there was no challenge to his ruling. He then instructed that members should mark their ballot papers either "For" or "Against".
Before the scrutineers left the room to count the votes, the chairman advised the meeting that 16 votes would be required to carry the motion. The result was: 17 For (15 plus 2 abstentions), 10 Against. The chairman declared the motion of no confidence carried. The meeting was then closed.
I must make it quite clear that none of us at this meeting realised the significance of the wording in our constitution, which requires a 60 per cent majority of members attending in person.
Subsequently, the secretary gave notice of a meeting to rescind the motion, stating: "The chairman incorrectly declared the motion as carried. With 27 members present the vote was 15 in favour, 10 against, with 2 blank voting slips. The constitution requires a 60 per cent majority of persons present in person at the meeting to pass the motion. On the day this would have required 17 votes for the motion to be carried. The advice the chairman received from the floor that the two blank slips be counted as abstentions and that abstentions should be counted as for the motion was incorrect."
Are there not a number of errors in this rationale?
A. The arithmetical mistake does not affect the true position.
Q. We now know that the advice the chairman received from the floor that the two blank slips be counted as abstentions and that abstentions should be counted as for the motion was incorrect. He ruled accordingly before to the ballot.
A. The timing of a ruling cannot affect its legitimacy.
Q. We also now know that abstentions do not count as either for or against a motion and that therefore the chairman should have declared the motion as lost. His ruling was not challenged by any of the other members present in the meeting room. Could this be considered acquiescence and, if so, would his ruling therefore stand, despite its being at odds with the wording in our constitution?
A. Acquiescence cannot override the constitution.
Q. This is not the first time abstentions have been counted as votes.
A. Past practice can be useful in resolving ambiguities in a constitution, but it cannot be regarded as the equivalent of inserting a new provision into a constitution.
Q. Have you any further comments?
A. Your chairman's declaration of the no confidence motion as passed when the constitutional requirements were not met was clearly incorrect and therefore void.
As regards his ruling about abstentions being counted, this has no mandate either at common law or by virtue of your constitution. The fact that he repeated his ruling indicates that his ruling was not a slip of the tongue, but the repetition does not alter the legal position.
Nor was the silence of the audience when this ruling was given of any significance. It could have resulted from ignorance or from loyalty to the chairman or from shyness - but whatever the reason silence is not the equivalent of a constitutional amendment.
It follows that the chairman should now announce that his declaration at the meeting was incorrect and that the motion did not in fact pass.
While the proposed rescission motion is an understandable and democratic attempt to let the voters decide a controversial matter it is unnecessary in the circumstances, as the motion to be rescinded does not exist.
The proposed rescission motion should itself be ruled out of order as a nullity. It cannot be used to achieve anything useful. Even if it failed, it would in no way create a reinstatement of the original incorrect decision.
Q. If a resolution is passed inadvertently in contravention of the constitution may it be declared null and void by a unanimous vote of the meeting?
A. It should just be declared null and void without any vote.
Q. Our constitution says: "At all general meetings, when a question of order or practice arises, the ruling of the chairman of the meeting shall be final." Can this be used to excuse a patently incorrect ruling?
A. No. Such a provision does not mean that the chairman is above the law.
Q. If a letter is received by an incorporated association, do ordinary members of that association have the right to see or receive a photocopy of the letter before it is tabled at a general meeting?
A. I am unaware of any legal principle which either permits or
prohibits this, so it is really a policy matter to be decided by the association in general meeting or by its committee.
I would, however, encourage "open government" and thus suggest that reasonable access to inward correspondence be granted. Of course, there could be letters which for contractual or privacy or similar reasons need to be kept confidential. There could also be multiple requests which are designed to disrupt the secretary rather then seek genuine information.
Q. Do the members of an organisation have the right to decide whether correspondence is either "received" or "not received" by a general meeting?
Q. I am currently the president of our society, but I will not be seeking re-election at our forthcoming AGM. At present no-one has indicated an intention to nominate for the position.
According to the constitution the society must notify all members of the date of the AGM by giving not less than 14 days' notice. Nominations must be received at least 14 days before the AGM and a list of candidates' names must be posted 7 days before the AGM.
Usually the secretary receives the nominations. Can the management committee request the secretary to advise the committee of all nominations as they are received? In this way we could minimise any nasty surprises, such as someone not considered appropriate being elected president merely because there was no other candidate.
A. One of the duties of a committee is to ensure an orderly succession.
Subject to the constitution, a committee is indeed entitled to view nominations as they come in. Furthermore, official information in the possession of the secretary, generally speaking, belongs to the committee.
The committee is certainly free to try to drum up further nominations if it feels that that is appropriate. Of course, it must not veto any nominee and it cannot prevent a surprise last minute nomination of a person not to its liking.
ACTING ON AN OLD MOTION
Q. A matter was passed at an annual general meeting seven years ago, but it is not going to be acted upon until now.
Is there a statute of limitations relating to the time between a matter being passed and its actual implementation? There has been no mention of this matter at the intervening annual general meetings.
A. No, there is no statute of limitations in such cases.
However, those who are opposed to an organisation's acting on an old resolution could, of course, always try to have it rescinded.
Furthermore, a committee which is in tune with the membership should, as a matter of courtesy, in circumstances such as you describe seek to renew its mandate through a fresh motion.
ABSENCE OF QUORUM
Q. At a special general meeting of my bowls club, called to consider a number of motions (including adoption of a revised constitution), it was ascertained at a point during the meeting that the quorum that was in attendance at the commencement of the meeting had since lapsed. What is the position?
A. Presumably your rules required the presence of a quorum throughout the meeting. Not all rules do.
Q. The Chairman consequently adjourned the meeting to the same day and time in the next week.
A. That is a common formula for a lack of quorum at the start of a meeting. Subject to the rules it would also be within the discretion of the chairman in the circumstances you describe.
Q. Is there a need to give notice of that adjourned meeting to all members other than the statement made in front of those present by the chairman when adjourning the meeting?
A. Technically, no. The courts have ruled that an adjourned meeting is a continuation of the former meeting.
However, it would seem desirable to issue a fresh notice:
to encourage members to participate, especially if the constitution is to be discussed
because your club is presumably a friendly organisation and it is good public relations to keep the members informed.
Q. I am the voluntary secretary of a not-for-profit incorporated organisation that has been operating for 20 years. The association has adopted the "Model Rules" as its constitution.
Recently a former member of our staff took the management committee to the State Industrial Relations Commission for unfair dismissal. A confidentiality agreement was subsequently signed by both parties as to the terms of a settlement and any discussion on the matter.
Within hours after the hearing, the applicant mailed an application for membership to the association. This was rejected due to her past conduct, though the reason was not stated in the rejection letter.
She followed that up with a request for an appeal against the rejection, to be heard at a special general meeting. This is being arranged.
The committee is allowing 45 minutes for the meeting, and has asked her to keep to the salient points on why she feels she should be accepted as a member. We don't want her to veer off the subject, and especially to make derogatory remarks against members of the management committee or the organisation as a whole. How can we keep her to the salient points?
A. Before the debate even start the chairman should outline the procedure that he intends to apply and firmly state the rules that he expects to be followed.
Appropriate time limits should be announced.
In particular, normal rules of debate should be strictly enforced - with the affected member able to move a motion and to exercise a right of reply, but not to speak otherwise.
During the debate the chairman should enforce order and not tolerate irrelevance or tedious repetition or abusive language, and so on.
Q. Can someone raise a point of order? Or perhaps move a motion that the speaker be no longer heard, if the meeting gets out of control?
A. Yes, but this should not be encouraged, as it tends to inflame matters.
Q. Separately, there is the subject of the management's right of reply. Although our reasons for rejection are very valid, we understand that all we can really say in reply is that "there is a confidentiality agreement in place that prohibits management from discussing this matter".
A. If the debate is confined to the issue on hand, namely, the membership application, then the confidentiality agreement need not even be mentioned. In any case, management should be brief, as too much detail would only lead to even more disputation.
BODY CORPORATE MINUTES
Q. Recently the members of our body corporate received the following communication from the manager: "Could you please let me know how the door is coming along as we still need to give final plan to the committee for their final approval. The committee have also requested your co-operation and the wishes of the body corporate from the AGM that we receive a copy of the final planning permit and plan for the door that you have now started, as it was the original intention to sight these before the door was started. This was not to stop you proceeding - they simply wanted to make sure that all was as originally planned."
Nowhere in the minutes did it ever state anything about the need for us to provide a copy of the final plan to the body corporate committee for their final approval. Is it morally or legally right that the manager can talk about "the wishes of the body corporate from the AGM" when there was nothing whatsoever to that effect recorded in the minutes?
A. The manager may have been technically incorrect in using the words "from the AGM", but nothing much seems to hinge on that. A committee is entitled to express its wishes at any time.
Furthermore, the committee in this case does not seem to be asserting any legal authority - it is very politely and reasonably asking for voluntary co-operation in regard to something which is in everybody's interest.
Q. What is the legal status of the minutes between annual AGMs and before they are formally ratified?
A. Unconfirmed minutes are merely drafts and have no legal status. Even confirmed minutes are only prima facie evidence of decisions, capable of rebuttal by evidence in a court of law.
Q. What is the correct procedure to follow to have minutes amended between AGMs? And does there have to be some sort of proof of a difference of recollection? And some time limit?
A. In practice many organisations circulate draft minutes shortly after an AGM and while memories are still fresh. This then enables members to suggest corrections which, if uncontroversial, could be included in a revised draft. Any controversy could be resolved only by a future meeting.
However, it is often more productive to pass a fresh resolution setting out the current wishes of the meeting, rather than devote resources to pedantically trying to establish precisely who said what on the earlier occasion.
EX OFFICIO MEMBERS
Q. The immediate past president is an ex officio member of the committee. What is the definition of "ex officio" and what rights do such members have?
A. "ex officio" means "by virtue of his office", in this case simply by virtue of being immediate past president and not requiring election. The rights are the same as for any other committee member.
Q. Can the immediate past president be voted into the vice-president position?
A. Yes, a person can hold both positions. Of course, this would deprive some other person of the opportunity to gain experience at the top.
Q. A club which is not incorporated has a set of rules similar to Associations Incorporation Act model rules.
One rule is that subscriptions are due and payable on 1 July and must be paid by 31 August. Our annual meeting is to be held on 15 August.
Another of the rules is that only financial members of the club are eligible to nominate for a position or to register a vote.
If a subscription has not been paid by 15 August is the member concerned classed as a financial member and eligible to vote at the annual general meeting?
A. The 31 August date is the end of a grace period before a person is struck off the membership roll.
A person becomes a financial member only by actual payment. Thus in the absence of specific words to the contrary in the rules the fees would need to be fully paid up at the time of nomination or voting.
Q. Can you give me any thoughts on insurance for incorporated clubs. I am having trouble convincing an association that they need insurance in their own right. The members trot out the argument that because we meet at an RSL club the RSL insurance would cover the committee.
I argue that the RSL cover only extends to an incident where the RSL was negligent - for example, they might have a torn carpet and somebody tripped over it and was injured.
If one of our members was negligent - if, for example, he put his walking frame in front of a doorway and somebody tripped over that - then that member committed a negligent act and therefore the committee could be liable if the injured person were to sue.
A. Depending on the circumstances, organisations may require some or all of the following insurance covers (amongst other things):
Fire, burglary, etc., in respect of any property (buildings and/or contents) owned or occupied by the organisation. Regard should be had to replacement values.
Workers' compensation, if the organisation has any paid employees. Personal accident cover for voluntary workers can also be arranged.
Fidelity guarantee, if material amounts of money are handled by either honorary office-bearers or paid employees.
Cash-in-transit, to cover losses of cash temporarily held by office-bearers or employees.
Directors' and officers', to cover committee members and paid executives against various liabilities arising from their acts and omissions in these capacities.
Public liability insurance, to cover the legal liabilities of the organisation and its committee for personal injury and/or property damage, and (in some cases) for defamation or in connection with the giving of advice is also required.
Such cover is becoming more important than formerly, because the community is becoming more litigious. But, correspondingly, such cover is becoming harder to obtain at a reasonable price or even at all. In some cases organisations might because of this have to abandon some worthwhile traditional activities.
But you may be able to arrange with the RSL and its insurer to extend its policy to also cover your organisation.
POWERS OF A CHAIRMAN
Q. I need a precise analysis of the role and authority of a chairman. The chairman of our organisation often dictates action, cancels events, holds meetings with other similar bodies without prior discussion, is very rude to the older people, shouts, comes 30 minutes late to make an entrance and does not help set up or clear up from functions. She has now unilaterally decided that the meeting venue will be at a place convenient to her office, up three flights of stairs). We were advised by a note stapled to the minutes for the next meeting.
Can a chairman decide a permanent change of meeting venue without Committee input and approval?
A. A chairman has implied authority to act in force majeure situations - for example, to hire a meeting room if the normal premises burn down.
Even then, it would be best for the chairman to consult one or two other committee members before acting.
If a chairman makes decisions which a committee does not favour it could always override them - although the chairman's decisions would stand until that actually happened.
Q. I am a member of a voluntary association that has officially adopted the usage of the parliamentary procedures as per your book Guide for Meetings and Organisations. I am the secretary of the association.
We don't have a constitution. But years ago the association also adopted by-laws. These were mainly based on your Guide. However, we now note that there many differences between the by-laws and the Guide.
Some of us believe that the Guide must be followed, while a a minority feel that the by-laws are legally binding and must be strictly followed, even if this means that we would have to ignore the Guide.
A. It is necessary to distinguish two scenarios:
The Guide contains many model rules. The intention is that organisations would have regard to their own circumstances and preferences and decide in respect of each model rule whether to adopt it as it stands, or to adopt it with modifications, or not to adopt it at all. The model rules are only suggestions; they do not have the force of law.
Many organisations also adopt a rule to the effect that in regard to matters not dealt with in their own rules the model rules in the Guide shall apply. This enables their rules to be much shorter than if they had to deal with every possibility.
RIGHTS OF A COMMITTEE
Q. Can a motion which was passed at an AGM be raised again in a committee meeting with a view to reversing the decision?
A. Not unless your organisation has an unusual rule to that effect. Normally a decision of a general meeting is binding on a committee, which has only delegated authority and no right to defy the will of the membership.
Of course, notwithstanding the general principle, a committee would be entitled to act in force majeure situations.
POSTAL VOTES (1)
Q. At a recent board meeting of our bowling club, a director moved a motion calling for a change to the method of voting at this year's election. The motion that was put was to change the requirement from having to go to the club to vote to having a postal vote.
The motion was put and the vote resulted in a deadlock. The chairman exercised his casting vote in favor of the motion.
Postal voting can be allowed according to our constitution. However, the club has never had postal voting in the past (the club is over 50 years old). We believe that this change in voting is a radical change to what has taken place in the past, let alone the additional costs and time that are required to set up a postal vote.
We believe that the chairman's casting vote should have been in favor of the status quo, so as to give more time for investigation of the issue. Are we correct in our belief?
A. A casting vote exists only if it is provided for in the constitution.
While it is traditional and courteous for the casting vote to be exercised in favour of the status quo this is not a legal requirement of any sort.
In your particular case the following seem relevant:
The vote did not take away members' democratic rights in any way.
The postal voting mechanism is permitted by your constitution.
Postal voting is very common these days.
The resolution was not irreversible, either before or after the next postal vote is taken.
Having been elected before, the chairman can be taken to have the confidence of the membership.
Collectively these features would seem to outweigh the costs/time arguments which are, of course, also valid.
Q. We have called for a special meeting of the board to take place next week, so that a rescission motion can take place.
The chairman has now said that a two-thirds majority will be required to rescind the original motion, although there is nothing in our constitution saying that this is the case. Is the chairman correct in this regard?
A. No. In the absence of any constitutional provision to the contrary a simple majority suffices.
Q. The chairman has also come out and said that he wants all members to be given the chance to vote and that is why he has supported a postal vote. In our opinion the chairman has not had any problems in the past regarding the club's method of election of directors. We believe that the chairman is worried about the chances of his re-election due to things that have taken place in the last twelve months.
A. That may be so, but in the end the members will decide.
POSTAL VOTES (2)
Q. Our organization will be holding its annual general meeting shortly. There are two nominations for the office of president. A few people have said that they will not be able to attend the meeting and these have been asked to forward their votes in sealed envelopes to the returning officer. May the returning officer open those votes when received or must they stay secret until the election?
A. The normal practice is to deal with votes only after the poll has closed.
OUTRAGEOUS CONDUCT BY A CHAIRMAN
Q. I attended a special general meeting of my old football club regarding amalgamation. I am strongly opposed to the amalgamation. However, the chairman was in favour. The proposal for amalgamation was advertised.
However, at the meeting the chairman did not allow any speakers for or against the advertised motion and it went through narrowly. I am trying to obtain some documentary evidence that this action was invalid and therefore that the decision of the meeting was null and void.
The club is incorporated. However, the club's rules are silent on motions. Is there a requirement that the chairman should have abided by? If the rules do not provide, is there some overriding provision that must be abided by?
A. While the chairman's action was outrageous the fact remains that the members voted in favour of the motion. If they did not like what was happening they could have taken a point of order or moved a procedural motion to force a debate. They could also have shown their displeasure by voting against the motion itself.
I suspect that any legal action would be unsuccessful - the courts do not like to interfere with internal matters of this sort.
I suspect also that Corporate Affairs will not want to get involved, but at least it will cost you nothing to approach them.
However, you could call for an extraordinary meeting to rescind the motion and to remove the chairman. In conjunction with this you could issue media releases exposing this matter and calling on others holding your views to support you.
You could also organise a protest meeting.
In the end, of course, none of this will help you if you lack the numbers.
Q. I wrote to Corporate Affairs six weeks ago detailing what happened, but have not yet received a reply.
A. You could complain about this delay to the Ombudsman.
Q. I had some very important matters which I wanted to say at the meeting, but I was not allowed to speak. I am sure that my arguments would have swayed at least one person of the 57 who were in favour of the motion. It was a special general meeting and the president was interested only in the motion that was advertised.I doubt that he would have entertained a procedural motion, or anything else for that matter.
A. Maybe. But his failure there would have strengthened your claim in court.
Q. It was the most important meeting in the club's history - its very survival. What can be done in these circumstances to stop a president doing these things?
A. Get the members to elect a new president.
NO CONFIDENCE MOTIONS (1)
Q. We are a voluntary association registered under the Associations Incorporation Act. A small group of members have been urging other members to sign a requisition for a special general meeting to consider motions to remove each director individually. The circulated pro forma states a reason for the removal.
The group after some 12 weeks have not got the required number of requisitions to require the board to call a special general meeting. Meanwhile rumour abounds and this is destabilising the organisation.
The board itself has therefore decided to call a special general meeting, placing on the notice paper the same special resolutions demanded by the dissidents and their reason, so that the matter can be finalised one way or another.
In regard to such a meeting there is specific reference to natural justice in our Act. I have been told that the need for the directors challenged to be aware and to have time to prepare a defence requires that the chairman:
allow only the dissidents to present their case for removal - no other speakers
ensure that such a case stick strictly to the reasons published, as otherwise the directors can ask for time to consider their defence - a thing we do not want to do
not allow questions of the existing directors, for the same reason
not allow any amendments.
Other conflicting advice we have received contends that normal meeting procedure applies, in that people speak for and against the motion and that amendments are allowed. After everyone else has finished speaking the directors either answer the charges or ask for time to prepare a defence - in this scenario no one is sure when the right of reply is exercised, whether it should be before or after the directors' defence speeches.
A. It follows from the facts that you have set out that the resolutions in the notice of meeting belong to the board and not to the dissidents. Each would need to be moved by a representative of the board (other than the director named in the resolution), although this could be done using words to the effect that the resolution is being proposed formally to enable it to be discussed and that it does not necessarily represent the views of the mover.
Debate would then take place as normally, with the mover entitled to a right of reply at the end of the debate. The scope of the discussion would be governed by the words in the resolution itself, and would not be limited by those in any accompanying statement.
Conceptually, amendments could also be moved in the normal way, but very few amendments would seem feasible because of the need for them to be relevant to the terms of the resolution and to be within the scope of the notice of meeting.
For natural justice reasons the director named in the resolution should be given the right to speak at a time of his choosing and without time limit, at any stage between the speech of the seconder and that of the mover in reply. He or anybody else who has not previously spoken on the resolution could also move the adjournment of the debate.
At the discretion of the chair, questions to the director concerned or to any other member could be permitted at any time between the speech of the seconder and that of the mover in reply.
NO CONFIDENCE MOTIONS (2)
Q. I am the president of an incorporated association. We have a member, X, on our committee, who often works outside the committee's guidelines, including those on spending funds.
Motions have been put in place in an attempt to overcome this problem. Over a period X has worked hard, sometimes for our good but sometimes conversely. She has an obsessive-compulsion disorder which make her difficult to handle in committee.
At a recent committee meeting our secretary, Y, gave notice of a motion: "That the committee does not have confidence in X". I accepted the motion, ruling that 3 weeks' notice must be given and reminding the meeting that such a motion would need 75 per cent support to pass.
Such a meeting was immediately planned. The majority are hoping that X will resign before then, but she has countered with a notice of a no confidence motion in Y.
X has hinted that she would now like to take leave of absence for two months. Y is of much more value to the association, but it has now become a case of one or the other.
Should I grant X leave until the next AGM, rather than call a special general meeting at which a lot of dirty washing might be aired?
Can X stall a vote by taking leave?
Can the motion involving X be put and voted on in the absence of X, either on leave or willfully absent?
Can X make a written submission against the motion and for the motion involving Y, which she would like to move?
A. Five issues arising out of your questions need comment:
Committee meetings should not pass censure or want of confidence motions in respect of office-bearers elected by the membership at large, as distinct from persons appointed by the committee itself. Committee meetings may, however, make appropriate recommendations to general meetings.
It follows that the motions that you quoted should be ruled out.
It should be noted that a vote of no confidence is not quite the same as a resolution declaring some or all positions on a committee vacant. It is really only courtesy, custom and common sense that cause office-bearers to resign after a vote of no confidence. If they choose not to resign, then they stay in office.
Grant of leave of absence needs to be given by the committee, not the president.
A typical clause in this area would read:
"The position of any committee member may be declared vacant by a resolution passed by a 75 per cent majority at a general meeting, provided that at least 21 days' written notice of the proposed resolution is given and provided also that the member concerned is given an opportunity to be heard before the resolution is voted on."
Of course, members do not have to avail themselves of such an opportunity. Furthermore, they could be represented by a friend or a lawyer.
Leave of absence grants permission to be absent, but it does not make it compulsory to be absent. The grant of leave or actual absence would in no way stop a motion dealing with the absent member being discussed at a general meeting, as long as the requisite notice had been given.
Q. Our current secretary has declared that she will not be available for re-election at the next AGM. Nominations have been called for, via mail and e-mail. None, so far, has been forthcoming. What happens to an incorporated association if no-one accepts a nomination for the role of secretary?
A. You should check the Associations Incorporations Act in your State, but the normal statutory requirement is to have a public officer. This does not have to be an elected person. It could be an accountant willing to act, possibly for a nominal fee. The main purpose is to have someone who can be served with legal processes - a rare event for most organisations.
Committees need to fill vacancies in that office within 14 days in order to avoid penalties and eventual deregistration.
Secretaries are more of an internal matter, unlikely to concern the authorities even if the constitution is breached, unless someone complains. But the practical problems remain - someone has to send out notices, write up minutes, handle correspondence and so on. It would be up to the president to find one or more volunteers to perform these tasks or do them himself or herself.
Q. If changes are made to a constitution at an AGM, do these govern a general meeting held later on the same day?
A. Ideally, a resolution proposing a constitutional amendment should set out its commencement date. If it does not, then the amendment would come into force as soon as validly passed - making the order of business at the meeting quite important.
However, an amendment requiring an impossibility would not operate immediately - for example, a provision requiring a certain period of notice. But, of course, if desired, the meeting could be adjourned to accommodate the new provision - so it would all depend on what the members want.
Q. I was elected a life member of an organisation some years ago. However, the validity of this status has been queried.
I have just gone back to the constitution current at the time and unfortunately it did not contain any clause that dealt with life members or honorary members. Therefore would it not be up to the committee to recommend to the members life membership for somebody and for this to be moved seconded and carried at an AGM?
A. It rather looks as though you might never have been a life member after all. Certainly, the cleanest method would be to start again and have the members confer a life membership on you now.
However, if the constitution is still silent on this subject, then you still have a problem: what does such an honour really mean?
If the intention is merely to thank a member for his past service and to include his name on letterhead and the like, then an ordinary resolution of the members would suffice.
However, if the intention is to create an honorary member not paying fees in future or having other special privileges (a common practice), then the constitution would need to be formally amended first.
DUTIES OF A SECRETARY
Q. Our society is an incorporated association established pursuant to the Associations Incorporation Act. In its rules the following standard provision is found:
"Except as otherwise provided in these Rules, the Secretary must keep in his or her custody or under his or her control all books, documents and securities of the Society."
The Society's honorary secretary is insisting that the Committee of Management agree that this clause means that he is entitled to effectively keep in his custody or under his control all books, etc., of the Society, which he interprets as meaning free access to all the records and operating documentation of the Society, at his discretion, 24 hours a day, irrespective of the views of the management team, security considerations and systems management.
The organisation has come a long way since it was established about 25 years ago; it has a membership of well over 1000, a management team comprising paid and volunteer staff under a general manager, an office maintained during office hours with a paid nd voluntary staff contingent present at any one time of about six. We are formally audited and have accountants. There is an executive management team. This whole structure is overseen by the board, which includes the honorary secretary, myself as chairman and eight others.
The management team and GM run the society on a professional basis, with a clear separation between board responsibilities and management responsibilities.
The office is open during office hours but closed for security reasons at other times. Senior management, such as the GM, have access after hours, but the board has hitherto always agreed that it is inappropriate to give keys to the office to board members (including the honorary secretary) as our responsibilities are best performed during office hours in consultation with management.
The recently elected Honorary Secretary has other views: he wants access at all times and he actually wants the ability to go through office records whenever, irrespective of the views of the management team. He argues that the rule must be read literally: all the books must be under his strict control and he can do whatever he likes with them, whenever he likes, providing they are under his control.
There is deep suspicion or concern in some quarters, apart from the somewhat unprofessional implications, undermining staff and management confidence.
I have ruled that in the circumstances of our organisation, the rules oblige the secretary to be assured that there are appropriate systems in place to ensure that all "books, documents and securities of the Society" are appropriately secure, managed, retrievable, etc., in the registered office of the Society and that the management team are performing their responsibilities in relation to such records appropriately.
I have said that the above rule does not actually require the secretary to physically or directly do as the words may at first be read.
The honorary secretary has said that I am wrong. What are your views?
A. Your interpretation of the rule seems to lead to an intolerable situation. Even without a specific mandate in a constitution, access to an organisation's records would be regarded as being essential to the carrying out of a secretary's normal duties. In practice an elected secretary would not want to remove the files physically or inspect them in the middle of the night.
As he would be held responsible if anything went wrong he needs to insist on proper access. If this is refused he would have to resign or take the matter up with the authorities.
It is hard to see how he came to be elected secretary if nobody trusts him. The clause you quote seems both normal and unambiguous. A secretary who disregarded it would be derelict in his duties. It is astonishing that this matter cannot be resolved amicably.
Q. I was awarded life membership of an organisation which changed its name and became incorporated. Would my life membership carry over?
A. The change of name by itself would make no difference, but in effect incorporation would have created a brand new body. Life membership would carry over only if the new constitution specifically provided for this to happen.
PROXY VOTE CLAUSES
Q. The constitution of our incorporated association restricts the number of proxy votes to five per member. A number of members are proposing a change to the constitution to limit the number of proxy votes to one per member.
Is it legal to restrict the number of proxy votes in a constitution?
A. Proxies do not exist at common law and organisations desiring to use them need to provide for them in their constitutions.
For incorporated associations proxies are one of the subjects to be dealt with in their constitutions, but such bodies can make any specific provisions they wish.
Q. Are proxy votes allowed at extraordinary meetings?
A. The same rules as for ordinary meetings would normally apply, apart from the fundamental principle that only matters included in the notice of meeting can be discussed.
Q. Our constitution states that there will be no proxy voting. However, it does not say anything about absentee voting. At our AGM yesterday a candidate for president tabled 55 nomination forms voting for him. The constitution states that nomination forms shall be delivered to the secretary of the association not less than seven days before the date fixed for the holding of the annual general meeting. In light of the above should the election be declared null and void or the whole AGM invalid?
A. There is some confusion here. By "nomination form", do you mean a form saying "I nominate XYZ for the position of president"? If so, 54 of the 55 forms would achieve nothing. Such a form would not act as a vote and even the remaining one would be out of time.
The election would be void if such forms were actually admitted to the count as votes, but a returning officer should just reject them. If he does not, then the AGM itself would still be valid, but a further election, conducted properly, would be required.
REFUSAL OF MOTIONS
Q. I am the vice-president of a small sporting club, which is in great discussion about our upcoming season. At our AGM we had elected a selection committee to rate the players and place them in teams. Some members are not happy with the format chosen by the selectors and are voicing their opinions.
I have been asked whether at an ordinary meeting the president is able to refuse a motion that has been seconded. If not, does this mean that all motions that are seconded have be debated and voted upon?
A. First of all, have a look at your organisation's constitution. It may have provisions dealing the right to move motions and may, for example, set out deadlines for giving notice.
Apart from that, chairmen have wide discretion in regard to accepting motions, although if they act foolishly then the meeting could carry a dissent motion.
A chairman must observe natural justice. A motion should really be rejected only on grounds such as the following:
the motion is frivolous
the motion is ambiguous
the motion is defamatory
the motion uses obscene language
the motion is unnecessary because it repeats existing policy
the motion or a similar one was debated and defeated only recently.
RETURNING OFFICER (1)
Q. Should an election be declared null and void where the returning officer did not follow proper procedure and ensure that only those who were entitled to vote did so?
A. Technically yes, but if excluding the votes of ineligible voters could not have affected the outcome then as a practical measure the result could be allowed to stand.
RETURNING OFFICER (2)
Q. The returning officer conducting our election did not sit in the chairman's chair and declare all positions vacant, as required by our rules. Does this invalidate the election?
A. Whatever physical chair the returning officer occupies during the election automatically becomes the "chair" for purposes of your rules. "Taking the chair" really means taking charge, not sitting in a particular place.
It would not be necessary to use words for declaring positions vacant, if the conduct made it clear that that was happening; this would be inelegant but not more than that.
RETURNING OFFICER (3)
Q. During the course of an election the outgoing president whose office should have just been declared vacant was allowed to make rulings and determinations concerning the election. Is that fatal?
A. This is really a matter for the returning officer. If the returning officer acquiesced then this is equivalent to his making the rulings.
RETURNING OFFICER (4)
Q. A proxy delegate was allowed to vote when the section for which he was a delegate had already voted by other means. The proxy delegate's vote should have been called invalid at this point. Instead, the returning officer declared the vote 8-6 in a candidate's favour. I pointed out that as there were only 13 sections that could vote there should not have been 14 votes. Does another election have to be held?
A. Not in this particular case. Excluding one vote would have led to either 7-6 or 8-5, neither possibility reversing the declared outcome.
THREATS OF LEGAL ACTION
Q. I am the chairman of an organisation and recently I had to call the police to have some members who were causing trouble removed. It is now suggested that legal action could be taken against the organisation and myself.
A. If and when legal action is actually initiated you will need to seek legal advice. Until this happens do not worry about it - most of these threats are just bluff or expressions of annoyance.
Q. Our organisation is holding an extraordinary meeting shortly, but no one will have received the required 21 days' notice.
A. That is quite serious. A meeting without proper notice would be invalid.
It would be best to issue another notice, showing the cancellation of the proposed meeting and calling a meeting for a different date.
If people turn up on the earlier date do not open the meeting and just explain the situation.
MASS RESIGNATIONS IN PROTEST
Q. Some of our members are threatening that they will leave in bulk, by way of protest. I do not want this to happen, but we also cannot live with troublemakers. How should this be handled?
A. You might consider inviting some distinguished outsider who would be acceptable to both sides to chair the next meeting.
Q. When seeking nominations from the floor for various elected positions is it necessary to ask for a seconder for each nomination?
A. Only if the constitution requires it. The need for seconding in the case of motions - to stop wasting debating time on frivolous motions - does not apply here, although some organisations want a seconder to avoid the costs of elections caused by candidates without support.
Q. Our association has adopted a very simple constitution. Several members are confused by a clause reading:
"Membership of Management Committee: The management committee of the association consists of a president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer and any other members the association members elect or appoint at a general meeting."
What is the correct interpretation of this clause? We want to elect only the four main positions at the AGM and then have the new management committee invite nominations from the association for various subcommittee positions.
A. Such a wording would permit any member at a general meeting to move: "That Joe Bloggs be elected as a member of the management committee." Members could then vote for or against this. A committee member could, if desired, advocate a "no" vote.
Q. Is a chairman required to ask for a seconder for a foreshadowed motion?
A. Not at the foreshadowing stage - only if and when the motion is actually moved.
A CHAIRMAN'S STRANGE BEHAVIOUR
Q. We are the owners of three sheds within an industrial complex comprising 17 sheds and 11 owners. Another complex facing ours is a mirror image. Recently the committees of both complexes decided to construct a driveway/crossover over the boundary between the two complexes, effectively making an internal circulation driveway between them.
A motion was drafted to be presented at an EGM. We inquired from council whether there were any council rules or regulations to be observed and were told that there were, as a material change of use would occur and parking spaces would be lost.
We tabled this information at an EGM where only we as owners with three votes and the chairman as an owner with two votes were present, along with the body corporate manager, who was present to take the minutes.
Three owners had sent in postal votes. The motion as proposed (drafted prior to our acquisition of information from council) was presented and the body corporate manager advised the chairman of his options, one of which was to rule the motion out of order.
He, however, chose to put the motion and vote on it, despite the fact that the three absent voters were unaware, at that stage, of the information just received from council. Using these votes, the motion was passed 5 votes to 3. In essence the chairman was the only voter in favour who was in possession of all the relevant information.
A motion to raise a special levy on all owners to cover the cost of the driveway was then also passed in similar fashion. The driveway has now been constructed, but council has issued enforcement orders to have all rules and regulations followed, as the driveway is considered to be illegal.
We believe that the motion should have been ruled out of order, so that time could have been given to inform all owners of all relevant information and the associated costs, prior to a new motion being drafted.
Was the way the chairman continued with the motion legal?
A. Unethical and unwise, but probably legal.
Q. What could we have done to stop what we considered to be a vote to do something illegal?
A. You could not really have stopped the vote without the numbers. Possible remedies shortly afterwards:
Internally, request an EGM to rescind the motion and reconsider the motion.
Externally, talk to the council, which could have got an injunction to stop the construction - thus saving money.
Q. What can we do to prevent a similar occurrence in the future?
A. Several things - for example:
Educate all concerned.
Encourage the non-attending owners to attend future meetings.
Elect a new chairman.
MOVERS AND SECONDERS
Q. Currently I head up a steering committee responsible for launching a new branch of an association. Is it necessary to have a proposer and seconder for every resolution put before a general meeting of an association or a committee meeting of that association?
My view is that if the chairman is prepared to allow discussion on any proposal then such formalities are not required. I find it most irritating when the chairman asks for a proposer and seconder for such routine items as the confirmation of the minutes of a previous meeting.
A. Strictly speaking, in the absence of standing orders to the contrary, a motion does not require either a mover or a seconder. While the custom of having a mover has great convenience in the case of complex matters, in simple situations an informal discussion can take place, with the chairman of the meeting formulating a precise set of words which encapsulates the apparent consensus view and then putting this to a formal vote.
The important aspect is the decision by vote of a meeting, not the origin of the words of a motion.
However, there are actually some mainly minor advantages in having movers and seconders, time wasting though it might seem - for example:
It keeps up a tradition, an ingredient of meetings procedure which is important to some bodies.
It serves to emphasise the impartiality of the person in the chair.
It is a courtesy to the membership.
It allows a right of reply, closing the debate.
It satisfies the psychological desire of some persons to get their names into the minutes.
Q. If a meeting discusses an issue and all persons agree to resolve a particular matter, can the minutes simply show "resolved" without the chairman asking for a mover and seconder?
VOTING AND MOVING MOTIONS BY A CHAIRMAN
Q. Can the chairman of a meeting move motions from the chair and vote on all motions before the meeting?
A. Whether the person presiding over a meeting actually has the legal right to move motions or to cast deliberative votes depends on the precise wording in the constitution of the organisation concerned. If that wording gives that right to every member then that would technically allow that person, if a member, to exercise that right.
However, it is unwise for a chairman to participate in debates where that would destroy the image of impartiality.
Q. The chairman of a previous annual general meeting of a non-profit body refused a substantive motion (moved and seconded from the floor) during general business on the grounds that the motion needed notice. The chairman ruled that a motion not having had notice can be framed only as a recommendation to the executive committee.
The constitution of the organisation (in the clause covering AGMs) allows for notices in the following terms: "The business of the meeting shall be to consider and deal with notices of motion (which shall have been received by the secretary not less than 30 days before the meeting) and to transact any other general business. The constitution does not specifically preclude motions without notice. It also states that the agenda for the AGM is to include the item "General Business".
My understanding has been that if the item general business is included on the agenda then a substantive motion may be put and that it would carry the same weight as one, on a different matter, that had been dealt with under notice.
Any member feeling that they would have liked to have more time to consider the motion could of course vote against it, and if sufficient members felt that way the motion would be lost.
This organisation does not appear to have adopted a set of standing orders. I know of one member's intention to move a motion from the floor at our next AGM. Should that motion be allowed?
A. The rule that you quote about needing 30 days' notice is quite specific. The usual purpose of such a rule is to allow the words of the proposed motion to be set out in the notice of meeting, so that not only can members inform themselves but also they can decide whether to attend.
The remedy of voting a motion down is not available to members not present.
The chairman's suggestion for a motion of recommendation seems a very reasonable compromise.
The rule regarding general business cannot override the specific notice requirements.
A chairman should use discretion in deciding what can and what cannot be dealt with under general business - thus motions seeking to make policy would be out but motions calling for further research would be in order.
Other acceptable general business would include questions to the committee and motions of congratulations or sympathy and the like.
VOTING BY AN EXECUTIVE
Q. At all AGMs I have attended the chairman declares all positions vacant. This means that there is then no executive committee. Our constitution says that each office-bearer has one vote. If all positions are vacant how can anybody vote?
A. Unless your constitution says otherwise the terms of office-bearers expire at the end of the AGM at which an election takes place. The chairman's announcement should reflect that, but even if in error or through lack of precision it does not it cannot override the constitutional provision.
ANNOUNCEMENT OF VOTING FIGURES
Q. After the votes have been counted by the returning officer and he or she has announced the winning candidate, should voting figures for each person be announced or should the chairman order that they not be announced and that the voting papers should be destroyed?
A. It is preferable for the figures for all candidates to be announced. As a matter of courtesy, a motion authorising the destruction of voting papers is usually sought from the floor.
INTENTION TO RESIGN
Q. If a member of the executive informs the secretary that he intends to resign on a certain date but then before that date withdraws that resignation can the chairman of the organisation then declare that the person has resigned and proceed to fill the casual vacancy?
A. If the communication to the secretary was worded to the effect that the member concerned "intends to resign" rather than "resigns" then this would seem to allow a change of mind.
Q. We are part of a national incorporated association. Each State's affiliated body is incorporated in its own State. Just what is meant by affiliation?
A. Two organisations can be said to be affiliated with each other where they have a close connection or business relationship and/or constitutional links. The term can also refer to the relationship between a parent organisation and its branches.
Q. What is the norm for each branch in a national association?
A. There is no norm. Each organisation can choose what is convenient for it. The links between affiliated bodies can be formal or informal.
Q. How much control over branches is reasonable for a national executive?
A. Again, there is no hard and fast pattern. Some organisations spell out such rules in their constitutions. Others rely on custom. Parent organisations which start new branches may give them a lot of help initially and reduce it gradually as the branches find their own feet. Also relevant is the flow of money: he who pays the piper is entitled to call the tune.
Q. How should a national management committee operate - especially when most of its meetings are done by e-mail?
A. In whatever manner it finds convenient.
Q. How often should a constitution be reviewed or changed? Our constitution was written in 1982 and the last change was in 1994 to insert a comma.
A. Preferably, a constitution should be reviewed only when some provision in it is causing difficulties - "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".
Q. Is the public officer of an incorporated association entitled to declare an election null and void if irregularities occurred and call for a special meeting and another election?
A. Probably not. The right to declare an election void would belong to the returning officer. The calling of a special meeting would need to follow the rules.
Q. Our annual general meeting of a community based organisation is being held shortly. A postal ballot is currently underway to elect a new board - the result of this will be announced by the returning officer when the ballot closes. Eight nominees are contesting three vacant positions of ordinary director, with the other office-bearer positions (president, vice-president and secretary) being elected unopposed.
However, at the annual general meeting a motion will be put to increase the number of ordinary director positions from three to five.
How should we proceed from here? Some people have suggested that if this motion is carried (which it will be) then the two extra positions should be decided by a vote off among the unsuccessful candidates.
I propose to advise that once the motion is carried, there should be a fresh call for nominations sent to all members to fill the two extra positions and that should there be an excess of nominations then this should be decided by secret ballot, which is the usual practice of the organisation for electing office-bearers.
A. Ideally, the motion should have spelt out a desired mechanism. But I suggest that the three first-elected persons stay on and that fresh nominations be called for (from the entire membership) for the two new vacancies.
EMPLOYEES SEEKING ELECTION
Q. Our organisation employs a caretaker. This is a paid position. He now desires to also become the president. The feeling is that as president he would be the only person who can give directions to himself as caretaker and this would seem out of order.
A. This does seem undesirable, for the reasons you state.
Whether it is legal or not would depend on the precise wording of your constitution. If not expressly prohibited such an appointment would be legal.
But the matter would then be one for the members to decide. If the conflict of interest perturbs them then they should elect someone else as president.
In any case, arrangements could be made for the caretaker to report to, say, a small sub-committee of the board which does not include him.
WITHDRAWAL OF NOMINATIONS
Q. When can a nomination for a position be withdrawn and what is the correct procedure when nothing is mentioned in the club's rules?
A. The closing date for nominations is also the cut-off date for withdrawing nominations. This is necessary so that ballot papers can be prepared in an orderly fashion.
Q. I am a member of a company limited by guarantee.
We have had an instance where the incumbent president who is standing for re-election has received information from the secretary that a nomination form had been received from an eligible member standing for president, but that the form was deemed by the secretary as ineligible under the article shown below. It was deemed ineligible due to the inclusion of information that was considered not relevant to the office for which the nomination was being made.
"Nominations for offices of the Board shall be made in writing on forms provided by the Secretary signed by two (2) members entitled to vote as proposer and seconder of the nomination and by the nominee as consenting thereto and stating the nominee's period of membership of the Club, any offices held by him from time to time and a brief summary of his qualifications and experience considered relevant to the office or offices in respect of which the nomination is being made."
The incumbent president then contacted both the proposer and seconder and debated with them as to why they should not re-sign a reproduced eligible nomination form.
The prospective president nominee discovered that this had occurred when advised by the proposer that they would not re-sign a reproduced eligible nomination form.
The prospective president nominee then moved a motion of censure against the incumbent president at a special board meeting. That was seconded and accepted after discussion.
Subsequently at the following board meeting to accept the minutes of the special board meeting the president requested that the motion not be recorded, because there had been no opportunity for natural justice.
The board accepted that the minutes not be finalised until further investigation to determine the legality of the accepted motion.
A. You have raised two separate issues.
Clearly the decision on whether a censure motion should be passed or not is entirely a matter for those voting on it and not for an outsider such as myself. You appear to be referring to para. 12.81 of my Guide for Meetings and Organisations, which indicates that persons subject to a censure motion should be given a reasonable opportunity to put their views to the meeting before the vote is taken. Your words "accepted after discussion by the board" rather suggest that your president had an opportunity to present his story. If that is correct then natural justice would have been achieved.
Regardless of whether the motion should have been voted on or not, the fact remains that it was. It should therefore be recorded in the minutes in the usual way. If the wording of the proposed minute is accurate then a subsequent meeting should confirm the minute. Confirming the minutes does not amount to an endorsement of the original decision.
However, it does seem desirable to clear the air at the next meeting, by means of a fresh motion. An independent person should be in the chair for such a discussion.
The secretary's decision to reject a nomination form merely because of its wording is puzzling. The words "a brief summary of his qualifications and experience considered relevant" in context mean so considered by the person signing the form and not by the secretary.
Furthermore, the involvement of another candidate, who thus has a conflict of interest, is quite unacceptable.
Q. I am a member of a club. The AGM was not held because the treasurer did not have a financial report prepared in time and the indicators suggested that a quorum would not be achieved. Therefore, the decision was made to cancel the meeting and the following day a new date was set for the AGM.
Is a proxy for particular meeting and any adjournment thereof valid in the light of the fact that the meeting was not convened?
A. Proxy forms need to be read literally. The form is thus a nullity. It would be different if the convened meeting had actually been opened and adjourned a minute later.
Furthermore, once a new notice is issued it could have a different list of business. Some members might thus have a different view on their giving a proxy or not giving a proxy for the new meeting.
Q. At our toastmasters club I have argued that having two business sessions is inappropriate. We have a 15 minute business session where normal club business is discussed soon after opening the meeting.
What has crept in over the past two years is the president calling for more business prior to closing the meeting. Some claim that people need time to think about what business to raise, or that they may be too timid to raise their issue at the normal session.
My argument is that people are winding down at the end of a meeting and if anything is raised at this point there is little time to discuss the issue. My argument also is that meetings need to be more disciplined, particularly the business session. People tend to find new business when prompted and this extends the meeting outside of its normal time.
A. This is entirely a matter for each organisation to decide for itself.
There is nothing inherently wrong with having two general business sessions, especially for a public speaking organisation.
Such a session is commonly held at the end of a meeting, so that priority can be given to items on notice.
If desired, an organisation can adopt time limits.
You could move an appropriate motion to ascertain the views of your members on this subject.
The organisation could also try out various scenarios for three or four meetings to see what works best.
Q. Our organisation would like a long standing member to become a life member. Our constitution states that this needs to be done at our AGM. Unfortunately that is all the information that it gives us.
How do we go about the proposal for the life membership and does it flow over to the general meeting afterwards?
A. Life memberships are discussed or mentioned in paras 2.6, 2.7, 3.46, 6.29 and 22.1 of Vol.1 my Guide for Meetings and Organisations. They may or may not involve a waiver of future subscriptions.
The procedure would be for someone to move at the next AGM "That ... be elected a life member of ... in view of ..." or something similar. If carried, this motion would suffice.
Q. I am a paid executive officer of an incorporated association. We have just had our AGM and unfortunately an undesirable element has been elected to the executive board. There were only six candidates for a possible eight seats, so that they were all automatically elected.
Our first board meeting is on soon and, as it stands, it is fairly certain that the vote for president will be split evenly between the two factions. Our constitution states that in the event of a tie the vote shall be taken again. The problem is that it will almost certainly be a tie again.
The constitution also states that the returning officer shall be either the secretary or the executive officer. In your book you say that the duties of the returning officer include the ability to exercise a casting vote in the event of equality.
My understanding of this is that I am in a position to decide the vote. Can you confirm this, please? If it is correct, then I will be able to guarantee our members stability, as our fear is, if the "bad guy" becomes president, then our members will leave in droves or they will call an extraordinary meeting and sack the whole board. With the "good guy" as president he will be able to use his casting vote to ensure our objectives are maintained.
A. It is indeed necessary for the returning officer to exercise a casting vote in the event of a tie between two candidates, as otherwise the relevant office could not be filled.
However, there are several alternative approaches that could be used by a returning officer when exercising a casting vote. These are analysed at length in para. 11.27 of Vol.1 of my Guide for Meetings and Organisations.
The most common approach used is to draw a name out of a hat. This avoids the need for the returning officer to take sides.
However, Note 4(e) of para. 11.27 also lists "by exercising judgment as to which candidate is the more suitable". This may be particularly appropriate where the returning officer is an employee of an organisation and needs to work closely with the person being elected.
LETTERS TO A COMMITTEE
Q. A complaint by two different parents was made against one of our sporting organisation's coaches and the committee dealt with the issue. This coach is also on the committee. A few weeks later the coach decided to write a letter to the committee having a bit of a dig about the parents, the executive committee and one of the children.
The president received the letter and approached the executive committee and they decided that it was better not to table the letter as the issue had been sorted out and it would only cause animosity again.
At the next committee meeting the president and vice-president did not attend and it was bought to the committee's attention that not all correspondence was being tabled. The reasons were explained without disclosing what was in the letter. It was then moved and voted for that all correspondence was to be tabled.
As the issue keeps raising its head the executive decided that the letter was to be tabled at the next meeting. At this meeting it was decided that as a committee we should have been backing our executive and therefore the letter was not tabled.
Since this meeting one of the committee members has come forward and asked if she could read the letter, as her daughter is mentioned in the letter from the coach.
Is she as a general committee member or any member of the club entitled to read the letter?
A. A letter addressed to a committee belongs to that committee and should not be suppressed by a president or an executive.
However, a president could talk to the writer of such a letter and suggest that it be either withdrawn or readdressed to the executive.
A committee is also entitled by resolution to refuse to receive a particular letter. In that case, individual committee members would have no right to see the letter in the absence of another resolution specifically authorising this.
Of course, individual committee members also have the right themselves to ask the writer of the letter for a copy.
Q. Also when we appoint coaches for our next season should this letter be tabled if this coach re-applies?
A. Again, this is a matter for the discretion of the committee, which could by resolution authorise its release to those dealing with applications.
Of course, the coach himself could also, if he so wished, attach a copy of the letter to his application.
Q. I have a question about the difference between an AGM and a monthly meeting. My understanding is that an AGM is open to the public to attend, with the organisation advertising the date and place and time of the meeting, while a monthly meeting is to discuss the affairs of the club, and is open only to the members of that club, whether they are financial or not. Unfinancial members do not have voting rights but may speak at the meeting.
A. If an organisation's constitution deals with this matter then it must be observed. If it is silent then a meeting would be open unless the meeting itself by resolution determined that it should be closed.
This could be done at each meeting or by way of a general direction - for example, your club could, if it so wished, resolve that all future monthly meetings should be closed. Naturally, such a determination could be varied on some future occasion.
The above principles apply to all types of meeting, whatever called.
I would suggest that in the case of meetings which are to be closed any notice should spell this out.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Q.The board of our incorporated association has six members. The quorum is four. At one meeting only four members of the board attended. One of these has an interest in a matter before the board and could not legally vote on it.
Does this reality make the board meeting inquorate or can the remaining members still vote on the question before them?
A. In the absence of a rule to the contrary, only persons entitled to vote at a board meeting can be counted in the quorum (whether physically present in the room or not).
However, such persons can vote and be counted in the quorum of members' meetings, so this may solve your problem.
LACK OF A QUORUM
Q. A quorum for our original AGM was not present and the meeting was adjourned until one week later on the same day and at same time. This meeting also lacked a quorum. What are the consequences of this?
A. If you have a provision that a lapsed meeting is automatically adjourned for one week to be on the same day of the week and at the same time of day (a not unusual provision) then it, too, can lapse for want of a quorum, requiring a fresh meeting to be convened.
However, some organisations that have such a provision also go on to provide that on the second occasion the members present shall constitute a quorum.
MINUTING OF IN CAMERA SESSIONS
Q. I have produced minutes of a meeting where a confidential issue was discussed. It was in camera. However,I have been challenged about this. A member has said that everything discussed in the meeting has to be recorded, even the confidential session. I was under the impression that any in camera portions of meetings did not lead to publicly accessible minutes for that part of the meeting.
A. The best solution is to have two sets of minutes - one for the closed session, made accessible only to those entitled to be at that session, and the other dealing with the open session.
MINUTES IN PARTS
Q. Should the minutes of an AGM be recorded in two parts or one? An AGM was held, and the minutes were recorded in two parts - the reports and election of officers, as the AGM minutes. The conduct of general business was treated as a general meeting following the AGM. The AGM meeting notice included general business on its agenda.
A. As there was only one notice of meeting and really only one actual meeting there should be only one set of minutes.
But if it suits the organisation to have two parts then no great harm is being done. It is really up to the members to indicate their preference.
RECORDING ASSENT IN MINUTES
Q. Para. 8.21 of your Guide for Meetings and Organisations says that persons can demand that their dissent be recorded in the minutes, but under para. 8.22 there seems to be no such right. A call for a division may fail.
Consider the following real example from a recent owners corporation AGM. Our building has never had a fire inspection done. The law requires that these be done every six months. The manager as usual proposed a motion that we have the inspection done and as usual the meeting voted against it.
In the event of a fire and a claim for negligence I would very much want my support for the motion to have been recorded in the minutes.
A. While this is a courtesy that should be extended to you on request and which may make you feel better it seems unlikely that it would have any legal effect. The corporation would be liable for any fines and damages awards and would need to recover these from levies on all owners.
The words "protect them" in para. 8.21 would have been better rendered as "protect their reputations".
Q. Our club is a registered club with a registered constitution. There is no mention of allowing the committee to grant life memberships to members among the listed committee powers. In the past the club granted life memberships to members who had given exceptional service to the club and motions conferring these were passed by general meetings on the recommendation of the committee. It was also accepted that no more than two life memberships were granted in any one year.
Is it legal for the committee to grant these life memberships without going to a general meeting and also to recommend eleven life memberships in one hit?
A. If a life membership involves any special features, such as a waiver of subscriptions or different voting rights, then it can be conferred only in strict compliance with a specific rule.
If, on the other hand, it is to be only a symbolic recognition and an entitlement to mentions on letterheads, honour boards, lists in newsletters and the like, then it could be conferred by a committee meeting or a general meeting.
In the latter case there would be no automatic restriction on the number of awards to be made in any one year, unless the organisation itself saw fit to define that by resolution (which, of course, could be varied by a subsequent meeting).
Naturally, common sense should be used. Too many awards in relation to the size of the organisation would cheapen them, unless special circumstances - for example, a catch-up at the start of a system - applied.
BANNING A MOTION
Q. If a motion is moved at a duly constituted meeting, and defeated, can the same motion be put to a subsequent meeting?
A. To ban a motion for ever would be far too extreme - what if circumstances are completely different in 12 months' time? Clearly, a defeated motion should not be re-moved at the same meeting, as otherwise where would one stop? Its acceptability at a subsequent meeting would be at the chairman's discretion (although a refusal could be overturned by a dissent motion).
ELIGIBILITY FOR ELECTION
Q. Our constitution says: "A notice calling for nominations of members of the Board and other elected club positions, together with nomination forms, shall be displayed on the notice board of the Club before 31 March each year. Nominations shall be delivered to the Secretary on or before 30 April immediately preceding the Annual General Meeting. Every candidate shall have been a Full Member of the Club for at least six months prior to the closing of nominations and shall be nominated in writing by two Full Members of the Club. The nomination form must bear the signature of the candidate as evidence of her/his consent. Should there be insufficient nominations for any vacancy further nominations shall be made at the Meeting."
A candidate has been nominated for the Board but has been a Full Member of the club for less than six months prior to the closing of nominations. He had been a member for at least one year, two years previously.
This person had resigned after his initial period of full membership two years ago and has recently rejoined the Club.
Does this candidate qualify for election or not?
A. The clause does not specify that the six-month period has to be continuous.
Presumably that clause is there to ensure that nominees have a certain degree of familiarity with the organisation before being eligible. In that case the criterion would be satisfied by two separate periods of membership.
Nominating does not amount to decision-making. The electors have the opportunity of rejecting a candidate if they feel that that person is unsuitable.
In cases of doubt as to a constitutional matter a decision in favour of the franchise should always be made.
CHANGING RULES BY EDICT
Q. A special resolution was correctly proposed and seconded at the AGM and complied with all relevant clauses in the club's constitution. An amendment was proposed and seconded. Can the chairman rule this amendment out of order?
On the notice of the AGM the full motion was listed and underneath the motion was a note stating: "Each special resolution must be considered and voted on as a whole. No amendments will be permitted from the floor of the meeting other than minor typographical or clerical corrections which do not change the substance or effect of the special resolution."
There is nothing in the club's constitution which gives guidance to such a notice being added, making a motion unchangeable.
A. No, this cannot be done by edict. Amendments should therefore be allowed.
However, a procedural motion on those lines could be moved at the start of the meeting, and it would then be up to the members to decide whether they wanted such a procedure.
Q. At a recent meeting a motion was moved and passed that a group do a particular task. The next day a notice of rescission to that motion was advised. The task was done after that notice but before the next meeting.
A member claims that under the rules of debate the motion should not have been acted upon until after the rescission motion was defeated.
A. Technically, the passing of the original motion conferred the necessary authority.
However, committees are also expected to act in good faith in the interests of their members. So, unless there was some urgency, a sensible committee would have allowed democracy to prevail and awaited the outcome of the rescission motion.
Furthermore, a committee which acts precipitously without good cause risks a backlash at the next election.
INTERFERENCE WITH A MOTION
Q. I am a member of a club and a clause in the constitution states that any 30 financial members may put a special motion forward for consideration of the members who may vote on such a motion at a specially convened meeting or at an AGM.
30 members have signed my motion. When the chairman calls on me to move the motion can I say that I wish to withdraw it? Do I require a seconder for me to be able to withdraw my motion?
A. As a matter of courtesy you can announce at any stage that you wish to withdraw the motion. But technically all you need to do is just not move the motion. There is no need to involve a seconder.
However, if the 30 signatories want the motion to go ahead then you would probably not want to let them down. Of course, depending on the rules, someone else could move the motion.
Q. I understand that the board has accepted my motion but amended it slightly but in a way which alters the meaning of my motion. It is intended to put this amended motion to the meeting. I believe that the motion now becomes the boar's motion and must be presented by the chair, who then needs to get a mover and seconder for the motion. Is this the correct procedure?
A. A member of the board could, subject to any requirements as to notice, move a motion, including one inspired by your proposal. It would not be your motion.
Q. I understand that my motion will not be put to the meeting. What are my rights?
A. Is it proposed to rule it out of order? If so, you could move dissent from such a ruling.
Q. As my motion has 30 signatures does the board have the authority to change my motion?
A. Your motion, if not ruled out, needs to be moved using your original wording. But, of course, it can be amended by the meeting in the usual way.
Q. Is there anything to stop a person moving (or seconding) a rescission motion when that person had voted in favour of the original motion?
A. The guiding principle is that the best possible decision should be made by a meeting. If that involves some people changing their minds from their original positions in the light of further consideration or new information or persuasive arguments, then that is all to the good. For the same reasons movers are allowed to vote against their own motions - see 8.24.
Another principle is that questions before the chair belong to the meeting and not to the mover. If those attending a meeting do not like a particular motion, including a rescission motion, then their remedy is to vote against it, not to have it suppressed.
CONFIRMATION OF MINUTES
Q. I am the secretary of a local club. I have the Office of Fair Trading's handbook regarding how to run meetings. In that book it states that "the members must confirm they are accurate. This is usually done by a member moving that the minutes be confirmed as accurate, and another member seconding that motion."
However, a new member to our club said that we are doing it incorrectly and that the president (after the minutes have been read) should ask if anyone has any amendments to the minutes. If there are amendments, they are considered and if not then a motion is proposed that the minutes be "accepted" only and not regarded as being accurate.
Is what you have written a law or just guidelines and are we bound by what is in the handbook from Fair Trading? I understand that your wording makes more sense, as unless all members kept their own accurate records of minutes from each meeting then how can they say that the minutes are accurate?
A. There is probably no "written law" dealing with the confirmation of minutes. However, some organisations would have a minutes clause in their own constitutions - see, for example, the model wording in para. 3.5 of volume 1 of my Guide for Meetings and Organisations.
It is common and sensible for the chairman of a meeting to ask whether the members have any amendments to the minutes as read out or circulated. If there are, then these can be considered by the meeting and, if appropriate, corrections can then be made to the draft prepared by the secretary.
The best word to use is "confirmed" rather than "accepted". It means "taken as a true and correct record".
The same wording can be used whether or not any amendments have been involved.
Q. What is the correct wording for the secretary in proposing the motion to "accept" the inward correspondence and to pass the outward?
A. Correspondence is discussed in paras 2.25-2.27 of Vol. 2 of my Guide for Meetings and Organisations. The best words are "receive" for inward and "note" or "endorse" for outward.
Q. Does the outward have to be dealt before the inward?
A. No legal principle is involved here. If your members have strong feelings about this then you could let them vote for their preference, otherwise leave it to the discretion of the secretary.
Alternatively, deal with correspondence in alphabetical order. This would bring letters and replies together.
Q. If the former then how does the secretary know to what to write an answer?
A. If the secretary needs directions in regard to how to reply to a new inward item then reading existing outward items would be no help.
REJECTIONS OF NOMINATIONS
Q. As a member of a sub-committee set up to hear a contentious issue in one of our branches, we have discovered that a nomination for a position on the branch management committee was "rejected" by the incumbent committee and not presented to those present at the AGM.
A. There can be legitimate reasons for a committee to reject a nomination - for example, the nominee might have been an unfinancial member; the nomination form might not have been signed as required by the constitution; the nomination form might have been received after the closing date for nominations.
It is assumed that you are concerned about rejections other than those made for such technical reasons.
The nominee, or somebody on the nominee's behalf, should have raised the rejection at the annual general meeting. This would have allowed a motion to be moved, seeking to cancel the election and to adjourn the annual general meeting to another date when a proper election would be held.
As this was apparently not done, it will now be necessary to convene an extraordinary general meeting to consider a motion to declare vacant all positions on the committee (other than those which the rejected nominee did not seek) and to conduct a fresh election for these positions.
Q. I am the treasurer of our club and a point of discussion has arisen about what you are mean when you refer to "reimbursements for outgo advanced".
A. This refers to petty cash advances made to an office-bearer, say $100. After say $80 has been spent, leaving $20, a further $80 is advanced to top this up to $100 again. This $80 is the "reimbursement" of outgo referred to, which should be authorised in the normal way.
Money received at a meeting should not be used immediately to pay small claims.
But, of course, a friendly organisation such as yours does not need to be pedantic and a general meeting could authorise a different procedure if desired - although this would deny the organisation the benefit of a proper audit trail and could thus facilitate fraud. This should be discussed with your auditor.
Q. What are the principles of election by a meeting of a delegate or delegate body to carry out a specific task; the powers, duties and rights of the delegate; and the right, if any, of the association to amend, abridge or interfere with the powers, duties, rights and performance of the exercise of the delegated power.
A. A meeting has an inherent power to appoint persons or committees to perform tasks. The resolution making such appointments should specify appropriate terms of reference, including the objective of the exercise and the extent of the authority (which cannot exceed the authority that the meeting itself had).
Naturally, any future meeting could vary the terms of reference - although not with any retrospective effect - or even withdraw them completely.
NOTICE OF A MEETING
Q. What is the period required for members to be informed of a business meeting of an association?
A. This is entirely a matter for each organisation's rules. Minimum periods such as 7, 10, 14 or 21 days are often used.
In choosing a suitable period regard would normally be had to the convenience of members, to the importance and complexity of the business to be transacted, to the resources available to the secretary, and so on.
CIRCULATION OF MINUTES
Q. When should the minutes of a previous business meeting be circulated?
A. Ideally draft minutes should be circulated as soon after the meeting to which they relate as possible, while memories are still fresh.
In some cases a further set (embodying corrections) can be circulated with the notice of the next meeting, for the convenience of members who mislay such documents.
MOTIONS FROM THE CHAIR
Q. If a chairman has continually moved motions during meetings, and they have been passed and acted upon, are these motions valid?
A. Of course - the will of the members prevails. The mover of a motion is only the person who introduces it. After it has been moved it belongs to the meeting and not the mover, so that person's identity is irrelevant to the decision-making process.
However, it is often undesirable for a chairman to move motions because that can cast doubt on the chairman's impartiality - but if the members are content then this may not be an issue.
Q. I have been a member of an organisation for almost 32 years and have followed your Guide for Meetings and Organisations religiously, but at our meeting last night a situation arose which I have never before encountered:
During a business session a member moved a motion of dissent from the chairman's ruling. This was put to the vote in the positive form "That the Chairman's ruling be upheld". For the first time ever, in my experience, the vote was a tie. We have always taken your advice that a tied vote is resolved in the negative, and the status quo remains. In this case, what was the status quo?
A. The status quo is the existing condition - in other words, the situation as though the relevant motion had never even been moved. In your case, the status quo is thus that the chairman's ruling stands.
My advice has never been that "a tied vote should always be resolved in the negative", although that is the common position. Sometimes, as in your case, the status quo is the equivalent of passing a motion.
The rationale for this is that maintaining the status quo allows the supporters of a proposition to have another go on a later occasion whereas a changed situation may be difficult or even impossible to reverse.
REMOVAL OF AN OFFICE-BEARER
Q. How can our association remove a very troublesome executive member from our executive board?
This woman has a huge conflict of interest within our association which sometimes she declares but mostly not. She sits on many different committees and is president of two other organisations. She never has the best interest of our association at heart, our sport would be way down on her list.
She constantly threatens people that she will get her lawyers onto them even when she is way off base. She just goes outside our procedures and guidelines. A very loose cannon would be one way to describe her behaviour.
What would you suggest we do? Unfortunately, she gets re-elected by members because nobody else stands for the position.
A. You have really answered your own question in your last paragraph.
It would probably be best to line up someone first and work towards getting that person elected at the next annual general meeting.
If that is unpalatable then you could consider calling an extraordinary general meeting to consider a motion such as the following:
"1. That the position of ... on the executive board be declared vacant because of her numerous conflicts of interest and her constant absurd threats of litigation in the context of a friendly organisation.
2. That ... furthermore be ineligible for election or re-election to the executive board for 10 years.
3. That the casual vacancy hereby created be filled by ...."
Give at least 21 days' notice of the meeting and indicate that the person concerned will be given the right to be heard.
Of course, as the person concerned is litigious, you run the risk of being sued.
AN INTERNATIONAL BODY
Q. I am currently in the process of helping to establish a national organisation and your publications Guide for Meetings and Organisations have been of great assistance.
Our group will be an Australian and New Zealand society that will be able to meet only annually due to cost and travel constraints.
We voted to create this society at our last meeting and formed a steering committee (with representation from all states and NZ) to draft the constitution. Given that we will not meet again for a year, is it appropriate to conduct a postal vote on the constitution?
Q. We would potentially send out the draft to the three established state groups (to ensure compliance with their constitutions), the steering committee and other interested parties that attended the last meeting.
My thought is that, by approving the constitution by a postal vote, we can then proceed with nominations for elections to be held at the next meeting.
A. Yes, but ensure that the proposed machinery is set out in the constitution and that the election takes place only after the constitution has been agreed to. See also para. 1.22 of Vol.1 of Guide for Meetings and Organisations for another approach.
Q. Given that we will need to become an association and obtain an ABN and bank account, are there any issues we need to be aware of in relation to New Zealand and Australian law and inconsistencies across the Tasman?
A. You will need to decide whether to be unincorporated or to incorporate as either a company or under an Associations Incorporation Act (probably in the ACT or the State with the most members).
You may wish to start as unincorporated and seek incorporation later on.
I am not an expert on the New Zealand aspects, but you may need to seek recognition as a foreign body in that country if you do much more than just collect subscriptions and send out circulars.
I found the following site which may assist you:
THE ROLE OF A RETURNING OFFICER
Q. I am an ex-board member of our local club which years ago started out as a business men's club and has evolved into a pokies venue.
At the last AGM there were several problems that were eventually worked through, many of them made unclear due to a poor or outdated constitution.
The new board, partly original and partly new, decided to address this issue and appointed a sub-committee, two of the board and one active club member co-opted by the board. After several months of hard work, the draft rules were submitted to the board, who discussed them and raised questions. A special meeting was then called and after discussion the motion was accepted to adopt those new rules.
They were then sent to the appropriate government body here in Victoria. They were returned to us fairly promptly as OK and accepted as our rules.
As our next AGM approached nominations were called for positions on the seven-member board. 10 nominations were received, the ballot papers were printed and distributed, and everything looked reasonably rosy. The previously co-opted constitutional sub-committee member was requested to act as returning officer, a position he accepted.
He then requested from the management a list of eligible voters. On inspecting this list he declared that due to changes in the constitution five of the nominees were ineligible. This was due to the fact that they had been nominated by partners of members, who had been reclassified as family members and who had no right to vote.
He then informed the board of his finding and stated that he could not continue as returning officer if the board did not accept his decision, cancel the ballot and declare the five 5 eligible nominees as the newly elected board.
The board met to discuss this matter, sought advice from ClubsVic, an association of which we are members, who advised us that their understanding of our rules excluded the family member from voting, not from nominating. The board also decided that because there was no malice or mischief intended by any nominees and noting that the right to vote of family members had not been an intentional alteration to the rules, the board would overrule the returning officer and continue with the election.
The returning officer did not stand aside at this point and I believe the board members, with good reason, felt that he had accepted their ruling. However that was not to be.
At the AGM when called upon by the chair to announce the result, he declared precisely that which he had previously told the board, namely, that only five nominees were eligible, and that they were declared the new board members. Much pandemonium descended upon the meeting.
One thing that was confusing was that even though the returning officer obviously felt strongly about his decision he had counted the votes and did in fact announce what those results were. Of the five that he appointed only three had been "elected" by the members.
In the end the AGM was adjourned to be concluded on another evening. This gave the board some time to attempt to work through the problem. At the reconvened AGM the board decided to accept the returning officer's ruling (due to threats of legal action) and as the simplest and most economic method of concluding the matter, the board had in discussion decided to co-opt two of the higher polling "voted" members onto the board, then for two of the lower polling members to stand down, and to then co-opt the final two "voted" members thereby having a fully "elected" board.
One member is still refusing to stand aside, however, and the members of the club have called an extraordinary meeting to have him removed, as is allowed in our rules.
Should the returning officer have abided by the ruling of the board to continue with the election? Was the opinion given by ClubsVic correct?
A. The right to call an election belongs to the committee, which can also set the ground rules (subject to the constitution). The position of returning officer does not even come into existence until the election has actually been called.
However, once appointed, the returning officer must act independently and cannot be subject to direction by a committee.
The opinion of ClubsVic which you quote sounds reasonable, although its correctness would depend on the precise wording of the constitution read as a whole.
But there is no inherent contradiction in allowing a single vote for two joint members while allowing both of them to make nominations or even stand for office. After all, the members would then by their voting decide whether they thought any particular candidate was appropriate.
A PRESIDENTIAL VACANCY
Q. At a recent AGM the position of president was not filled, but other positions were.
Seeing that the position of president was not filled, is the organisation proceeding legally without a president?
Q. Should another AGM be called to fill all vacancies, and especially the position of president?
A. No. An election for all positions would be quite unfair to the successful candidates last time.
Q. Can the vice-president be made to take the chair until a president is elected?
The vice-president would normally take the chair until an acting president or a permanent replacement had been duly appointed.
Most organisations faced with this sort of problem would probably act as follows:
The remaining members of the committee should meet as soon as practical to appoint an acting president.
The vacancy on the committee should be filled in accordance with the clause in the constitution dealing with such vacancies.
ROLE OF A SECONDER
Q. If a person seconds a motion at a meeting and later on wishes to withdraw the seconding of the motion, how does one go about doing this?
A. The seconding facilitates the debate. It cannot be withdrawn, but even if it could this would be pointless once the debate was under way. But the seconder can vote against the motion.
Q. Is there a cooling off period for a motion?
Q. Can a letter be written to the secretary the next day stating the seconder's intentions?
A. Anybody can write such a letter at any time, but it would not affect any decision already made. However, the next meeting could rescind the motion.
A LOST SPECIAL RESOLUTION
Q. Our club is an incorporated association. We had a vote, with proxies allowed, for an amendment to the constitution. This would require 75% vote. The vote actually returned a vote of four individual votes short of this target.
The chairman of the meeting declared the motion carried. Has the rule been amended or not?
A. On the fact supplied, the answer is clearly "no". The chairman's declaration was obviously in error.
You may wish to:
write to the chairman pointing this out
ensure that the minutes include the accurate voting figures
write to the Registrar of Incorporated Associations, giving the same details as you gave me and requesting that any lodgement of the purported resolution be rejected.
LACK OF A CANDIDATE
Q. What happens when there is only one nominee for the position of chairperson at an AGM of a community group yet it is known that this person does not attract the support of the majority of the members. Can the members block the nomination? Can someone propose that the nomination be disallowed or rejected by the meeting ?
It seems to me that there is no point in doing this because then they are left without a chairperson. It would be better to let the appointment go through then when a more popular person becomes willing to take on the role, call for all positions to be declared vacant or to propose a no confidence motion. If no such person can be found, they would just have to live with the situation.
A. Your second paragraph sums the situation up neatly.
The nomination and election processes must, of course, follow an organisation's constitution precisely. A constitution could prescribe a majority vote requirement for an appointment, but it is presumed that yours does not do this.
A nomination could be blocked only if it was irregular - for example, lodged out of time or for an unfinancial member.
The opponents of this nominee had the opportunity to put up a candidate of their choosing. Not having done so they must now live with the consequences.
Q. I am on a committee that is recommending a number of proposed amendments to our constitution. Can we process these amendments by passing them with a simple majority (50%) and then submit a special resolution to be passed at the next meeting with 21 days' notice to adopt the amendments with a 75% majority? Are the proposed amendments special resolutions or can they be treated the same as amendments to a motion?
A. Constitutional amendments need to be dealt with as specifically prescribed in an organisation's existing constitution. A common formula is to require a 75% majority and 21 days' notice.
They cannot be treated in the same way as amendments to a motion.
You could, if you wished, debate a series of motions on the lines of "That the following motion be recommended to a Special General Meeting to be held on ...: `...'"
These could be debated at an ordinary meeting and if supported passed with a 50% majority. The actual constitutional amendments as recommended (preferably one at a time) could then be very quickly dealt with at the SGM.
Q. We are a community-based non-profit organisation. We have been operating from rented premises. Our current lease expires soon and our landlord has offered us a one-year lease instead of the three-year lease that we were expecting.
The landlord has had two competing offers from prospective replacement tenants and the board of the landlord company met to consider them. We have heard very unofficially that the vote was tied with its chairman having a casting vote and voting for one of the parties.
Is this the appropriate meeting procedure? Someone has suggested to us that if the chairman exercises a casting vote then the status quo would remain.
A. While it is indeed customary for chairmen to exercise a casting vote in favour of the status quo this is not compulsory.
The rationale for this custom is that the proponents of a motion can try again on another occasion if the motion is declared lost. If the motion were declared carried its opponents could not unscramble the egg later.
However, it seems from what you say that neither of the two alternatives being considered amounted to the status quo, as both involved a change. If that is so then the chairman would have been entitled to vote on the merits as he saw them.
Q. Does a secretary need to acknowledge in writing all correspondence received, even those handed personally to that secretary?
A. This is entirely a policy matter for each organisation to decide for itself.
However, it might be courteous for a written acknowledgement to be given where a correspondent expects it.
It might also be desirable to respond formally to significant items - for example, resignations.
There should be no difference in the treatment of correspondence based on the mode of delivery.
VOTES OF NO CONFIDENCE
Q. Some members of our club have decided to put forward a vote of no confidence in the executive committee for reasons that are not needed to be discussed at this time. There is nothing in our constitution on this.
How should we go about this? Can we elect a new committee on the night if the vote of no confidence is passed?
A. A vote of no confidence is not quite the same as a resolution declaring some or all positions on a committee vacant. It is really only courtesy, custom and common sense that cause office-bearers to resign after a vote of no confidence. If they choose not to resign, then they stay in office.
Subject to your constitution your committee could call a special general meeting to consider a motion to declare all positions vacant as from the close of that meeting and subject to that motion being carried to have a fresh election. But watch in particular all requirements for adequate notice and for the formal nomination of candidates.
Q. Our club constitution states that all business apart from the AGM business will be "Special Business".
Does this mean that motions at general meetings and EGMs will be special resolutions?
A. No. The term refers to all business of a non-routine nature. Details of such business need to be set out in the notice convening the meeting so that members can decide whether they wish to attend or not, and to prepare themselves.
The usual way to do this is to set out the actual words of the proposed motions and, if desired, appropriate background information.
NEED FOR A CHAIRMAN
Q. Can a chairman be elected to a board of directors in his absence with a letter presented to a board meeting to say that the person is willing to accept the chairmanship?
A. Yes. Of course, the person must also have previously given the company a signed consent to act as a director, as required by section 201D of the Corporations Act 2001.
Q. Can a board meeting proceed without the election of a chairman from the directors present at the meeting?
A. Yes, although for practical reasons most boards would elect one of their number to chair that meeting.
Q. If no chairman has been elected is the meeting invalid?
A. No, if all other requirements have been met.
RETIREMENT VILLAGE MINUTES
Q. Please go to the Queensland Retirement Villages Act 1999, Section 129A(4) and (5).
The chairperson for the residents' committee refuses my written request for a copy of its committee meeting minutes and insists on putting a copy of them in a folder in the village library regardless of my assertion that that is not where a copy of the meeting minutes should be placed as there they could be viewed by employees and the scheme operator in particular.
To me, the legislation is unambiguous.
A. Section 129A(4) seems unambiguous to me also, but the obligation to supply access to the minutes is placed on the committee as a whole and not only on the chairperson.
If you continue to have difficulty in getting proper access to the minutes as required by law then you will need to make a formal complaint to the regulator.
The question of making the minutes accessible by putting them in a public place is really a matter for the members of the body corporate as a whole to decide one way or the other. It is again not a matter for the chairperson alone.
The best solution is probably for a copy of the minutes to be sent to every member of the body corporate.
Q. Does your Volume 2 address confidential correspondence received and items discussed, and is the term for this "in camera"?. What does the term mean?
A. Yes, in paras 2.95, 6.26, 12.94-12.99. The term means "in private session". The book contains a glossary.
Q. Our association received confidential correspondence from a committee member who wanted to set the record straight regarding a personal matter with an association member. The meeting decided not to make the correspondence public or available to its members.
This decision was to respect the confidentiality of the correspondence. The correspondence was not relevant to the activities of the association. The association member it relates to wants a copy of this confidential correspondence. Should we give it to him?
A. The writer of a letter can request confidentiality by marking it to that effect. The recipients of the letter would normally honour such a request, but they could ask the writer for permission to show it to particular persons.
However, it is unlikely that such permission would readily be given, as this would defeat the whole purpose of seeking confidentiality in the first place and could in some cases lead to an action for defamation.
Q. A special meeting was called at the request of my husband to discuss the matters raised in a letter he had sent to the executive regarding issues which affected association.
The executive took offence at this letter and then called a meeting to have my husband expelled from the association.
The group took a vote and he was expelled. While we also mentioned to them that it was illegal to do such a thing at this particular special meeting because it had been called only to discuss the letter. The legislation as I read it says that when notice is given to the members regarding a special meeting only that particular issue can be discussed and no other transaction is to take place. We have been denied natural justice. What should we do?
A. The term "natural justice" refers to procedural fairness. There is no legal requirement on organisations to write any particular provisions into their constitutions, and, except to the extent that laws such as those relating to anti-discrimination apply, organisations are free to draft rules which some people might regard as inherently unfair.
Persons who disagree with such rules have the choice of joining the organisation concerned and then seeking to have its constitution amended, or not joining the organisation and possibly starting a separate organisation of their own, with different rules which are more to their liking.
One other avenue of attack might be in the public relations arena. You could, for example, issue press releases setting out your case, but for these to be used by the media you would have to have an interesting angle.
You could, of course, also set up your own web site to publicise your cause.
If, as you say, your organisation has acted illegally in expelling your husband, then you could always go to court to get a writ of mandamus. However, such a course of action would be extremely expensive and you might finish up with having to pay the costs of both sides.
One further organisation that you might consider contacting is the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties. However, that body, although very much concerned with individual rights, may not be willing to get involved in what is essentially a private dispute.
ADMISSION TO MEETINGS
Q. Our group is a church group. Meetings are held in the church building and certain non-members have been denied admission. Are these non-members able to get a number of members to sign a petition asking that the non-members be allowed to attend certain meetings?
A. The right to invite persons onto premises belongs to the owner of the premises concerned or to those who derive their occupancy rights from the owner as tenants or licensees. Thus if the organisers of a meeting have hired a meeting room then they can invite whom they please and refuse entry as they see fit. The position is no different to teenagers trying to crash a party being held in a private home.
Petitions can be a useful tool in a psychological sense, but they are all too easily ignored by those to whom they are addressed.
USE OF STANDING RESOLUTIONS
Q. It was recommended to our organisation "that in lieu of by-laws, items usually therein be listed as Standing Resolutions (especially in those States in which organisations are required to register their by-laws with their relevant Department), noting against each resolution the date of the meeting at which the decision was made. Such action would remove the requirement to register by-laws, as any amendment would refer to a previous resolution, not to a by-law." Is this a good idea?
A. The proposal is certainly unusual, and that in itself makes it undesirable. Members and prospective members, especially those familiar with other organisations, would expect to find rules in a conventional constitution.
That said, there is no philosophical reason against the proposal if an association really wants it.
However, the administrative effort of keeping an official set of standing resolutions might well be greater than in the case of a conventional document, as the temptation would be tinker with them more frequently. They would also require a good index.
Resolutions normally require a simple majority; constitutional changes usually require a larger majority and a longer period of notice.
For incorporated associations certain matters specified in the legislation need to be in the rules, so the proposal would require two systems to run in parallel.
© Copyright N E Renton 2006-2008