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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Do an associations Bylaws matter? Do Robert's Rules of Order matter?

I for one think they do. 
The Bylaws are the constitution. They represent the framework for all affairs of the organization.  They help guide and govern an organization or association.  Bottom-line they are part of the glue that holds everything together.  Typically associations recognize Robert's Rules of Order to as the parliamentary authority that set forth the rules not specifically addressed in the Bylaws and are considered legally binding by associations that have adopted them.  NAPPS has a formal set of Bylaws and has adopted Robert's Rules. 
Yet for some reason NAPPS appears to have ignored its Bylaws and Robert's Rules when it comes to its last annual conference.  Either the folks running the association choose to violate the Bylaws or they just don't understand them.  At the end of the day it doesn't matter if they choose to ignore them or if the leaders are ignorant.  What matters is they (the bylaws and Robert’s Rules) MUST be complied with.  
I am referring to the election of Mr. Couch to the board of Directors.  There is no dispute as to his eligibility according to the associations Bylaws.  It has been acknowledged by all that have looked into the matter that he was not eligible.  I am told that the leadership or NAPPS sought a parliamentary ruling after the breach of the Bylaws was realized. 
It would appear based on the fact that Mr. Couch is still listed as a board member that whomever advised NAPPS may have told NAPPS that the timeliness to raise a Point of Order had passed.  If that was the advice they leaders received I submit they got bad advice.  If you refer to Roberts Rules and read the timeliness requirements for a Point of Order it says that a Point of Order must be raised promptly at the time the breach occurs. However this same section of Robert's goes on to list exceptions to this requirement.  The exception that I believe applies is as follows. See Page 251 of Robert's 11th Edition:

"The only exceptions to the rule that a point of order must be made at the time of the breach arise in connection with breaches that are of a continuing nature, in which case a point of order can be made at any time during the continuance of the breach. Instances of this kind occur when:
a) a main motion has been adopted that conflicts with the bylaws (constitution) of the organization or assembly" 

 A beach occurred, it continues to occur and in fact the breach conflicts with the Bylaws. 

In further support of this breach needing to be addressed by the members, I have also reviewed the section of Robert's that governs elections; specifically the rules for contesting the announced result of an election.  They allow an election to be contested by raising a point of order.  And as stated previously that point of order must be timely except where the breach conflicts with the Bylaws and where the breach continues.  Page 444 and 445 of Robert's specifically address when a point of order contesting an election can be raised.  On page 445 is says:

"Other exceptions to the general timeliness requirement are those that come with the five categories listed on page 251, lines 9-23, in which cases a point of order can be made at any time during the continuance in office of the individual declared elected.  For example:

If an individual does not meet the qualifications for the post established by the bylaw, his or her election is tantamount to the adoption of a main motion that conflicts with the bylaws."

In order to fix this breach a member must raise a point of order contesting the election.  It is the correct and lawful thing to do in order to address the breach of the Bylaws.   I have no axe to grind with Mr. Couch; I have heard nothing but good things about the man. This isn't really about him; it is about following the rules and doing the right thing.

I suspect a simple mistake was made when it was assumed by all members present that Mr. Couch was eligible to hold office.  Now is the time for a simple solution to be applied. 
This issue is ultimately about credibility.  If NAPPS continues to ignore this issue it will represent another black eye for an industry whose image in the media of late has been less than perfect.  Or NAPPS can continue to play the game like Calvin and Hobs.  Seriously... you either have rules that matter or no rules at all!


by Jeff Karotkin